A Queensland court decision over a quad bike accident on a farm has highlighted the need for urgent safety modifications to be made to the many quad bikes routinely used by farmers in their work.
That’s the view of prominent Brisbane injury compensation law specialist Mark O’Connor following a recent 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 His Honour Judge Reid has shone a light on the safety of agricultural farm machinery after farmworker Andrew McHugh injured his right leg while riding a quad bike on a property near Gympie mustering cattle for the property owner.
Lawyers for Mr McHugh argued that the quad bike which had been provided for his use in performing sporadic work on the farm did not enable him to muster cattle on the property with reasonable safety.
Mr O’Connor 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.
“Quad bikes are routinely used in many rural areas. This is a warning that modifications should be made to these vehicles to make them safe or farmers/graziers could risk facing significant damages claims from their injured employees,” Mark says.
Although Mark was not involved in this claim, he has over the years acted for many 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 significant 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 ridden by Mr McHugh should have been fitted with rollover protection and a safety belt which would have protected the plaintiff being injured in a rollover accident. Alternatively, a different vehicle should have been provided which was described as a two-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 two-seat utility vehicle provided as there was a foreseeable risk of injury which the defendant had done nothing to adequately control.
Mark 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 damages of $400,000 were awarded.
“The lesson from this is that while it may be taken for granted that quad bikes are standard farm machinery, there needs to be a re-think on their fitted safety features.
“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 claims from their injured employees,” Mark O’Connor says.
Individual liability limited by a scheme approved under professional standards legislation (personal injury work exempted).