Car accidents involving tractors that are intended for agricultural use, and the legal issues arising from the very involvement of a motorized vehicle.
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Car Accidents – Agricultural Vehicle

A Work Injury from an Agricultural Vehicle – Can this be Considered an Auto Accident?
By: Ofer Soler, Attorney

Agricultural work makes use of a variety of mechanized tools, such as various tractors, combines, crop pickers, plows, and other motorized agricultural tools. Unfortunately, work accidents sometimes occur with these agricultural tools that either harm the body of the person operating the tool or the bodies of other workers in the surrounding area.

According to the law of compensation for those injured in auto accidents, when a person is injured as a result of an auto accident then he or she is entitled to receive compensation from the insurer of the vehicle that caused the damage. The aforementioned person is entitled to receive this compensation regardless of who was responsible for causing the accident and under what circumstances, as long as the person’s body was actually injured as a result of the auto accident as defined by law.

As such, when bodily harm is caused as a result of working with a motorized agricultural tool, the injured party has a vested interest in proving that the accident was an auto accident since compensation is easier to receive in this manner.

In order to prove that bodily harm has resulted from an auto accident (as defined by law), a person must first prove that the damage was done through use of a motorized vehicle which is defined by law as “a vehicle put into motion by mechanical force on the ground’s surface whose purpose is to provide land transportation; these include trains, tractors, mobile machines able to move via use of mechanical force on the road, and vehicles being towed or otherwise supported by motorized vehicles”.

Meaning, various tractors that are suitable for use on roads are undoubtedly motorized vehicles and as such, bodily damage caused by working with a tractor that falls within the legal definition of an auto accident can be compensated even if the accident occurred in a field without the involvement of another vehicle (e.g. the overturning of a tractor in a field).

Injured people will even receive compensation in cases where the damage results from a part of the vehicle or its cargo that has fallen during the course of travel. This is the case, for example, when a tractor towing a wagon full of irrigation pipes passes by a group of workers and a pipe suddenly falls off the wagon and hits one of the workers - this is considered to be an auto accident that entitles the injured person to compensation.

Even cases in which a person is injured as a result of the falling of a part of the vehicle or its cargo while the vehicle is at rest are considered auto accidents, and this excludes cases of vehicular treatment (in the framework of work) or loading and unloading.

The courts have been faced with cases in which one party claims that the agricultural tools that caused the damage were not “motorized vehicles” as determined by the law, and therefore the accidents cannot be considered auto accidents.

This was the case when a man injured by a forklift made a compensation claim and the Fund for Auto Accident Victims (Karnit) claimed that a forklift was not a motorized vehicle as defined by the law since it’s main purpose is not “to provide land transportation” as stated in the legislation. 

The court rejected this argument and determined that the main function of a forklift is to transport cargo from one place to another and that the forklift functions as a vehicle for all intents and purposes, therefore the accident must be considered an auto accident.

In another court hearing, a case was presented in which a man was injured by a bulldozer. In this case, the court decided that a bulldozer does not fall within the legal definition of a motorized vehicle since its main function is to push and dig dirt, and also since it does not fall within the category of a vehicle legally fit to travel on a road (it was proven that the maximum speed of a bulldozer is 10 kph and according to the law a vehicle moving slower than 30 kph is not permitted to travel on roads).

In these examples, files were claimed against the Fund for Auto Accident Victims (Karnit), which is an entity intended to compensate auto accident victims who are injured by a vehicle not insured by any insurance company.

The Supreme Court set a precedent in a verdict in which it was determined that injuries resulting from use of a crawler dozer were to be considered auto accidents, despite the fact that these bulldozers are not legally defined motorized vehicles since they are unable to travel on the roads and are not intended for transportation purposes.

In this case, a private insurance company covered the bulldozer with an obligatory insurance policy and as such, the court determined that in the relationship between the insurance company and the insured it was agreed upon that the bulldozer was a motorized vehicle (even though, in actuality, it was not a motorized vehicle). It was therefore decided that the insurance company was obliged to compensate the victim according to the compensation law for auto accident victims.

It is therefore recommended to examine with the help of an attorney, in any event of bodily injury related to a tractor, agricultural tool, or cargo that has fallen off an agricultural vehicle, whether it can be argued that the accident was an auto accident.

This list is intended to provide general and initial information, and is not intended to provide or substitute legal consultation. The facts mentioned are true as of the date of their publication and may change at any time.

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