Gympie farm worker awarded $400k after quad bike crash
A QUEENSLAND court decision over a quad bike accident on a farm near Gympie has highlighted the need for urgent safety modifications to be made to the quad bikes routinely used by farmers.
That's the view of prominent Brisbane injury compensation law specialist Mark O'Connor following a Brisbane District Court decision awarding $400,000 to Andrew McHugh, who was injured in a quad bike rollover on a property near Gympie.
He says the decision by Judge Reid has shone a light on the safety of rural farm machinery after farm worker Andrew McHugh injured his right leg while riding a quad bike on a property near Gympie mustering cattle for the property owner.
Lawyers for Andrew McHugh argued that the quad bike which had been provided for his use did not enable him to muster cattle on the property with reasonable safety.
Mr O'Connor, a Director with Brisbane firm Bennett & Philp Lawyers, says the case has ramifications across all rural areas.
The judge found that the quad bike at the centre of the claim had no rollbar, seatbelt or safety netting. Avoiding a ditch, the plaintiff instinctively stuck his right leg out to prevent a rollover, and injured his leg by this action.
"Quad bikes are routinely used in many rural areas. This is a warning that modification should be made of these vehicles to make them safe or farmers / graziers could risk facing significant damages awards to their injured employees,” Mr O'Connor says.
Although Mr O'Connor was not involved in this claim, he has over the years acted for a number of rural workers injured in a variety of accidents.
This claim arose while the plaintiff was using a quad bike which was provided to him to muster some cattle. He was working with the cattle going down a slope when the quad bike began to overturn. He instinctively put out his right leg to stop the quad bike from overturning and suffered serious injuries.
There was evidence from engineers at the trial that quad bikes are high risk machines which require management if used on rural properties.
"The engineering evidence was that the quad bike should have been fitted with rollover protection and a safety belt which would have protected the plaintiff in a rollover accident. Alternatively a different vehicle should have been provided which was described as a 2 seat utility vehicle which was something like a golf cart. The evidence was that the retrofitting of the crash protection system and lap belt to the quad bike would only cost $600-$700,” he says.
The judge found that the quad bike should have been altered as suggested by the engineers or the 2 seat utility vehicle provided as there was a foreseeable risk of injury which the defendant had done nothing to adequately control.
Mr O'Connor says although the damages were reduced by 20% because of the plaintiff's contribution to the accident, the defendant was found to be 80% liable and the damages of $400,000 were awarded.
"The lesson from this is that while it may be taken for granted that quad bikes are a standard farm machine now, there needs to be a re-think on their fitted safety measures.
"Despite the risks associated with them, quad bikes are a fixture in many rural areas but this case illustrates the importance of safety modifications for these vehicles to make them safe.
"Ignoring the risk could see farmers or graziers risk facing significant damages awards to their injured employees,” Mr O'Connor says.