Even if you abide by every safety precaution, farm accidents can still happen. We talked to an expert to learn more about insurance claims and the best way to manage them after an accident occurs on the farm.
Farm accidents are scary, but handling the paperwork correctly can save farmers from many headaches, even a lawsuit, down the line.
We talked to Ariella Schreiber, the Director of Claims at Rural Mutual Insurance Company, for pointers on how to keep post-accident costs and frustrations low.
Of all of the advice she offered, she stressed this point the most:
If you or a farm employee is involved in a farm accident, always file a claim with your insurance company.
“We can’t emphasize enough the importance of a good, timely investigation,” Schreiber said. “Above all else, the farmer should be honest with his or her insurance company about the facts of the accident.”
If a farmer neglects to file a claim, he or she can end up paying for it in the long run, Schreiber says. If an accident becomes a lawsuit, neglecting to file a claim may hurt the farmer’s chance of successfully defending the suit.
There are three common types of accidents, according to Schreiber, all of which can have major repercussions if a farmer does not file a claim:
Situation 1: Farmer accidentally injures another person.
This type of accident can happen in a number of different ways.
For example, a farmer driving a farm vehicle could get into an accident with another vehicle on the road.
Another common scenario is a farmer driving an IoH on the side of the road and being rear-ended by another vehicle. In this situation, although the IoH was rear-ended, if the IoH did not have the appropriate signage the driver of the vehicle may claim the farmer is at fault.
Usually. the farmer opts not to file a claim because the tractor isn’t damaged and he believes the assurance that the other driver is fine.
The farmer forgets about the accident for one year, until the woman’s insurance company calls the farmer’s insurer to report an injury.
Because the farmer did not file a claim, his insurance company could not investigate the incident. And because his insurer could not investigate the incident, it will be difficult to defend the farmer or contest who’s responsible for the accident.
But if the farmer filed a claim right away, his insurance company could have gathered the information it needed from the scene, taken photos, and had an engineer review the physical damage; this allows the insurer to defend both the property damage and bodily injury claims.
This means rates remain low not just for the farmer, but for everyone.
Situation 2: Another person injures farmer in an accident
If someone else’s error causes an accident in which the farmer is injured, he should file a claim right away so his insurance company can properly investigate the incident.
The farmer may have Medical Payments coverage, which would cover his out of pocket medical expenses in the event of an accident.
If the farmer eventually chooses to initiate a personal injury lawsuit, the evidence his insurance company gathers can sometimes help build his case.
Situation 3: Employee is injured after an accident
Lastly, let’s say a farmer’s employee is injured on the job.
If the farmer carries worker’s compensation insurance, it is state law to report the accident to an insurer within 24 hours, but many farmers neglect to do this because they’re concerned about rates.
This can lead to trouble down the line, as farmers can face serious fines and penalties.
(Note: some small farms do not have worker’s compensation insurance. In this case, treat it like a personal injury claim [situation two].)
“If you assume the injury doesn’t need to be reported and turn out to be wrong, you’ll face a lawsuit later,” Schreiber said. “From my perspective as an attorney, it’s always better to be safe than sorry.”
Seven more tips for filing an insurance claim after an accident:
1. First, make sure everyone receives necessary medical attention
If you or someone on your farm is involved in an accident, and someone appears injured, call 911 right away.
We also recommend rendering medical assistance, but only if someone from your farm is capable of doing so.
“The first priority is to make sure everyone involved in the accident is safe, and to ensure they are treated for injuries they may have sustained,” says Schreiber.
2. Exchange the correct information.
Exchange your name, phone number, name of the other party’s insurance company, the date and time of the accident, and weather conditions. It’s also worth it to collect the name and information of any witnesses.
3. Report the injury right away.
Filing a claim in a timely manner means your insurance company can investigate the incident. This way, they’ll have the information to build a strong case if you become a defendant in a lawsuit down the line.
If an accident happens and you don’t find out about it until later on, we still highly encourage filing a claim – whether it’s a worker’s compensation injury or a liability-type injury.
4. Know the right people to talk to.
After an accident, it’s best to contact your insurance agent or claims adjuster. Both will have solid advice about what to do next.
If you are worried about not having enough liability insurance, speak with your attorney
5. Avoid consenting to a recorded statement.
If you or a farm employee injures another person, sometimes, the injured person’s insurance company or attorney may attempt to record a statement from you about the accident.
We advise against consenting to a recorded statement.
Instead, refer the insurer or attorney to your insurance company or attorney.
6. Cooperate with law enforcement.
This is crucial no matter the situation – even if you believe you (or your employee) are not at fault.
7. In the meantime, form a relationship with your underwriter.
Almost all insurance companies have underwriting departments to evaluate risk.
Risk managers have information to make your farm safer; they are well versed in information ranging from OSHA requirements signage/lighting requirements on SMVs and IoH, to immunities available under Wisconsin law. This wealth of information can help you minimize risk of accident or injury on your farm.
For instance, Trienen Farm, located just outside Madison, Wis., is open with their insurance company about their plans to have fall visitors at their pumpkin patch.
Claims adjusters and underwriters frequent their farm to help determine the safest way to operate fall activities such as hayrides and corn mazes, without sacrificing fun.
“It is a great weight off of us to know the insurance company has our back, because we have a lot of people come to the farm and crazy stuff can happen,” said Annie Treinen.
Forming a relationship with underwriters at your insurance company establishes good rapport, which can be helpful if an accident ever happens.