It isn’t easy or intuitive to safely operate a forklift. It requires significantly more training, experience, and caution than driving other types of vehicles or machinery, and operators must maintain a constant awareness of nearby people and objects.
But all kinds of operator negligence can lead to accidents, including:
- Driving too fast
- Employee horseplay
- Unbalanced or inadequately secured loads
- Improper turning, braking, or other driving conduct
- Backing up when unsafe
- Failing to account for low clearances, narrow corridors, and the presence of other workers
But operators aren’t always responsible when things go tragically wrong with a forklift. Employers have a responsibility to ensure safe forklift use and maintenance and keep a safe work environment, but they often fail to do so by negligently:
- Failing to provide proper training
- Failing to maintain the forklift
- Not adopting and enforcing clear safety rules
- Failing to provide a safe work environment for forklift operation
All these failures can contribute to the many types of accidents involving forklifts that occur every year. Rollovers are one of the most common causes of injuries and deaths. These accidents can be caused by:
- Turning too quickly
- Overweight, uneven, or unbalanced loads
- Abrupt mast movement
- Turning on an incline
- Driving with the load elevated
- Driving on uneven surfaces
Other common types of forklift accidents include:
- Pedestrian impacts caused by operator inattention, fatigue, distracted driving, and carelessness
- Being struck by an object
- Falling loads
- Forklift falling off a dock or trailer
- Workers falling from forks
- Mechanical failures due to poor or infrequent maintenance
- Workers crushed by forklifts
- Trips, slips, and falls
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According to the Industrial Truck Association, about 855,900 forklifts are in operation at any given time in the U.S. Statistics from the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) reveal that 11 percent of those forklifts will be involved in an injury-causing accident. OSHA also reports that:
- Forklift accidents injure almost 97,000 Americans every year
- Of those accidents, 34,900 have resulted in serious injuries and permanent disability
- An average of 85 Americans die in forklift accidents each year
In 2020 alone, according to the National Safety Council, forklifts were the source of 78 work-related deaths and 7,290 non-fatal injuries involving days away from work. While the average number of days away from work due to all workplace accidents and injuries is 12 days, forklift accidents and injuries result in an average of 17 days off work, costing employers and employees significant sums.
If you or a loved one have been injured, contact our forklift injury attorneys to schedule a complimentary consultation.
Many non-fatal injuries caused by forklift accidents are catastrophic and life-changing, including traumatic brain injuries, spinal injuries, and amputations. More often than not – but not always – workers injured in forklift accidents are limited to workers’ compensation benefits to pay for their medical care and compensate for lost wages while they cannot work.
Unfortunately, the struggles following a debilitating forklift injury often compound when an employer or workers’ compensation insurer challenges an injured worker’s right to benefits. They might assert that the injuries were not caused by the accident, that they aren’t as severe as claimed or otherwise don’t warrant the amount of benefits sought.
Even when an employer provides all available benefits after a forklift accident, these benefits can be far from sufficient to cover all the losses that follow a catastrophic injury. That is why we not only fight to ensure our clients get all the workers’ comp benefits to which they are entitled, but we also investigate and pursue claims for compensation against any third parties that may be responsible for a forklift accident, such as the manufacturer or a contractor charged with maintaining the machine.
If a third party other than the employer is at fault for an accident and injuries, they can be held accountable, and an injured worker can seek compensation from them in a civil personal injury lawsuit. The damages recoverable in such cases can far exceed workers’ compensation benefits and include compensation for losses like pain and suffering, loss of consortium and companionship, and other elements of personal injury damages not included in workers’ compensation benefits.