Operating heavy machinery in the workplace, if done incorrectly, can lead to the injury and sometimes death of workers. In fact, according to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), there are nearly 100 forklift fatalities and roughly 35,000 serious forklift-related injuries each year. Nearly half of forklift-related deaths occur from the operator being crushed by a tipping vehicle. If you or someone you love has been seriously injured in a forklift-related accident in Philadelphia, you may be able to file a liability claim against those who are responsible for your injury. You may be able to receive compensation for your medical and hospital bills, rehabilitation costs, and if your injury was serious enough to compromise or prevent you from working, you might even be able to recover damages for a loss of wages or pain and suffering.
The personal injury attorneys at the Reiff Law Firm have recovered millions of dollars in settlements for our injury clients. We possess years of experience in all areas of law concerning forklift accidents and other work-related injuries. Our Philadelphia forklift injury lawyers would be honored to serve you and will work diligently to obtain the maximum recovery for your injuries. Contact us at (215) 709-6940 for your free consultation.
Forklift Injury Causes and Statistics
There are many reasons why forklifts can be a serious workplace hazard. Forklifts can weigh up to 9,000 pounds and travel up to 18 miles per hour, and unlike a car, forklifts only have brakes in the front, making them harder to stop. Forklifts have uneven weight distribution, which makes it easier for them to possibly tip over and injure the operator or a bystander. Perhaps one of the biggest reasons forklift accidents happen so often is that the view of the driver is usually obstructed, and without proper communication, this can be catastrophic.
The number of serious forklift injuries hovers around 35,000 per year, however, forklift-related accidents are so commonplace that about 100,000 workers per year suffer from non-serious to fatal injuries. Many of these forklift accidents are the product of improper training and carelessness on the job.
Forklift-related injuries make up about 10% of all physical workplace-related injuries. OSHA estimates that about 70% of workplace-related injuries could be prevented if employees received stricter training.
Common Causes of Forklift Accidents in Philadelphia
Our Philadelphia personal injury attorneys bring years of knowledge and experience in determining why a forklift accident occurred. One of the more common accidents is a forklift rolling over or overturning. This type of accident could arise from several causes, including improperly loaded materials, uneven weight distribution, or operator error. Injuries also occur when a forklift strikes or runs over another employee. One thing many forklift accidents have in common is that they are preventable with proper training, execution, and precautions. Below, we examine some of the common causes of forklift accidents in Philadelphia.
Poorly Trained Operator
Forklifts require training and experience to operate safely. An inexperienced driver will often have problems with specific types of loads or changes within the workplace. Companies should have a comprehensive certification process for the forklift operators, including physical and written tests to ensure that each operator is adequately prepared to handle any potential issue. If a company relies on an outside provider to train and test its operators, you could have a claim against the training company if a forklift operator causes an injury
If a forklift is defective or in a state of disrepair, it could cause an accident or injury. To ensure the safety of both operators and other employees, a forklift should undergo regular inspections, maintenance, and repairs. If a part is defective or if the forklift has a dangerous design flaw, the manufacturer could be held liable.
Speeding or Reckless Operation
A forklift is not designed to go fast; it was built to lift and transport heavy objects from one place to another. If a driver is not paying attention, speeding, or is purposefully driving recklessly, a forklift could tip over or be unable to avoid an obstacle or another employee in its path.
If an operator drives a forklift over an uneven surface, such as a pothole or slope, it is liable to roll over. This also can occur if an operator is transporting a heavy load and turns too quickly. When a forklift topples over, the operator or another employee in the area could be seriously injured.
Losing the Pallet or Load
Forklifts are designed to transport heavy objects, including lifting them to a higher surface. This operation could become incredibly challenging if the pallet or load is not secured correctly. A significantly large load could impede an operator’s sight, causing them to err in placing their cargo. When this happens, the heavy load could crash back onto the forklift or onto a nearby worker.
Driving with an Elevated Load
A forklift is built to lift heavy loads. However, when the load is higher than the vehicle’s center of gravity, it becomes dangerously unbalanced. When transporting materials, the operator should keep the load as close to the ground as possible. However, to save time on a job, some operators will transport loads in the elevated position, creating a hazardous situation for themselves and others in the vicinity.
