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Farming Accidents and Injuries

Farming Accidents and Injuries

Article by Personal Injury Lawyer, Ivan Baxter.

June, 2022

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Ivan Baxter is a lawyer with over 30 years of experience. He is the Director of OSheaDyer Solicitors Townsville and practices exclusively in Litigation representing people who have motor vehicle, workplace or public liability claims.

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Living and a’working on the land

I’ve just finished a hearing in the Supreme Court in Cairns with Brisbane barrister Peter Mylne. We are at the airport waiting for flights back to Townsville and Brisbane talking about cases. A topic that came up was how accidents and serious injuries can often happen on the land.

On a side note - this made me think of a James Blundell and James Reyne song from back in 1992. Back when James Blundell had hair. I think the song was ‘Way out West’ and it had a classic line in the chorus – ‘Living and a’working on the land’.


Farming work can be dangerous  

Most people are unaware of the dangers involved in the carrying out of farming work, whether that be the growing of crops such as sugar cane, bananas etc., or cattle producing.

The reality is that our farmers and the workers who are employed or who are contracted to farmers are involved in dangerous work and there is a very high incidence of serious injury and even the loss of life on farms and in rural settings.

O’Shea Dyer Solicitors, and myself, have been involved in many cases involving accidents and serious injuries suffered on the land.


Employees and Contractors

These cases can include injured employees employed either by the owner of the farm or by independent contractors who are performing contract work for the farm owner.

Mustering Cattle

Over the last 20 years, we have been involved in several cases involving the mustering of cattle.

Case 1

A recent case involved a young man employed by a contractor to muster cattle on a motorbike. The young man was not wearing a helmet when he came off his bike and he suffered a head injury. In this case, the young man’s employer failed in its duty of care by failing to supply and/or encourage or require the wearing of helmets while performing this dangerous work.

This case involved an employer/employee relationship resulting in a claim under the Workers Compensation and Rehabilitation Act 2003. The claim initially involved a statutory claim but then we were able to successfully pursue a Common Law Claim for Damages against the Employer and its Insurer, WorkCover Queensland.

Case 2

In another case, we represented a young man injured while performing duties on his father’s small farm just outside of Townsville. Again, the young man was operating an off-road motorbike and was mustering cattle. While this young man had a helmet on, he had received limited training with respect to mustering. When he came off his bike he suffered a serious injury to his hip with long term repercussions.

The young man’s father, fortunately, had in place a policy of insurance with WorkCover Queensland which meant the young man was able to pursue a claim against his father who was insured by WorkCover Queensland.


Helpers

Even in cases where there is no employer/employee relationship where an accident results in a serious injury, legal advice should be obtained in relation to the prospects of the injured person being able to pursue a claim.

Case 3

In another case we had, our client was a 50-year-old son assisting his father on his father’s farm. The son was assisting his father to cover haystacks with large tarps. The son fell from the top of a haystack that was about 3-4 meters high and very unfortunately suffered a serious injury resulting in him being paralysed, now requiring the use of a wheelchair.

This case was reported in the media and was sensationalised due to the fact that the son was having to commence legal proceedings against his father. We were able to successfully pursue this claim on behalf of the son who was obviously in desperate need of financial assistance.

What was not reported in the media and was an important part of that case was the fact that the father had insurance in place so that in circumstances where either a family member (in this instance his son) or a neighboring farmer who may have provided assistance (farmers regularly provide assistance to one another) suffers an injury, they are able to be compensated for such an injury. 

The fact that the father had insurance meant that the son was able to receive compensation and the father was not financially affected as he had insurance in place.


The take-home message of this article

  1. If you are injured on the land, whether you are an employee or simply providing assistance and/or unpaid labour, you should obtain legal advice in relation to your prospects of being able to pursue a claim for damages.
  2. If you are a farmer/grazier etc., given the dangers involved in performing farming work, you should ensure that you have appropriate insurance in place so that in circumstances where an accident occurs and a serious injury is suffered, you have insurance in place both to protect the injured person but also to protect yourself financially.

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