Over the past decade, farm deaths in Ireland have accounted for more than 20 per cent of all occupational fatalities and remain an area of high concern for the Health and Safety Authority (HSA). Despite strict regulations concerning the use of machinery and movement of animals, high profile awareness campaigns and an increased number of farm inspections, the ratio of farm deaths per person employed in the industry continues to rise.
It is not just people who work in farming who may become victims of a farm death. People walking across farmland or visitors to a farm – especially young children – may not fully appreciate the risks associated with farming machinery and unpredictable farm animals, particularly when a mother is protecting its young. The old are also vulnerable to fatal farm accidents – often lacking the awareness or agility to avoid fatal injury from a moving hazard.
Procedures after a Farm Death
Depending on the circumstances of a farm death, an investigation would be conducted by the HSA and the Gardai into the circumstances surrounding the death, and whether the fatal accident was due to negligence on the part of the farmer, proprietor or employer. Either authority may charge the owner of the farm when they are responsible for the farm death, and the results of their investigations will play a crucial role in any subsequent farm death claims for compensation.
As the next of kin or dependant of the farm death victim, you have the responsibility to inform the Coroner of the death (although this may be done by the Gardai) and, in accordance with the Civil Registration Act (2004), register the death with the Registrars Office. Thereafter, even before a party is found liable for the farm death, you should consult a solicitor about making a farm death injury compensation claim.
The Injuries Board Ireland and Farm Death
Farm death claims are dealt with in the first instance by the Injuries Board Ireland. Their procedures for assessing farm death claims are slightly different from those when a claim for personal injury compensation is made. So, even if you have applied to them before for an assessment of compensation, it is in your best interests to use the services of an experienced solicitor when making your application – particularly at a time of grief.
The Injuries Board Ireland will assess the application for farm death compensation and, where appropriate, appoint an independent actuary to determine damages for loss of dependency and/or loss of services. Farm death claims should also include any costs associated with recovery of the body, any personal loss of earnings for time you may have taken off from work to deal with the formalities and funeral expenses. Loss of future earnings by the deceased should be assessed by the Injuries Board Ireland, but it will be your solicitor´s responsibility to ensure these are included in a farm death compensation settlement.
Factors which affect Farm Death Claims
There are several vital factors which may affect the way in which farm death claims are processed. The first is the victim´s employment status if their fatal accident occurred while working on the farm. Farm death claims for compensation when an agency worker, sub-contractor or self-employed person is the victim may mean that liability is not with the employer, but with the proprietor of the premises – who could be a completely different person.
Furthermore, if the liable party claims that the farm death victim contributed to their accident by their own lack of care, this would result in the Injuries Board Ireland declining to assess your application for farm death compensation, and your solicitor needing to pursue compensation through the courts. If the courts find in favour of the liable party, this would reduce how much farm death compensation you receive, and often compensation for farm death claims is resolved by negotiation before a court case is necessary.
- Farm deaths are responsible for more than a fifth of all occupational fatalities. Incidentally, they account for only 1 per cent of all reported workplace injuries.
- Visitors to farms – particularly children and the elderly – are also at risk from farm death if they are not aware of the potential hazards which exist on a farm.
- The Health and Safety Authority and Gardai will usually conduct independent investigations into a farm death to determine the cause.
- Farm death compensation is initially assessed by the Injuries Board Ireland but a different process is used than in the event of a personal injury claim.
- Farm death claims for compensation should be comprehensively completed to account for all the damages you are entitled to receive.
- If your claim for farm death compensation – or the amount assessed by the Injuries Board Ireland – is disputed by the negligent party, your claim will have to be resolved in court or by negotiation.
It is always a very difficult time for families following a farm death, and it is advisable to allow a solicitor to take care of the legal matters concerning a claim for farm death compensation. If you feel that you have a potential farm death compensation claim, you are advised to discuss the points raised in the preceding article with a solicitor at your earliest opportunity.
It is important to note that each case is unique. If someone in your family is been unfortunate enough to have suffered a farm death and feel that you have a potential claim, you are advised to discuss all of the points raised in the preceding article with a solicitor at the earliest opportunity.
Copyright © 2011 Eoin P. Campbell
About the Author
Eoin P. Campbell is an honours law graduate (LL.B) and qualified solicitor whose professional experience is in the area of litigation and in particular personal injury claims. Eoin P. Campbell is currently lecturing in law at two universities in Lyon, France.