How Accident Cases with Farm Trucks Work
Accidents involving farm vehicles pose entirely unique legal challenges compared to other types of vehicle accidents, due to these vehicles' unique classifications and insurance requirements. In this article, we'll cover how farm trucks are treated compared to regular trucks and what your options are following an accident with one.
Questions Answered on This Page:
- What are the laws that affect farm trucks in Texas?
- Are farm trucks required to carry insurance?
- Are farmers required to have commercial driver's licenses?
- How can I get compensated after a farm truck collision?
First off, imagine the following scenario. You're driving down a narrow farm road in the middle of the afternoon when you come upon a thresher approaching you in the other direction. When you get closer to the vehicle, you notice that it is carrying a wide load, which means the driver is required by law to veer the vehicle halfway to the right of his lane as he passes you. However, the driver (who appears to be a teenage boy) doesn't see you and fails to veer over as required, forcing you to veer off the road at the last second, slamming into an electrical post and totaling your car. Because of his inexperience and inability to follow proper protocol, you've now been injured.
While this is just a hypothetical situation, accidents like it happen on the farm-to-market roads around Texas all the time. And with the abundance of agriculture and livestock being transported around this state, collisions of this nature can happen on busy highways and city streets too. If you've been involved in one, you should be aware that the laws and restrictions for farm truck drivers are completely different from those for passenger cars and commercial truck drivers.
How Farm Trucks are Treated Differently from Other Trucks by the State of Texas
In the Lone Star State, farm trucks are treated very differently from other commercial vehicles for a number of reasons, which we will discuss below.
The first thing you need to know is that not all farm equipment is required to carry liability insurance. Yes, you read that last sentence correctly - if a farm truck or vehicle is less than 48,000 pounds in weight, then no liability insurance is required. If the farm vehicle is over 48,000 pounds, then it must have a minimum of $500,000 liability insurance. To put this in perspective, a small tractor can weigh around 4,000 to 5,000 pounds. Thus, in order to need liability insurance, a piece of farm equipment has to be enormous, like an industrial thresher or a large truck loaded down with agricultural goods or machinery.
What do these insurance requirements mean for you, if you've been injured or had a loved one killed in an accident with a farm truck? It means that if the vehicle weighed more than 48,000 pounds, then the farmer is required to have at least $500,000 in insurance. However, this creates a couple of problems for you. First, if you lost a loved one, then you likely suffered more than $500,000 in damages, but even if your losses were less than $500,000, there is still no guarantee you will be fairly compensated. You still have to prove to the jury that your accident was caused by a negligent farm truck driver, and it is up to them to look at all the evidence and decide who is at fault. On the other hand, if the farm vehicle weighed less than 48,000 pounds, then it might not be covered by insurance, and you'll have to file a personal injury or wrongful death lawsuit against the operator's assets.
When someone operates a tractor-trailer, he or she is required to carry a commercial driver's license. In order to obtain such a license, the truck driver must pass a training course and then demonstrate an understanding of the skills needed, in both a written test and a driving test administered by the state. Maintaining the license then requires meeting regulations, like taking random drug tests and keeping a travel log to document hours of service behind the wheel. When it comes to farm trucks and equipment, this is often not the case. Farm vehicle drivers are exempt from needing to have a commercial driver's license, provided:
- they're using the farm truck to transport agricultural products, farm machinery, or farm supplies to and from their own farm,
- AND the vehicle is being used within 150 miles of their own farm.
For the purposes of these laws, agriculture is defined as any fruit, vegetable, or textile that is grown, as well as poultry, livestock, and wild birds being transported. Moreover, farm supplies include hazardous materials like diesel fuel, gasoline, and types of fertilizer. Yes, you also read that correctly. A farmer can transport dangerous, explosive materials without having any liability insurance or a commercial driver's license that shows he has been trained in the proper methods of transport for such volatile materials.
When someone drives an 18-wheeler, they're limited in how many hours they can spend on the road in a single day (11), as fatigue is considered to be one of the leading causes of commercial truck accidents. However, just as they aren't required to hold a commercial driver's license, a farmer is not required to maintain the hours of service regulations so long as:
- the farmer is transporting goods within 100 miles of his or her farm,
- AND the goods being transported are agricultural in nature and are being hauled during the planting or harvesting season.
The catch to this second requirement is that the planting and harvesting season in Texas runs all year long. There's a logical reason for these laws: in Texas, much of the agriculture involves livestock, which is hauled year-round, and almost always by truck. Also, if you pay attention to recent food trends, you'll know that most gourmet restaurants are endeavoring to serve locally-raised foods. Thus, farmers need to be able to drive all over a 100-mile radius around their farm to deliver their wares and satisfy this demand. On the flip side of that argument is the effect these exceptions have on the world around the farmer. As we've stated, fatigue is one of the leading causes of truck accidents, and the need to get goods to market is no excuse for endangering the lives of innocent people. With that being said, the law is the law, and we're here to help you deal with the challenges created by the law just the same as the remedies afforded to you by it.
How a Lawyer Can Help You Work With Insurance Companies
If the farm vehicle that injured you had insurance (even though they're not required to carry insurance on vehicles less than 48,000 pounds, some farmers will invest in insurance anyway to avoid lawsuits later on), then you can file an insurance claim. Even then, you're not guaranteed that you will be compensated fairly. Insurance companies exist to generate profits and can be ruthless in their drive to that end, denying claims and trying to get claimants to accept less than they deserve in compensation. In most cases, you will need a lawyer to receive adequate compensation.
If the farmer did not have insurance, which is likely the case given the exemption for any tractor over 48,000 pounds in weight, then you will need to sue to get the compensation you deserve. In that event, your best chance to be compensated comes in protecting yourself with an experienced farm truck accident attorney. At Grossman Law Offices, we've been helping accident victims in Texas for 25 years, so we've accumulated the knowledge and skill you need. To learn more about how we can help you and the issues at hand with such a wreck, call us for a free consultation at (855) 326-0000.
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