Dense Fog

Early one dark November morning, under dense fog conditions, a farmer was persistent about moving his tractor pulling an empty 11.8 foot-wide wagon from his home to a second driveway approximately 300 yards down a gravel road.

The gravel road measured 21.5 feet wide and had a posted legal speed limit of 50 mph.

The lights on the tractor were set to dim and the flashers on the rear of the tractor and wagon were on and working. The flashers on the front of the tractor were not working.

Due to the poor visibility, the farmer drove past the second driveway on 2 consecutive attempts. Not wanting to give up, the farmer made a third and final attempt.

This time, instead of turning around, the farmer tried to back up into the driveway from the wrong side of the road.  

This third time resulted in fatal and tragic consequences when a van struck the left front of the tractor and its loader arms.

The driver of the van was alive at the scene, but died in the ambulance on way to the hospital. The cause of death was due to blunt force trauma to the chest and head. He was 58 years old.

The farmer was cited for driving on the wrong side of the road.

Financial consequences

The claimant, who was not married, had 3 grown children and 5 grandchildren that were dependent on the claimant for transportation. The wrongful death case settled for $530,000.  The breakdown was $160,000 for each of the 3 children and $10,000 for each of the 5 grandchildren.

Attorney analysis

An attorney analysis provides a clear case of liability against the farmer – so clear, in fact, there’s a reasonable probability that a jury could award punitive damages. 

Risk management recommendations

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

  • Do not drive in dense fog. The safest thing to do is wait until the fog clears.
  • Use your lights. Keep headlights, flashers, turn signals and reflectors in good working order and clear of any dirt or debris. Always use turn signals when turning and changing lanes. Consider installing magnetic, battery-operated lights that can be purchased relatively cheaply.
  • 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 a pilot car. A pilot car or escort vehicle with operating flashers helps warn oncoming motorists of equipment ahead.  

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