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Farming Accidents Archives

Rise In Farming Accidents

Just last week the Minnesota Star Tribune ran a series of articles concerning the dangers of the family farm. "Farming remains one of the most dangerous occupations in America, with fatality rates above other high risk industries such as mining and construction. Altogether, nearly 5000 people have died in farm accidents since 2003." Farming remains one of the nation's most dangerous occupations, generating an average of more than 400 work-related deaths each year.

Farming is Dangerous Work

In Monday's Star Tribune was a tragic report of a death in Renville County of a 53-year-old farmer who was crushed by the tractor tire he was trying to change.For every 100,000 farm workers, about 25 are killed each year and 243 are injured. 5% of those injuries result in some sort of permanent disability. The National Safety Council also reports that of the approximately 3.1 million people who work on America's 2.3 million farms and ranches, 1300 die each year and 120,000 are injured. This makes farming one of the most dangerous occupations in America, right behind underground coal mining.Sadly, many farm fatalities involve children. The National Center for Farmworker Health estimates that between 180,000 and 800,000 agricultural workers in the United States are under 18 years of age and more than 300 of these children die each year in farming related accidents.In 2012 the United States Department of Labor tried to ban children under the age of 16 from operating any kind of power driven farm equipment, including tractors, and to prevent children under 18 from working in grain silos, feedlots or stockyards. This effort was rejected.Farms also enjoy special protection from workers compensation laws in Minnesota. Injured workers often have little or no recourse. There are, however, many successfully reported cases against equipment manufacturers whose farming equipment causes or contributes to injury due to poor design. The only way to determine if that is true in a particular case is to consult with an experienced personal injury attorney.

The Medical Records Rip-Off

Medical records are absolutely essential to someone like me if I am representing an injured person. The medical records often tell the tale of the extent of the injuries, the amount of the pain, etc. It is therefore almost impossible to represent someone adequately without obtaining copies of all of the medical records from all of the treatment received following the injury, and he usually copies of medical records going back at least five years before the injury in order to be able to compare the person's condition before and after the incident.When I started practicing law in the mid-1970s it was a fairly simple process to get copies of a client's medical records. A short letter to the medical provider along with a medical authorization form, and the records in question would be produced within a week or two, usually for a charge of between $.10 a page and $.25 a page, which at that time for some relationship to the actual cost of photocopying. However, commencing in the early 1980s companies called "records retrieval services" sprang up. They went to medical providers and entered into agreements with them saying that they were the exclusive source for copies of any medical records from that medical provider. Armed with these exclusive contracts they instantly began charging one dollar or more per page, plus a retrieval fee of $15-$18, plus sales tax, plus postage. It is important to note that no value was added. These are the exact same records that were being copied for $.10 a page before they claim along.Since that time, while the cost of photocopying has gone down dramatically, the price of getting copies of medical records has continued to escalate. Charges of $1.25 a page or not unusual. Because the client ins up paying for these costs out of their share of the settlement, this sort of nonsense easily costs clients hundreds, if not thousands of dollars in every case.Fortunately, the United States Department Of Health and Human Services has passed rules which took effect recently as part of the HIPAA and HITECH acts. These new rules and regulations prohibit medical providers or these records retrieval services from charging retrieval fee's or making a profit by selling patient's medical records back to the patient. They are now restricted to charging for the actual cost incurred in either making the photocopies or transferring the medical records on to a CD, DVD, or flash drive. And they can charge postage. All it takes to accomplish this is a letter from the patient, signed by the patient, directing that the records be copied in an electronic format and delivered to the patient's lawyer.These new rules and regulations will save injured people in Minnesota millions of dollars in the coming years.

CIVIL TRIAL SPECIALIST; IS IT A BIG DEAL?

Over the past couple of weeks the news media in the Twin Cities has been reporting on a trial taking place in federal court in Minneapolis involving Toyota and the issue of whether they are responsible for cases of uncontrollable acceleration on some of their vehicles. If you read the reports on the trial it sounds like any reasonably competent attorney could be representing the plaintiffs. Nothing could be further from the truth.Starting in the late 1970s it became apparent to the plaintiff's bar that finding a way to distinguish lawyers who make their living in the courtroom from lawyers who do not, was something that would benefit consumers. Accordingly, the National Board of Trial Advocacy (NBTA) was formed by some distinguished trial lawyers. They established criteria and standards which lawyers had to meet in order to be certified as Civil Trial Specialists. Not only did this require demonstrating a significant amount of actual trial experience, but it called for letters of recommendation from judges and opposing attorneys, as well as passage of a grueling day long examination.In 1987 I became the first lawyer in Anoka County to receive this certification, and I have been recertified multiple times over the ensuing years.One of the things that I do to give back to the profession is participate in something called case evaluation clinics at the Minnesota Association for Justice. In those clinics other lawyers bring in cases and a panel of three lawyers reviews them and offers advice on how best to proceed. Last Tuesday I participated in another one of these clinics and I was struck by the amount of assistance some lawyers need to handle complex cases. In the two cases that we reviewed that day, there were literally dozens of suggestions that were made by the panel which, in my opinion, should not have been necessary. The lawyers getting the advice were not Certified Civil Trial Specialists, yet they were retained by clients with significant injuries insignificant cases.Recently I've been asked to take over two cases which other law firms had handled for a while. After looking at the files it quickly became apparent to me that these other law firms were not qualified to do this kind of work in the first place.Consumers looking for a lawyer to represent them in a personal injury matter should look for lawyers who are Certified Trial Specialists. You wouldn't go to a family care physician for brain surgery, and likewise you shouldn't go to a family law lawyer for a personal injury matter, unless it is for a referral to a competent Certified Civil Trial Specialist.

Farming is Dangerous Business

Just last weekend the local news and the Star Tribune reported on a terribly tragic accident on a farm just west of the Twin Cities. A man and his five-year-old grandson were riding on grandpa's tractor when it tipped over, killing them both. The most recent statistical evidence I have seen rates farming as the second most dangerous occupation in America, second only to underground coal mining!The reason farming is so dangerous is because farming equipment is so dangerous. I don't know the specific facts of this accident, but it seems likely that the tractor in question was one of the older, three wheeled versions, similar to those three wheeled ATVs that were banned years ago, only worse. Think about it. You have vehicle with a triangular wheelbase and an extremely high center of gravity. It has to be built that way so that it can pass over growing crops without crushing them. The problem is that it makes the vehicle itself incredibly unstable. That is why modern tractor manufacturers have abandoned the old three wheeled design in favor of a four wheeled design, and also incorporate rollover protection systems (ROPS) on tractors so that if it does rollover it doesn't crush the occupants.If in fact the tractor design is partly to blame for this terrible tragedy, the tractor manufacturer may be liable under product liability laws in Minnesota which make them liable for injuries caused by a consumer product which reaches the consumer in an unreasonably dangerous condition, due to its design or a manufacturing defect.