According to regulations of the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), every forklift operator is required to have specific safety training. Employers are responsible for that training and certification of each forklift driver. Even after going through that training, each driver is required to be recertified every three years, unless the driver has been in an accident. When that happens, they are required to go through the training and recertification process again, no matter how long it has been since their last refresher. If an employer violates OSHA’s certification requirements, they can be fined thousands of dollars.
Despite these requirements, there are approximately 85 workers killed every year in forklift-related accidents. Another 35,000 workers are injured. OSHA estimates that 25 percent of these accidents are a result of lack of training of the forklift operator. This lack of training and the resulting injuries or death are ultimately the responsibility of the employer who failed to ensure the forklift driver was properly trained.
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Victims of forklift accidents caused by a negligent operator should contact a Virginia personal injury attorney to find out what legal options they may have against the party or parties responsible for their injuries.
Causes of Forklift Accidents
When a worker has been injured in a forklift accident, OSHA will conduct an investigation to determine why the accident occurred. Some of the most common causes of forklift accidents caused by operators include:
- Going in reverse without looking
- Improper loading or overloading of the forklift
- Inadequate maintenance of the equipment
- Interference or reduction of the operator’s visual field
- Lack of employee training on the proper way of operating forklifts
- Operation of the forklift under hazardous conditions
Victims of forklift accidents often suffer injuries from the one of the following:
- Struck by the forklift
- Run over by the forklift
- Crushed by the forklift tipping over
- Crushed by getting caught between the forklift and another surface
- Hit by materials falling off the forklift
Some of the more severe injuries that forklift accident victims suffer include:
- Crush injuries to the lower extremities including the leg, ankle, and foot
- Spinal injuries to the back or neck causing protruding or herniated discs
- Crush injuries to the upper extremity including elbows, arms, fingers
Pursuing an Injury Claim for a Forklift Accident
When a worker is injured in a forklift accident, a Virginia personal injury attorney can represent them in legal action for financial compensation for their injuries. There are two different options that may be available. The first option is workers’ compensation insurance. This is insurance that the majority of employers are required to carry for injured workers. Workers’ compensation will pay all of the injured worker’s medical bills and out-of-pocket expenses (i.e. mileage for travel back and forth to medical treatments). It will also cover approximately two-thirds of the injured worker’s lost wages. If the worker suffers permanent disability as a result of the injury, they may also receive a cash settlement award.
The second legal option is a third-party lawsuit. This action is filed against a party other than the victim’s employer. There is no third-party action available against an employer, so third-party cases are only viable if the injury was caused by the negligence of a third-party besides the victim's employer. The most common types of third-party action for a forklift accident are premises liability and product liability.
Your Virginia accident attorney will be able to evaluate your situation and decide if your accident and injuries are covered by workers' compensation or if there is a personal injury lawsuit should be filed because there is a third party who is responsible for your injuries.
If the worker does not survive their injuries and dies, their family may either receive death benefits through the employer’s workers’ compensation insurance or, again depending on the circumstances of the accident, file a wrongful death action against a third-party.
Have You Been Injured?
If you have sustained a forklift injury caused by a negligent operator, contact a Virginia personal injury attorney to find out what legal options you may have. At Shapiro & Appleton, we will aggressively advocate to protect your rights and ensure you receive the financial compensation you deserve. Call our office today for a free case evaluation.