Merced Farm Accident Lawyer
Located near the geographic center of California, Merced is a bountiful and thriving area known for its agricultural industry. The fifth-largest producer of agricultural products in California, Merced, and the surrounding county produce nearly $3 billion worth of raw agricultural products each year.
Nearly 100,000 people are employed in agricultural production or food processing in Merced County. Although vital to the people of Merced, this industry is also one of the most dangerous industries in the United States. Agricultural workers are seven times more likely to be killed than workers in all other private industries and are 40 percent more likely to sustain severe injuries at work.Most Common Farm Accidents and Injuries in the United States
Agricultural workers die at a rate of 20.2 people for every 100,000 workers and are injured at a rate of 5,500 per 100,000 workers. This means approximately 5,520 people in Merced are seriously injured in agriculture production yearly. Machinery accidents, including car accidents, account for most of the fatalities, while pesticide and other chemical exposures account for many serious injuries. Confined spaces on farms also account for a high percentage of farm fatalities. Finally, water and fire are, in some way or another, responsible for the majority of farm accidents.Motor Vehicles and Tractors Cause the Greatest Number of Fatalities
Tractor rollovers have been the number one cause of farm fatalities ever since the development of rollover protective structures. From 1992 to 2009, tractor rollovers were responsible for 90 farm deaths yearly. Those workers not killed in these accidents faced severe injuries, including spinal and back injuries, head and brain injuries, facial paralysis, crush injuries, and internal bleeding.Tractor Accidents
However, the number of workers injured by tractors in accidents is relatively low. Most farm accidents are caused by motor vehicles. Driving to and from work is often the most hazardous part of a farmworker's job. Narrow, poorly maintained roads and large vehicles often result in vehicle rollovers and other crashes. The most common injuries from these accidents are leg fractures and breaks, although rib, head, chest contusions, and facial injuries are typical.Other Farming Injuries
Harvesting machinery and other farming tools account for the remaining balance of farm accidents. Workers typically face hand injuries in these accidents when their limbs become entangled with fruit harvesters, hay choppers, threshers, and combine harvesters. Leg injuries are also quite common with these types of accidents. Injuries to the hands, arms, and legs range from cuts and bruises to crushed bones and even amputation.Nighttime Harvesting Accidents
The risk of all machinery accidents is elevated with crop farmworkers as crops are typically harvested at night when low light conditions increase the risk of a worker being struck by a piece of machinery.
Regarding machinery injuries, traumatic injuries, and death occur primarily because of vehicle overturns, followed by falls from vehicles and being struck by the machinery. Poorly maintained or defective equipment can easily cause serious injury as well. All powered machines also carry the threat of electrocution for workers.Falls on Farms as a Source of Common Injury
Many workers sustain traumatic injuries from falling on farms, not just falling off of machinery, as mentioned above. These falls can certainly cause traumatic injuries, but far more often, they cause broken bones or ankle and wrist sprains. Additionally, workers who fall in the course of their duties are also at risk for minor concussions that can have serious side effects if a worker sustains more than once during his or her life.
In total, contact within a workspace causes many minor to moderate injuries sustained by workers. This includes falls from above and falling boxes or other objects. Poorly maintained or organized storage areas for crops often increase the risk of items falling on workers. Head and shoulder injuries are common with this type of accident, as are dislocated joints from impact injuries.Injuries and Death from Pesticides and Other Farm Chemicals
Farmworkers engaged in produce and animal production are exposed to various chemicals that may harm their health throughout their workday. Pesticide work often comes with the highest risk of injury. Some of pesticide work's more minor health effects include rashes, eye irritation, nausea, and headaches. More severe injuries can occur, including seizures, difficulty breathing, cancer, and neurological conditions.