If a load is not adequately secured, it could fall from the mast and forks. When unstable materials are being transported or hoisted into position, they could fall and severely injury other employees or the operator.
Insufficient Warehouse Markings
In a busy warehouse environment, workers and machinery are moving throughout the space all day. By having clear indications of the paths that forklifts and pedestrians should use, accidents could be avoided. This is especially the case in situations where an operator’s vision could be impaired.
Collisions With Other Employees or Vehicles
Forklifts are heavy pieces of machinery that can severely injure someone if they are struck or run over. When an operator is not paying attention, has their vision restricted, or is operating the forklift recklessly, collisions with employees, other vehicles, or parts of the workplace occur.
Common Forklift Injuries in Philadelphia
These situations have caused many serious or fatal injuries to forklift operators and other types of employees in Pennsylvania. Here are some of the injuries commonly sustained by workers due to a forklift accident:
- Bone fractures
- Lacerations (cuts)
- Contusions (bruises)
- Strains and sprains (soft tissue injuries)
Workers’ Compensation Claims vs. Third-Party Personal Injury Lawsuits for Forklift Accidents in Philadelphia
Worker’s compensation benefits are meant to provide injured workers financial compensation if they are hurt on the job. The advantage to a workers’ compensation claim is an injured worker does not have to prove fault and will usually receive their benefits much faster than through a personal injury lawsuit. However, there are some disadvantages. For example, an injured employee cannot file a personal injury claim against their employer unless the employer engaged in intentional, negligent conduct. Furthermore, while workers’ compensation benefits should cover your medical expenses, they only cover a percentage of your lost wages. Additionally, you are not permitted to recover for pain and suffering. However, workers’ compensation law in Pennsylvania does not prohibit filing a third-party personal injury claim.
When you file a third-party personal injury lawsuit, you are seeking monetary compensation for your injuries from another party other than your employer or a co-worker. Through a third-party claim, you could be compensated for the full amount of your lost income and other damages not included in workers’ comp benefits such as mental anguish, emotional suffering, and physical pain. To prevail in a third-party lawsuit, an injured worker has the burden of proving another party’s negligence caused their injury.
Most third-party lawsuits arising from forklift accidents are either products liability claims or premises liability suits. For example, a defect in the production or design of a forklift could open the manufacturer up to liability. Our attorneys will closely examine the forklift to determine if there were other accidents. Similar to other products liability claims, the problem could be a design flaw, a manufacturing error, or inadequate warnings or labels on the forklift.
A premise liability suit is a viable option when the property owner or landlord has contributed to the accident. For example, if a forklift operator was driving through a parking lot owned by someone other than their employer, and the forklift rolled over because of a severe dip in the road surface, the property owned could be held responsible for any injuries.
Our Philadelphia forklift accident injury attorneys are highly knowledgeable and have the resources to file personal injury lawsuits against negligent third parties for the workplace harm you have endured. Our goal is to help you obtain financial compensation for medical expenses, loss of consortium, lost wages, and other damages.
Damages Available in a Forklift Injury Lawsuit in Philadelphia
As stated above, if you are injured on the job, you are entitled to seek workers’ compensation benefits. However, if you have the grounds for a third-party personal injury lawsuit, you could recover additional damages.
An injured worker could receive compensation for any medical expenses that are not covered through workers’ compensation benefits. This could be advantageous if your employer’s insurance provider is limiting your medical treatment. More importantly, you could recover your full lost income, including income you would have earned if the injury is permanently debilitating.
In addition to your financial losses, you are entitled to compensation for your non-economic damages. These damages are more subjective and are not covered through workers’ compensation benefits. If you were hurt in a forklift accident, you could recover for your mental anguish, emotional distress, physical suffering, and loss of enjoyment of life.
Our Philadelphia Injury Attorneys Can Help if You Were Hurt in a Forklift-Related Accident
The dangers associated with working around and operating heavy machinery are well-known, but many of these horrible accidents could have been avoided. If you or your spouse was involved in an accident due to the negligence of equipment manufacturers or other parties, our Philadelphia forklift accident lawyers might be able to help. The experienced attorneys at the Reiff Law Firm are available to discuss your case. Call our office at (215) 709-6940 to schedule an appointment. Our initial consultations are free of charge.