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New bill seeks to limit personal injury liability for New York agritourism industry

Agricultural tourism, or agritourism for short, is proving to be a huge benefit for farmers in New York. The crowds that visit their farms, dairies, wineries, and outdoor markets provide them with additional income while exposing their goods and produce to potential new retail markets. People are also coming for authentic “farm experiences” that include apple-picking, tapping for maple syrup, and other time-honored agricultural activities.

The downside of this profitable sideline is that opening their operations to the general public also exposes farmers to personal injury liability, which is forcing them to buy liability insurance.  Depending on the nature of the farmer’s operations, careless or negligent use of equipment around the public could result in:

  • Bruises and abrasions
  • Lacerations
  • Broken bones
  • Concussions
  • Spinal cord or traumatic brain injury
  • Death

Obtaining adequate insurance is proving to be expensive for farmers because there are no clear-cut standards for agritourism liability in New York State. A recent bill, the Safety in Agricultural Tourism Act, is now seeking to limit the farmers’ liability by including agritourism in the General Obligations Law, which specifies required duties for both business proprietors and visitors and users when it comes to higher-risk activities.

Under the new act, both agri-tourists and the businesses catering to them will assume certain responsibilities regarding safety. For example:

  • Businesses would have to post and maintain navigational signage.
  • Paths and areas intended for public use must be clearly delineated.
  • Visitors are obligated to obey signage and comply with posted rules.

While the Safety in Agricultural Tourism Act would not protect a farmer completely from a personal injury lawsuit if a visitor is injured on their property, it would limit their exposure to liability by making reasonable expectations clear to people.

At present, insurance costs are deterring many farmers from participating in this growing industry. They acknowledge the opportunity to grow their businesses via agritourism but admit to passing up on opportunities to welcome the public to their farms because the liability insurance is prohibitively expensive. Supporters of the new bill hope that making it law would lower these costs and encourage more agritourism.

If the governor signs the bill, it is anticipated that more family-owned farms will participate in agritourism and, in so doing, contribute more to their local economies. While enjoying an authentic agricultural experience, members of the public will have to exercise a certain amount of due diligence by remaining in areas intended for visitor access and paying attention to all posted warnings. Anyone injured on farm property can and should consult with a New York personal injury attorney, but implementation of the Safety in Agricultural Tourism Act may lessen the likelihood that a day on the farm will end on a painful note. Jayson Lutzky is a highly experienced and qualified personal injury lawyer. He has helped many clients over the past 34 years with great compassion recover millions of dollars in damages for their injuries. Call 718-329-9500 to set up your free in-person consultation. Visit www.MyNewYorkCityLawyer.com to learn more.

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