It happened on August 20, 2013. Matthew Bruhn was texting while driving a rental car on Highway 151 near Platteville in Grant County. Bruhn looked up seconds before crashing into a tractor pulling a trailer full of liquid manure. Hundreds of gallons manure covered the road and both vehicles. Although the situation truly stank, the injuries were not severe. Bruhn suffered a broken finger. The tractor driver refused medical treatment.
They were lucky. According to the National Safety Council accidents involving a farm vehicle are five times more likely to produce a fatality than any other type of motor vehicle accident. Between 2005 and 2012, there were 1,400 accidents involving farm machines on Wisconsin roads. These accidents caused 708 injuries and 25 fatalities.
Wisconsin farm vehicle traffic accidents are becoming more common and there are two reasons why:
- Non-farmers are moving further away from the city in order to find affordable housing.
- Farms are getting larger. Farmers must use roads to travel between fields that can be up to 20 miles apart.
A driver of a tractor or other piece of farm equipment has the same rights and responsibilities as any other driver on the road. But farm vehicles are large and heavy and difficult to steer. This means both drivers and farm equipment operators must be alert at all times.
The Wisconsin Department of Transportation and Department of Agriculture, Trade, and Consumer Protection have recently formed a group to study the effects of farm vehicles on Wisconsin roadways. The group, which includes farmers, must figure out a way for farm vehicles to share the roads without endangering the public, damaging our roadways, or hurting food production. The biggest challenge is determining size and weight limits. Farm machines are designed to be efficient in the field. A design that speeds up the harvest may not fit on the right side of a two-lane highway. The group will make their recommendations to the state legislature.
Who is liable for a Wisconsin farm vehicle accident? It depends on the situation. In many cases liability may not be clear.
If you were injured in a Wisconsin farm vehicle accident, contact a Madison accident attorney. You may eligible for insurance compensation, but you will need to take immediate steps to protect your case. To learn more, contact Hupy and Abraham at 888-277-4879.