Liability Question

Discussion in 'Lawn Mowing' started by Bret Austin, May 11, 2001.

  1. Bret Austin

    Bret Austin LawnSite Member
    Posts: 14

    Last night I was mowing at a factory along a highway. The ditch is full of rocks, road debris, etc. I've mowed it before and not had anything happen, but this area tends to be under constant change as far as rocks, etc. Any way, I kicked a rock out onto the highway and you guessed it, a car hit it. You mean it hit a car right? No, the rock (about the size of a golf ball) was sailing peacefully across the 4 lane road when a car hit the rock. The car hit it right on the front bumper somwhere. They turned off the road and got out to inspect the damage. I was just waiting for them to come back and start cursing. They got back in the car and kept driving. I don't know if it made a dent or not, it made a loud thud when they hit it.
    This area is bad, if I mow in the opposite direction, I would have hit the building or a car in the parking lot. It's a tough situation, and not the most desireable place to mow. Anyway, who's at fault when this happens?

    Thanks.
     
  2. Lobster

    Lobster LawnSite Member
    Posts: 6

    Bret, I'm no lawyer, but common sense would tell me that if it could be proven in court that you shot that rock onto the highway, you may be liable. Luckily the rock didn't go through a car window and hurt somebody physically. I would consider the risk of hitting a building vs the potential of seriously hurting an individual. Can the landowner clean up this area of grass that you mow? Can the landowner pay you to cleanup this area of the lawn? I may be out in left field, but if I were you, I would consider arrangements to clean this area up, or not mow it at all based on the public safety issues, as well as the safety issues concerning you and your equipment.
     
  3. TGCummings

    TGCummings LawnSite Senior Member
    Posts: 773

    Bret,

    If it's just a ditch with rocks and debris, can you just keep the growth killed with Roundup instead of mowing it? That's a *dangerous* situation, and you're liable for whatever your mower kicks out. The next thing you hit might be a lawsuit...

    -TGC
     
  4. joshua

    joshua LawnSite Bronze Member
    Posts: 1,226

    to avoid throwing another rock at the site you were at last night either bag, or put the mulching shield on, (not the kit) just so that you don't take the risk of hitting another car and them coming back for ya. i hope this helps you buddy
     
  5. Bret Austin

    Bret Austin LawnSite Member
    Posts: 14

    keep in mind this is south dakota. there are more cows than cars and the building and employee parking lot are always going to be there versus an occaisional car out on the highway.

    anyway, roundup is out of the question as the ditch rolls into the lawn and would look odd if it were dead. the debris removal from the site is borderline. since it is the ditch and things are always changing, a cleanup of this area would only last a short time. i think the thing to do is set my mower at about 4.5" or so and just let it be long there. :blob3:

    but i am still curious on the legal issue. in talking to my friends, they seem to think that it would be pretty hard to prove an object came from my mower. similar to when you are driving down the highway and get a rock chip from a passing vehicle. how do you prove that? anyway, the whole thing sucked. it's not a good feeling when you *know* you did it.
     
  6. Likestomow

    Likestomow LawnSite Senior Member
    Posts: 997

    Bret, if you really are all that curious about the legal issue here, think of it in reverse.

    Say you were driving your vehicle along the road, the rock hit your car, and you saw this guy mowing with the mower aimed toward the road. Now there is a dent in your vehicle, damage probably in the hundreds (what isn't these days!).... what would you do?

    Just make sure you have a good commercial liability policy (you do have one, right?) and then use good common sense. Take steps to avoid problems. If there are cars driving by, maybe you should pause until they pass, and then resume mowing. A little caution can avoid a great deal of frustration and lost time.
     
  7. they are gonna hold you liable. if they can prove it which is not that hard to do. with your mower maybe you should put the debris shield down for this ditch? or you could try to do some primo applications. however that just cuts back on the number of times you have to mow. and as we all know it just takes one time to do some damage
     
  8. thelawnguy

    thelawnguy LawnSite Silver Member
    Posts: 2,412

    In CT your ins co would put the claim to the vehicle owners ins co so its a pretty much wasted call.

    Around here anything involving a moving vehicle is the vehicle owners responsibility (or their ins co-no fault laws). If the persons ins co decides to chase you down then so be it.
     
  9. HOMER

    HOMER LawnSite Gold Member
    Posts: 3,183

    I had a guy claim that I picked up a rock while mowing and hit his windshield. He was very angry and wanted to know my Insurance Co. and all this other crap. I would have been more than willing to accomodate him but he didn't strike me as being an honest person, although he claimed he was a preacher. I never hit a rock! If I knew that I had hit the rock I would have fixed it, but you know when you do and I knew I didn't. I knew there were rocks there and my deck was at 2.5 inches, the rocks were pea size in that area. My Insurance Co. would have paid but the guy would have to prove that it came from my mower. At the same time he had his windshield cracked there were dump trucks hauling gravel down the hiway and he was behind one of the trucks. I think I was easier prey than the trucks. It never got fixed by me and it wasn't his vehicle either, he had borrowed it for the weekend from a car dealership.........testing it out!
     
  10. lakegastonla

    lakegastonla LawnSite Senior Member
    Posts: 296

    I would spray the ditch to kill all things green, then rip rap that sucker. Easy sell to the customer because this also prevents erosion of the ditchbank and too, it prevents you from tracking it up when it's wet. Good opportunity to make extra cash, here. Good luck!
     

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