Every year, millions of American homeowners pull their lawn mowers out of storage. As the winter ice thaws and we all gear up for the spring and summer months, lawn mowers provide an important role in lawn care, landscaping, and facilities management in a variety of different organizations and residences. While it is easy to focus on the great service these machines provide, they can also be a significant cause of severe injury and happen often enough that they should be considered a matter of public health that everyone should be aware of. Read on for everything you need to know about lawn mower injuries.
Understanding Lawnmower Injuries
According to a 2018 study conducted by researchers at Johns Hopkins University, nearly 6,400 people incur serious personal injuries from lawn mower accidents on an annual basis. The study analyzed eight years (2006-2013) of emergency room and hospitalization data and found that lacerations were the most common injury present in lawn mower accidents. Lacerations accounted for 47% of injuries reported in that timeframe, and are commonly caused by the rotating blades on lawn mowers.
Other commonly occurring types of injuries reported in the Johns Hopkins study include broken bones (22% of reported injuries) and amputations (22% as well). Of these fractures and amputations, wrists and hands are injured more often than feet and toes (although foot injuries are fairly common as well).
In addition, the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission estimates that about 35,000 injuries related to riding lawn mowers were treated in emergency departments every year between the years of 2012-2014.
Most lawnmower related injuries require a medical procedure. 10% of accident victims cited in the Johns Hopkins study needed hospitalization for surgery, at an average cost of approximately $37,000 per patient.
As far as the demographics that are most affected, males suffer an overwhelmingly higher rate of personal injury from lawnmower accidents compared to females (85% for males, 15% for females). Unfortunately, young children also account for a number of lawnmower injuries incurred annually. Children up to 4 years of age are more likely to suffer foot or lower-extremity injuries that require amputation, whereas older children and teens are more likely to suffer hand and upper-extremity injuries.
Best Practices for Lawn Mower Safety
Although the injury data surrounding lawnmowers may seem grim, there are a number of action safety tips that lawnmower users can practice to reduce the risk of injury for yourself and your family members. Recommendations from the American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons (AAOS) include performing routine maintenance checks on the machine (especially if it’s a power lawnmower and not a push lawnmower), operating the lawnmower properly, using caution at all times and on all terrains, and keeping children safe from a running lawn mower.
Since performance issues are a common cause of these injuries, proper lawn mower maintenance includes action items such as changing the oil, adding fuel stabilizer to or removing all fuel from the mower (if sitting idle for over 30 days), replacing spark plugs, cleaning and replacing the air filter, sharpening and balancing the lawn mower blades, and keeping the mower clean.
Proper lawn mower operation can significantly reduce the risk of personal injury while mowing. Users should always be sure to read and review the owner’s manual on a regular basis, especially before the first mow of the season. Users should never remove any safety devices, shields, or guards present on the lawn mower. Fuel should only be added before starting the engine, not while the engine is running or hot.
Lawnmowers should never be left unattended. If you need to step away from the machine for any reason, it is imperative to make sure that the mower is turned completely off. A significant number of injuries children suffer from lawnmowers can be attributed to an adult not being present and attentive at the time of the accident. In addition to the risk of being cut from mower blades, unprotected flesh can easily become burned if it comes into contact with the hot engine components of a running and unattended lawn mower.
Using the proper protective gear when operating a lawn mower can also reduce the risk of personal injury. Users should wear protective goggles, sturdy shoes, and long pants. Alcoholic beverages should be avoided well in advance of mowing the lawn, as reduced inhibitions from alcohol consumption pose an increased risk of carelessness and injury. Avoid distractions such as texting or listening to music while mowing the lawn. Finally, if there is debris that needs to be cleared from the machine, always use a broom handle or other extendable object. Never use hands or feet to clear debris, as a mower blade can quickly swing around and cause serious injury.
The nature of the mowing terrain should be considered as well. Any stones, toys, and other debris should be moved prior to mowing. In addition, extra caution should be used when mowing up and down hills and slopes. Push mowers should be operated across hills and slopes, while riding mowers should be operated up and down hills and slopes.
Understanding Product Liability Laws in Illinois
Sometimes, a lawnmower user suffers personal injury due to their own negligence and irresponsible use of the machine. However, there are situations in which injury is incurred due to a defect in the lawnmower itself. When an accident victim suspects that the latter was true in their case, consultation with an experienced local product liability attorney is advised. These legal professionals can help accident victims determine if pursuing litigation against the lawnmower manufacturer is appropriate given the circumstances.
A product can be deemed legally defective for three different reasons. First, claims can be filed that argue the design of the product was defective. In other words, the way in which the product was designed was unreasonably dangerous. This line of argument often requires the plaintiff to also show that there was a reasonable alternative to the design of the product that was less dangerous.
Manufacturing defects are another category under which an injured party can pursue litigation. This argument states that although the design of a product was reasonably safe, a mistake was made while manufacturing the product that caused the end result to pose a safety risk to the end user.
Finally, a product liability claim can be filed against a manufacturer that fails to adequately warn consumers of the dangers involved in using their products. These warnings should include both the proper way to use the product as well as what can be reasonably expected to occur if the product is used in an irresponsible manner. If warning labels are not clear and comprehensive, injured users may have grounds for pursuing litigation.
In Illinois, the statute of limitations for filing a product liability claim is two years if the claim is based on personal injury, and five years if based on property damage. Victims who attempt to file a claim outside of the statute of limitations face virtually zero chance of being awarded monetary compensation for their damages. Contacting a local reputable product liability attorney soon after the accident is therefore considered best practice in virtually every product liability claim.
Illinois residents should also be aware of what is known as the “statute of repose” for product liability cases. This term is used to describe the fact that if a prospective plaintiff suffers personal injury long after purchasing a product, they will not be able to pursue litigation against the manufacturer. In Illinois, the statute of repose is 10 years from the date of first sale/lease/delivery of possession to the initial consumer/user. If an accident occurs with a product more than 10 years after it was purchased, Illinois residents will face significant challenges in successfully recovering compensation for damages incurred.
Getting Professional Legal Counsel
When an individual is injured by a lawnmower or other product, they are likely going to want to understand their options for litigation in order to recover compensation for damages. For years, the attorneys at Palermo Law Group have been helping accident victims in Oak Brook and throughout the Chicagoland area as they navigate the litigation process. Contact Palermo Law Group today for a free consultation.