Forklifts Cause Injuries and Death

Hundreds of people in the U.S. were injured or killed by forklift accidents. “From 2011 to 2017, 614 workers lost their lives in forklift related incidents and more than 7,000 nonfatal injuries with days away from work occurred every year,” says the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). (1)

“Forklifts were the source of 79 work-related deaths and 8,140 nonfatal injuries involving days away from work in 2019,” adds the National Safety Council. (2)

“More than one-third of the deaths each year attributed to forklifts are pedestrians,” says EHSToday, a safety and health news provider. (3)

These numbers are jarring since forklifts are frequently employed at work sites throughout densely populated areas with high traffic volumes, like New York City (NYC).

New York City Forklift Accidents

Forklifts are frequently used in stores, lumber yards, garden centers, and at construction sites. BLS data indicate NYC’s construction industry accounted for 26% of the City’s total fatal occupational injuries. (4)

Here are a few examples of dangerous forklift incidents in NYC:

A NYC forklift operator was killed while “lowering a pallet of building materials on 211th St. near Jamaica Ave. when the forklift lurched to one side, throwing him from the cabin. The forklift then fell over, crushing him underneath it,” according to a news report. (5)

Another worker was injured when “during a delivery operation, a forklift pushed approximately three to four pieces of sheetrock that fell and struck a worker on his waist,” according to a NYC Buildings Monthly Accident Details report. (6)

A truck driver was killed when struck by beams falling from a forklift. An investigation by the State of New York Department of Health noted four laminated veneer beams were tied together by metal bands into a 750-pound unit. “The unit then slid off the forks and struck the victim. The victim fell off the trailer, and his head was crushed by the load.” (7)

These incidents demonstrate a variety of types of forklift hazards and some of the traumatic injuries resulting from them.

If you or a loved one was injured in a forklift accident, contact us for a free case evaluation.

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Types of Forklift Accidents

“In the United States, 1,021 workers died from traumatic injuries suffered in forklift-related incidents from 1980 to 1994,” found the National Traumatic Occupational Fatalities Surveillance System (NTOF).

The percentage of fatalities per type of incident were: (8)

  • Forklift overturns — 22%
  • Worker on foot struck by forklift — 20%
  • Victim crushed by forklift —16%
  • Fall from forklift — 9%

As these NYC incidents show, victims may be struck by falling objects from forklifts. They may also be crushed, pinned, or compressed by forklifts. This often happens when there are forklift tipovers or rollovers.

These types of accidents can have many causes.

Causes of Forklift Accidents

“Of the 74 fatal work injuries involving forklifts in 2017, the events that led to the most workplace deaths,” according to BLS data, were: (9)

  • Nonroadway incidents — 20
  • Struck by powered vehicle, non-transport cases — 13
  • Struck by falling objects — 12
  • Falls to lower level — 11
  • Pedestrian vehicular incidents — 9

The numerous and varied causes of workplace forklift accidents include: (10)

  • Dangerous workplaces. Poor design of a workplace can lead to accidents and injuries. Examples of poor workplace design include narrow aisles, changes in surface materials, uneven surfaces, ramps, poor lighting, heavy noise, and improper cleaning.
  • Improper operation. Speeding and overconfident driving can lead to accidents, especially while turning or backing up. Giving rides on the forklift and failure to maintain adequate distance from pedestrians can lead to injuries or deaths.
  • Lack of operator training. Pedestrians, obstacles, and changes in floor gradients can pose difficulties for untrained operators or workers who were not trained properly.
  • Mechanical failures. Malfunction of the brakes, steering, clutch, shift linkage, transmission or mast assembly can cause serious accidents. Lack of parts, wrong attachments and accessories, and poor maintenance can also lead to injuries.

Your Legal Options

If you have been involved in a serious forklift accident you should consider your legal options.

Forklift accidents typically fall under negligence. Negligence is a “failure to behave with the level of care that someone of ordinary prudence would have exercised under the same circumstances.” (11)

Negligence and the responsibility for injuries can apply to several different parties in forklift accident cases:

  • Injuries may be caused by the owner of the forklift if it has not been properly maintained.
  • Injuries may happen if the forklift operator fails to operate the vehicle responsibly.
  • Injuries may be the fault of the manufacturer if the forklift wasn’t properly constructed.

To prove negligence you must demonstrate to the court the other party owed you a “duty of care” and the party breached their duty — this caused the accident and your injuries, and you suffered losses as a result. (12)

An attorney can help you examine your legal options, guide you through the legal process, negotiate a settlement, or present your case in court.

Since these types of cases can be complicated, you should seek legal advice from an experienced and reputable attorney as soon as possible.

Were you injured in a forklift accident? You may be entitled to compensation.

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How W&L Can Help

Weitz & Luxenberg is a law firm with a dedicated personal injury team. For over 30 years now we have successfully represented thousands of clients in negligence cases.

Here are just two of those cases:

  • W&L won a $2.96 million verdict for our client who was permanently injured in a forklift workplace incident. The client’s coworker negligently drove a hi-lo into a conveyor belt pit. The hi-lo then turned over and its fork amputated our client’s leg.
  • W&L recovered $10 million for our client who was blinded in one eye while on a school field trip. A bungee cord acted as a brake on a zip line. It broke and struck our client.