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Case Studies

While working with farmers, ranchers and agribusinesses for over 100 years, we’ve developed an extensive database of losses. This loss history allows us to develop case studies of real-life farm vehicle accidents to offer you insights to help prevent future losses.

Case studies will play an important role in our efforts to help farm equipment operators better understand the dangers and risks of moving equipment on public roadways and the safety procedures that can help save lives. Please check back soon and often as additional case studies become available.      

Vehicle Visibility

It was a clear spring day and a farmer was driving a tractor pulling a 17-ft wide cultivator extending approximately 5 feet across the center line of a rural, two-lane bridge. The lanes are 10 feet wide and the bridge is 423 feet long. The posted speed limit is 55 mph.

A motorcyclist traveling in the opposite lane didn’t see the approaching cultivator and drove directly into its path, killing the rider instantly. The motorcyclist wasn’t wearing a helmet, which wasn’t required by state law at the time of the accident.

Speed was not a factor in the accident, but because the accident took place in a pure comparative venue, an argument can be made that the claimant did not maintain a proper lookout. However, the state requires that any implement that extends more than 4 feet left of the center line be equipped with an amber reflector at the extreme left position, visible from a minimum distance of 600 feet.  

Breach of duties

  • Cultivator was extending more then 4 feet left of the center line
  • Cultivator lacked lighting, reflectors or flags
  • Insured didn’t utilize an escort vehicle

Financial consequences

Based on the social security actuarial table, the claimant had a normal life expectancy of another 28 years, or until age 83.

The claimant’s surviving adult children were entitled to make a claim for mental pain and suffering, as well as loss of parental companionship, instruction and guidance. He was also survived by both parents and one brother. Each of these survivors, when partly or wholly dependent on the decedent for support or services, can make a claim for future loss of support or services.

The estate can make a claim for loss of the prospective net accumulations, which might reasonably have been reduced to present-day value. Net accumulations are the part of a decedent’s expected net business or salary income, including pension benefits that would have been retained as savings and left as part of the estate if the decedent had lived a normal life expectancy.

The case ultimately settled with the claimant’s estate for $925,000

Attorney analysis

An attorney analysis of this type of incident, courtesy of Donald G. Beattie, Beattie Law Firm, Des Moines, IA, concludes this is a very good case from both a liability and damage standpoint.  

Risk management recommendations

Following a thorough claims investigation, the risk management team identified these risk management recommendations: 

  • Use reflective markings/flags. Reflective marking material is an effective, low-cost way to identify agricultural equipment. When towing equipment, reflective tape and fluorescent flags should be placed on the outmost edges of the equipment. Fluorescent material is visible in both daytime and low-light conditions.
  • Use your lights. Keep headlights, reflectors and turn signals clear of any dirt or debris that may have accumulated during work, and always use turn signals when turning and changing lanes. Consider installing magnetic, battery-operated lights that can be purchased relatively cheaply.
  • Use an escort vehicle when driving a wide load. An escort vehicle protects the oversize load and warns motorists of an unusual roadway condition. 
  • Establish standard operating procedures for the safe movement of equipment on public roads. Farmers should familiarize themselves with their state's agricultural vehicle requirements to ensure compliance

Conclusion

Being seen by other motorists can mean the difference between life and death. Equipment operators can reduce the risk of collision by ensuring equipment is highly visible. This includes establishing standard operating procedures, following common-sense tips to road safety and understanding the preventative measures to common farm-vehicle accidents