California has an estimated 1,000 reported pesticide-related injuries and illnesses, with an unknown number of undetected or unreported incidences. Pesticides are one of the most severe hazards for farm workers. In 2005, the Supreme Court ruled that pesticide and herbicide manufacturers could be forced to provide monetary compensation for damages. This creates the opportunity for thousands of farmworkers to seek a legal remedy for injuries sustained while working.Confined Spaces Injuries
Confined spaces are another common source of farm injuries. Accidents in confined spaces include grain bin entrapments and entanglements, asphyxiation, and electrocution. Hypoxic brain injury and crushed limbs are common in these accidents. Additionally, victims may sustain extensive scarring, including the buildup of damaging scar tissue in the body. Confined space accidents account for many of the long-term injuries in farming, where the extent of the damage is not fully understood until months or even years after the accident. In these cases, it is, therefore, critical victims or their families seek experienced legal representation.
Even if your injury is not discussed above, it is essential to investigate whether you may be entitled to monetary compensation paid through a personal injury lawsuit. Seeking an experienced medical professional and an experienced attorney will help protect your rights as a farmworker.The Extreme Risk to Young Farmworkers
Young farmworkers under 20 are most at risk for injury and often receive the most minor compensation for injuries. Each year, 113 of these at-risk workers die while working on farms. As of 2012, 14,000 young workers are injured on farms yearly, with 2,700 injuries attributed to accidents. Machinery and motor vehicles account for more than half of these accidents, while 16 percent of young farmworkers' deaths are caused by drowning.
These vulnerable workers' injuries are compounded by the lack of compensation for young injured workers. If your child or another young worker has been injured while working on a farm, they must seek experienced legal help. Young farmworkers are essential to the agricultural industry and are entitled to the same compensation when injured.
The safety video below discusses a safety program to keep kids safe on a farm.Accidents and Injuries Associated with Food Processing
While those workers producing raw agricultural products face significant risk, so do those who process the harvested produce or livestock. These food processing workers face similar injuries from confined spaces and interaction with machinery. Accidents in agricultural product processing include crushed hands and broken bones from machinery malfunctions or unsafe storage areas.
Food processing workers are an essential part of the agricultural industry, but far fewer data exist about the injuries they sustain. That does not mean they do not get injured; they have even less recourse when injured. If you or a loved one has been injured in a food processing accident, contact an experienced farm injury attorney.Reporting Problems Within the Agricultural Industry
Agriculture is recognized as an inherently dangerous industry, yet the statistics that support this are incomplete. A University of California at Davis study found that the government agencies responsible for tracking injuries miss approximately 77.6 percent of all agricultural injuries. Of these unreported and reported injuries, a minuscule number of workers pursue lawsuits to receive damages. This places $39 billion in agricultural injury costs on workers and their families while placing an immeasurable cost on those families who lose a worker.Proving a Workers' Compensation or Personal Injury Claim
Within California laws, you do not have to prove "fault" or "negligence" on the part of your employer, as the worker's compensation system operates on a "no-fault" basis. Workers' compensation benefits, though, are often less than the benefits available to those workers injured through negligence. By looking at both worker's compensation claims and a personal injury lawsuit, I can help my clients determine their best option.How Can We Help?
A 2013 academic study estimated that farm injuries cost workers $39.1 billion yearly in medical expenses, lost wages, and lost home productivity. These costs do not include the additional costs of the debt incurred or the burden placed on the uninjured family members. These costs, however, can be offset or entirely covered by the damages from a personal injury lawsuit.
A personal injury lawsuit examines all parties' liability to ensure those responsible for your accident and subsequent injury are held responsible. With farming accidents, especially, these lawsuits require medical knowledge, legal experience, and an understanding of the agricultural industry. Our experienced injury attorneys have all these necessary skills and can help guide you.Merced Farming Accident Lawyer
If you or a family member has suffered an injury from a farming accident, please call our law firm today at (209) 227-1931 or (800) 404-5400 for free, friendly advice. See our Past Verdicts and Settlements page.
Editor's Note: updated [cha 8.24.23] Photo by Jota Mascas from Pexels [cs 1533]