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Injured in a Forklift Accident? What You Need to Know to Obtain Maximum Compensation

Houston Work Accident Lawyer | What to Do After a Forklift Accident Injury

Texas Forklift Accident Lawyers

From big-box stores and construction sites to industrial plants and warehouses, forklifts are part of daily life for millions of hardworking men and women across the country. But, when operated improperly and without proper training, forklifts can be extremely dangerous.

In fact, according to the National Safety Council,  forklift accidents tragically killed 78 American workers and caused nearly 7,300 non-fatal injuries in 2020 alone. The average victim was unable to work for 17 days, compared to 12 days for all other workplace accidents, suggesting injuries associated with forklifts are often more severe.

Having successfully represented thousands of clients in Texas, Louisiana, New Mexico, and throughout the United States in connection with the worst workplace accidents and disasters in recent history, it’s been our experience that the majority of forklift injuries and deaths are entirely preventable and almost always result from an employer’s failure to comply with the regulations and procedures put in place to ensure the health and safety of its workforce.

What Makes a Forklift So Dangerous?

The typical forklift design presents a number of hazards that make these vehicles difficult to operate and prone to accidents:

  • Weight: A forklift can weigh as much as 9,000 lbs. That’s three times the weight of a standard passenger car!
  • Inferior Stopping Capability: Unlike passenger cars with front and rear brakes, forklifts have only one set of brakes in the front, making it more difficult to stop quickly in an emergency.
  • Uneven Weight Distribution: Forklifts are heavier in the rear to compensate for the large loads they carry in the front. Compared to many other vehicles, the uneven weight distribution makes a forklift much harder to maneuver.
  • Obstructed Visibility: Because forklifts carry their loads in the front, the driver’s view is often blocked.
  • Vulnerability to Rollovers: A forklift uses its rear wheels to turn, which causes the back end of the vehicle to swing outward and potentially rollover.
  •  Lifting Heavy Loads to Great Heights: Mistakes or issues that arise during lifting maneuvers can lead to severe injuries from falling loads.
  • Operating in Confined Spaces: In many cases, forklifts operate in narrow passageways and confined spaces where other workers may be present.

Forklifts are Subject to Strict Workplace Safety Rules

Because they’re so inherently dangerous, the U.S. Occupational Safety & Health Administration (OSHA) has established strict forklift operation regulations. For example, a worker must be at least 18-years-old and meet OSHA’s training requirements before they can be certified to operate a forklift. That training must include:

  • Formal Instruction: May encompass any combination of lectures, discussions, online courses, video presentations, and written material.
  • Demonstrations: Must be performed by a certified forklift trainer, followed by exercises performed by the trainee.
  • Evaluation: The trainee’s on-the-job performance must be thoroughly evaluated.

A company that fails to provide forklift operators with the required training (including contract and temporary workers) is subject to a $100,000+ OSHA fine.

Other OSHA forklift requirements include:

  • Vehicle Inspection and Maintenance: Employers must establish a vehicle inspection and maintenance plan.
  • Daily Forklift Checklist: OSHA has devised an approved daily checklist that all forklift operators must adhere to before beginning each shift.

OSHA forklift safety regulations also set forth requirements related to fire protection, maintenance, and design, including:

  • Forklifts must bear a label or identifying mark to indicate approval from a testing laboratory.
  • Additions and modifications to a forklift that affect safe operation and capacity should not be performed without prior written approval from the manufacturer.
  • Power-operated industrial trucks, including forklifts, should not be used in an atmosphere containing a hazardous concentration of hydrogen, butadiene, acetylene, ethylene oxide, acetaldehyde, propylene,  cyclopropane, isoprene, unsymmetrical dimethylhydrazine, diethyl ether, or metal dust.

What Causes Forklift Accidents?

Driver inexperience and lack of adequate training contribute to most accidents involving forklifts. In fact, according to OSHA, proper training could prevent up to 70% of all forklift-related accidents.

Other leading causes and contributors include:

  • Inadequate forklift maintenance
  • Lack of required inspections
  • Failing or defective forklift components
  • Improperly loaded, raised, or unstable cargo
  • Pressuring workers to meet tight deadlines
  • Overworked or fatigued forklift drivers
  • Dangerous workplace layout, including narrow passages, obstacles, and poor surface conditions
  • Other workplace hazards such as noise, odors, toxic gases, dust, or poor lighting
  • High volume of traffic or pedestrians in the work area
  • Lack of required warning signs
  • Distracted or inattentive forklift operators
  • Failure to perform pre-shift checklist
  • Unsafe driving behaviors, including speeding, riding with a raised load, improper backup techniques, poor communication, horseplay, or allowing others to ride on the forklift.

