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.
Forklifts are inherently dangerous for many reasons, including the following:
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:
The following are other causes of forklift accidents:
The following are actual forklift accidents that resulted in litigation:
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:
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:
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:
Our legal team at Galfand Berger LLP will thoroughly investigate your case. You may be eligible for the following in a third-party claim:
The first steps for any worker injured in a forklift accident are to:
The following are the top five reasons insurers give for rejecting claims. Let your lawyer fight on your behalf.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.