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  • Philadelphia Forklift Accident Lawyers

    Since 1947, Galfand Berger LLP has been helping people injured in serious forklift accidents. Forklifts, also known as lift trucks, tow motors, cherry pickers or stand-up riders, are industrial trucks used to lift, move, and transport heavy materials or merchandise in the workplace or at a jobsite. They are among the most valuable tools for those working in construction, retail, warehousing, manufacturing, and many other industries.

    Census data show that there are nearly 850,000 forklifts in use on an average day in the United States. It is not surprising that approximately 95,000 workers are injured each year, and an additional 100 or so are killed in accidents involving forklifts, according to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA).

    As with all heavy machinery, there are well-known risks in using forklifts in the workplace. Not only is the forklift operator in danger of being hurt (by a forklift overturning or a load falling), but those visiting, working, or walking nearby can also be injured if struck by a forklift. Forklift operation takes training, skill and care supported by safety measures in the workplace.

    What Makes Forklifts So Dangerous?

    Forklifts are inherently dangerous for many reasons, including the following:

    • Size: Forklifts can weigh up to 9,000 pounds and even more when fully loaded with materials. Considering that an average car weighs 3,000 pounds, it is easy to understand how serious injuries occur in forklift accidents.
    • Weight distribution: Forklifts are heavier in the rear to counter the weight of objects in the forks. This design, combined with the uneven distribution of hosted materials, can easily lead to a tip-over accident.
    • Driver visibility: When forklifts are loaded or materials are raised, the operator has limited visibility. The size of the load on the forks or other nearby items could obstruct the operator’s view, making it impossible to react to a potential accident or avoid people nearby.
    • Design: Forklift brakes are usually located only in the front. This design does not always allow the driver to stop quickly to avoid an accident.

    What Are Common Causes of Forklift Accidents?

    There are many ways a forklift can cause a severe injury or even death. Some of the most common causes of forklift tip-over accidents:

    • Turning too quickly.
    • Overweight, uneven, or unbalanced loads.
    • Abrupt mast movement.
    • Turning on an incline.
    • Driving with the load elevated.
    • Driving on uneven surfaces.
    • Flawed design or mechanical defect.

    The following are other causes of forklift accidents:

    • Collision with other lift trucks, people, or objects.
    • Accidentally backing into or running over people or objects.
    • Misuse of the lift as an elevated work platform.
    • Improper turning.
    • Blind Spots.
    • Lack of an adequate rollover protection system (ROPS). An effective ROPS includes an overhead guard, seat belts, and seats with armrest, body, and shoulder extensions.

    causes of forklift accidents

    • Inadequate communication between the forklift operator and other workers.
    • Allowing other workers to ride on the forklift.
    • Driving the forklift with an elevated load.
    • Lack of operator training.
    • Failure to properly inspect and maintain the forklift.
    • Missing or inadequate safety precautions and protocols at the worksite such as signage, barriers, and floor markings.
    • Nonexistent backup alarms, horns, strobe lights, mirrors and other safety warning signals and lights on the forklift.
    • Poor workplace design that does not allow for safe forklift operation.
    • Speeding, joyriding, or horseplay.
    • Accidentally crushing people between the forklift and another surface or between two forklifts.
    • Operator falling from the forklift due to malfunctioning restraints or other defects.
    • Forklift defects, such as faulty brakes, steering, or lift mechanisms.
    • Daily forklift inspection was not performed.
    • Emissions poisoning from operating in confined spaces, poor ventilation, excessive idling, incorrect fuel mixture, leaking exhaust.
    • Forklift falling off a dock or trailer when crossing thresholds or moving between areas of the workplace.
    • Incorrect dock plates to support and assist forklift.

    What Are Examples of Forklift Accidents?

    The following are actual forklift accidents that resulted in litigation:

    • An overhead guard crushed the deceased when the forklift turned over. There was inadequate rollover protection system (ROPS).
    • A construction lift (high loader) without an effective ROPS overturned and ejected an operator. It pinned him by the overhead guard and compressed his spine, leaving him paraplegic.
    • The person was crushed when pallets slipped off the forks. The lift truck did not have a fork back-lift extension.
    • The worker’s legs were crushed when his lift truck overturned on a level cement floor with the fork in the down position and no load. This could have been prevented with ROPS.
    • The injured was run over by a lift truck while walking in an aisle. He and the lift truck operator were unaware of one another. The accident could have been avoided if the forklift had an automatic warning device.
    • The injured had his back to a lift truck while sweeping the warehouse floor. The lift truck backed up and ran over him, breaking both of his legs. Automatic backup alarms could have prevented the accident.

    What Are Common Forklift Accident Injuries?

    Injuries from forklift accidents are wide-ranging and almost always severe or even fatal. Even if the person recovers, they may need surgeries, physical and cognitive therapies, ongoing medical treatment or rehabilitation, medications, mobility devices, and sometimes special housing, such as assisted living.

    OSHA research shows that up to 70 percent of all forklift accidents could have been prevented with adequate training and proper safety protocols. In fact, the OSHA requires that forklift operators receive training:

    • Every three years.
    • After a near-miss forklift accident.
    • Whenever a forklift driver is observed driving dangerously.
    • When changing from one type of forklift to another.

    To operate a forklift, a worker must obtain OSHA certification first. They are also required to inspect the forklift for damage before operating the vehicle. Common forklift injuries include the following:

    • Broken or crushed bones.
    • Head injuries, such as concussions and traumatic brain injuries.
    • Back and spinal cord injuries, including herniated discs.
    • Partial or total paralysis.
    • Internal injuries and organ damage.
    • Lost limbs.
    • Neurological impairment.
    • Cognitive disabilities.

    forklift training

    What if I am Injured in a Forklift Accident?