What are the Most Common Forklift Injuries?

When a forklift accident results in severe injury or death, it’s usually because the vehicle overturned or a worker became struck, pinned beneath, or crushed by a forklift or an unsecured load. Workers have also been injured or killed after falling from a forklift or because the vehicle was inadvertently driven or fell off a loading dock or other raised surface.

Any of these scenarios may lead to a wide range of serious injuries, including:

What to Do After a Forklift Accident?

The victims of forklift accidents often experience immense pain and suffering. As a result, many are unable to work for weeks or months at a time, even as their medical bills and monthly living expenses continue to pile up.

How do you begin to move forward and care for yourself and your family when you’re too hurt to even consider going back to work? First of all, you need to realize that time is not on your side. Your actions in the days and weeks immediately following a severe or fatal forklift accident could well determine whether or not you and your family are fully compensated for all of your injuries and losses:

  • Notify Your Employer Immediately: Timely notification will ensure you receive your mandated worker’s compensation benefits, provide documentation of the work-related nature of your injuries, and show that you took them seriously. Notification is essential, even if you don’t think you were seriously hurt, as the true extent of your injuries may not be apparent immediately after an accident when your adrenaline is running high.
  • Demand Immediate Medical Care of Your Choice: Get checked out at the nearest ER or urgent care as soon as possible, and remember that you’re under no obligation to see a medical provider of the company’s choice. If you delay seeking treatment, you’ll give your employer and its insurer an excuse to cast doubt on your injuries and dispute your damages.
  • Record Your Account and Preserve Evidence: As soon as you are able, write down everything you remember about the accident, including seemingly insignificant details. Preserve any physical evidence in your possession, including the clothes you were wearing (these should not be laundered). If possible, return to the scene and take pictures and video – even if it’s already been cleaned up.
  • Don’t Assume Workers’ Comp Will Be Enough: Workers’ Compensation benefits only provide a portion of your average weekly wage (40-to-60% in Texas) for a limited period of time. It’s very likely they won’t come close to covering all of your medical bills and monthly expenses. Most importantly, workers comp coverage DOESN’T provide compensation for future medical expenses, pain, and suffering, physical impairment, mental anguish, or any of the other damages you can recover in a personal injury lawsuit.
  • Don’t Trust Your Company or its Insurer to Take Care of You: No matter what they promise or how concerned they might seem, neither your employer nor its insurer has any genuine interest in making sure you’re fully compensated. Their only goal is to SAVE MONEY by paying you as little as possible, even if that means trivializing your injuries, blaming you for the accident, threatening to withhold your regular pay, and losing or discarding evidence proving your employer was at fault.
  • Don’t Provide a Formal Statement: Under no circumstances should you agree to provide a formal statement, sign anything, or accept any money other than your regular paycheck before speaking with an experienced accident lawyer who’s successfully represented injured workers and their families against the largest corporations in the world.
  • Don’t Discuss the Accident or Your Injuries: Until your case is resolved, don’t mention anything about the accident or your injuries on social media or in conversation with coworkers, friends, and extended family. Any such discussions should be strictly limited to your attorney and your spouse.
  • Follow Your Doctors’ Orders and Don’t Miss Appointments: Your employer and its insurance company will use any failure to follow doctors’ orders or attend medical and therapy appointments as a reason to dispute your injuries.

Contact an Experienced Texas Work Accident Lawyer

Most importantly, don’t attempt to negotiate with your employer or its insurance company on your own. The longer so-called negotiations drag on, the more likely you are to make a mistake that could reduce the value of your case by hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of dollars.

Only an experienced work injury lawyer can counter the tactics your employer and its insurer will use to avoid accountability, see that vital evidence is located and preserved, and ensure that you and your family receive the maximum compensation possible for your pain and suffering.

Undefeated Houston Forklift Accident Lawyers: Call 1-888-603-3636 or Click Here for a Free Consultation

Our Houston Personal Injury Lawyers have won Billions – including the largest verdicts and settlements in history –for thousands of workers and families in Texas, Louisiana, New Mexico, and across the United States.

If you were seriously injured or tragically lost a loved one to a forklift accident, call 1-888-603-3636, use the “chat” button on our homepage, or click here to send us a confidential email through our “Contact Us” form.

Our Undefeated Accident Attorneys will answer all of your questions, explain your rights, and provide all the information you need to decide what’s best for you and your family.

To learn more about our success representing injured workers and their families, visit our “Results” page or Click Here to see what our clients have said about their experience with our firm.

All consultations are free, and you won’t owe us a dime unless we win your case.