    Most work accidents are covered under Workers’ Compensation. Under Workers’ Compensation, your employer’s insurance pays your medical bills and lost earnings. In return, you forfeit your right to file a lawsuit against your employer in most instances.

    However, you could potentially file a lawsuit against a third party who caused your injury at work. A third-party lawsuit has no bearing on your eligibility to receive Workers’ Compensation benefits. This is particularly important if you sustain a catastrophic injury that causes you to become permanently disabled.

    A third-party claim is a lawsuit filed against someone other than your employer who may have been responsible for the accident. These legal claims fall under the categories of products liability or premises liability. For example, in forklift accidents, third-party claims may be valid if your lawyer can prove one or more of the following:

    • Defective forklift: The manufacturer, retailer, or distributor of a defective forklift could be held liable for an accident that caused injury or death.
    • Design flaw: In cases where a design flaw caused a forklift to malfunction, a worker may be able to bring a lawsuit against the company that designed the machine.
    • Dangerous property: Sometimes, dangerous conditions at a property can cause a forklift accident. For example, maybe a property owner or manager did not fix a situation they knew could cause an accident.
    • Improper operation of a forklift by a third party who is employed by another company other than the injured worker’s employer.
    • Improper repair or servicing of the forklift by an outside service company
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    The successful outcome of a third-party lawsuit will rely heavily on the experience and skill set of a lawyer. The burden of proof falls on the plaintiff to show that the forklift was indeed defective and unreasonably dangerous and was directly responsible for injury.

    What Possible Compensation Can I Get From a Third-Party Claim?

    Our legal team at Galfand Berger LLP will thoroughly investigate your case. You may be eligible for the following in a third-party claim:

    • Medical expenses not reimbursed by Workers’ Compensation.
    • The cost of future medical care.
    • The cost of rehabilitative care and physical therapy.
    • Lost wages.
    • Lost future earning capacity.
    • Pain and suffering.
    • Loss of the company of your loved one if the forklift accident resulted in death.

    What Should I Do After a Forklift Accident?

    The first steps for any worker injured in a forklift accident are to:

    • Report the accident to a superior immediately.
    • Seek medical care as soon as possible.
    • Pursue a Workers’ Compensation claim.
    • Hire a lawyer who focuses on construction accident cases.

    Why Would Workers’ Compensation Deny a Claim?

    The following are the top five reasons insurers give for rejecting claims. Let your lawyer fight on your behalf.

    Injury Is Not Work-Related

    Some insurers claim that the illness or injury was caused by some other event or circumstance outside the workplace. They may also claim that the worker was not performing work duties when the accident occurred.

    Workers need to know that an injury does not need to occur on the employer’s premises to be compensable. It may be covered under Workers’ Compensation as long as it happened in the course and scope of employment. Consult with a lawyer for guidance on your case.

    No Medical Attention/Return to Work

    An injured employee may deny medical attention after an injury for many reasons. For example, they may not feel that the damage was severe because they have no aches, pains, or other symptoms. This could be a mistake.

    Many injuries take time to surface and show symptoms. Refusing medical attention could signal to an insurer that you were not hurt. For this reason, always seek medical attention directly after a forklift or other workplace accident and whenever new symptoms appear.

    Some employees who are injured on the job return to work immediately or otherwise quickly. They may work while hurt to avoid loss of pay or other benefits. Again, this signals to the insurer that you were not injured. It is always best to take as much time as you need to fully heal.

    Errors/Discrepancies

    Reporting a workplace injury and complying with the investigation is a process prescribed by Workers’ Compensation laws and your employer’s requirements. For example, when you suffer an injury due to a workplace accident or repetitive injury, you must notify your supervisor or other designated employee immediately. Always report the injury verbally or in writing even if you do not think you were hurt or anticipate missing work time.

    If required by your employer, complete an incident report. If you need medical treatment, seek care from your employer’s list of designated health care providers if they have one or your own physician. Be sure to inform your physician that your injury is work-related.

    Also, there are strict requirements about seeking care for 90 days with the same medical provider and other rules you need to follow. Any error, omission, discrepancy, or failure to follow a required procedure can give an insurer reason to deny your claim. A lawyer can help ensure compliance with laws, policies, and deadlines.

    Statute of Limitations

    The statute of limitations is a timeframe in which you must report a workplace injury or illness. The law states you must notify your employer of the injury and that it was work-related within 120 days of the date you were injured. You must report illness or disease within 120 days of discovering the disease or condition.

    The law also states that you must give notice within 21 days of the date of your injury to be paid from the first day of your disability. If you give notice between the 21st and 120th day following your injury, compensation is payable only from the date you give notice. Always give notice immediately upon a workplace accident or discovery of an illness. It helps your credibility in a Workers’ Compensation claim and prevents the insurer from denying your claim due to a missed deadline.

    Pre-Existing Condition

    Do not let your employer tell you that you are not entitled to Workers’ Compensation due to a prior back or heart problem or some other medical issue. Every worker has a right to Workers’ Compensation regardless of previous medical conditions.

    An insurer cannot deny a Workers’ Compensation claim based on your past medical history or pre-existing conditions. In fact, you can file a Workers’ Compensation claim if you aggravate a pre-existing condition due to the nature of your work.

    Philadelphia Forklift Accident Lawyers at Galfand Berger LLP Can Help You Following a Workplace Forklift Accident

    Our Philadelphia forklift accident lawyers at Galfand Berger LLP can help you if you have a severe injury from a forklift accident. Call us at 800-222-USWA (8792) or complete our online form to schedule a free consultation. With offices in Philadelphia, Bethlehem, Lancaster, and Reading, Pennsylvania, we serve clients throughout New Jersey and Pennsylvania, including Allentown and Harrisburg.