Eligibility for workers’ compensation after a forklift accident
Forklifts save workers a lot of manual work, which is why they’re commonly found in a wide range of industries and job sites—including warehouses, construction sites, mining, manufacturing and transportation. Despite being useful, forklifts are a significant cause of accidents and injuries on the job.
Forklift-related accident statistics
Forklift-related fatalities in 2015
- 96 workers were killed in incidents involving forklifts.
- 42% of the fatalities were caused by forklift operators being crushed by a tipping vehicle.
|Type of Injury||Estimated Number of Forklift Accidents|
Source: OSHA: Local Emphasis Program for Powered Industrial Trucks
- 25% of forklift accidents occur in construction.
- The leading cause of fatalities involving forklifts is pedestrians being struck by the vehicle.
- The second leading cause of fatal events involving forklifts is when the vehicle overturns (tips over).
- The safest place for the driver is to be strapped into the seat with a seat belt.
- Proper operator training and procedures have the potential to reduce accidents by 70%.
If you’ve been hurt due to a forklift accident, it’s in your best interest to contact an experienced workers’ compensation attorney as soon as possible after your injury to protect your rights and help you get maximum compensation.
Causes of forklift accidents
According to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) guidelines, forklift operators should be well-trained and at least 18 years of age. Unfortunately, even when employers adhere to safety rules and regulations, forklift accidents and injuries still occur regularly.
Some of the main causes of forklift accidents include the following:
- Lack of training. A forklift is a complex machine, and operators need proper training. Even if the operator had undergone training before, they should be retrained every 3 years to prevent accidents.
- Improper loading. When a forklift isn’t loaded correctly, it can easily tip over. When this happens, it can end up crushing the driver or people who are passing by.
- Impaired operation. The forklift operator can be well-trained, but if they operate the machine under the influence of drugs or alcohol, they can quickly cause an accident.
- Lack of safety measures. Forklifts need safety measures like seat belts, lights, handles and overhead guards. Lack of safety measures is another major cause of forklift accidents.
- Forklift collisions. When vehicles and forklifts congest the working site, 2 forklifts can collide and cause an accident. A forklift could also hit a car at the site if drivers fail to follow traffic rules.
Common injuries caused by forklift accidents
Forklift accidents mainly affect people who work on or nearby a forklift. Accidents can occur through coming into contact with a forklift, being hit by a forklift’s load, being stuck in a forklift’s moving parts or tripping and falling off a forklift when it’s in motion.
The most common forklift injuries include:
- Neck or spine injuries
- Cuts and punctures
- Muscle strains and tears
Driving forklifts is a common task in various industries and occupations, including:
- Warehouse and distribution centers. Forklift drivers are responsible for loading and unloading deliveries, moving products around the warehouse, and stocking shelves.
- Construction sites. Forklifts are commonly used to move building materials, equipment, and supplies around the construction site.
- Manufacturing facilities. Forklifts are used to move raw materials, in-process products, and finished goods within the factory.
- Farming & Agriculture. Forklifts are used to move heavy loads of crops, feed, and equipment on farms and in food processing facilities.
- Retail. Forklifts are used in large retail stores and shopping centers to move merchandise and supplies.
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Does workers’ compensation cover forklift accidents?
In Georgia, most employers with 3 or more workers (including part-time) are required to carry workers’ compensation insurance to cover their workers’ medical expenses and lost wages in the event of an injury. That means most Georgia workers who are injured in a forklift accident should be eligible to collect workers’ comp benefits.
Unlike other accidents that may cause minor injuries, forklift accidents can result in significant injuries like amputations that may prevent workers from returning to their job. In those cases, injured workers may be entitled to permanent disability benefits.
Because of the severity of forklift injuries, it’s vital for injured workers to consult an experienced workers’ comp attorney who can fight to get enough compensation to cover their ongoing medical expenses and lost wages.
What benefits are available for workers injured by forklifts?
If you’re hit by a forklift at work, you may be entitled to receive compensation even if you’re responsible for the accident. Workers’ compensation benefits vary by state but may include the following:
- Medical expenses. This includes any medical treatments related to your injury, including hospital stays, surgeries, rehabilitation, medication, emergency room visits and all medical supplies and equipment.
- Lost wages. If your injury prevents you from working or forces you to work at a reduced capacity, you’ll receive a portion of your lost wages (typically two-thirds of your average weekly wage) while you recover from your injuries. The length of time you can receive these benefits depends on your disability.
- Death benefits. This provides certain dependents with benefits to cover funeral expenses and lost wages in case of a fatal injury.
The amount and duration of your benefits depend on the specific circumstances of your injury. An attorney can help you understand the full benefits available to you in your particular case.
Use our benefits calculator to find out the amount of PPD benefits you may be eligible for.
What steps should I take after a forklift accident at work in Georgia?
If you are injured in a forklift accident at work, it’s essential to take the following steps to ensure you remain eligible for workers’ comp benefits in Georgia:
- Seek medical attention. Seek medical attention immediately, even if you don’t think you’re injured. Some injuries take time to surface. Failure to seek immediate medical care can make it more difficult to connect your injuries to your work accident, which could impact your ability to collect compensation.
- Report the accident. Notify your employer or supervisor in writing as soon as possible, and be sure to follow your employer’s procedures for reporting accidents and injuries. In Georgia, failure to report your injury within 30 days could prevent you from receiving workers’ comp benefits.
- File a claim. Next, you should file a workers’ compensation claim for your accident so you can start receiving benefits.
- Consult an attorney. If your claim is denied or you’d like help filing your claim or exploring a potential 3rd-party lawsuit, research and hire the best work injury attorney to help you.
Please note that if your employer lays you off or terminates you because you filed a claim or because you’re unable to work while you recover, you should immediately contact a workers’ comp attorney to protect your rights.
Learn whether or not your employer can fire you for filing a workers’ comp claim in Georgia and how being terminated impacts an existing workers’ comp claim.
How can a workers’ compensation attorney help me
after a forklift injury?
An attorney specializing in workers’ compensation can help you in several ways after an on-the-job injury.
- They help you file your claim. An attorney serves as your advocate and will ensure that you get your claim filed promptly, with all necessary evidence and documentation, among other things.
- They ensure you’re treated fairly. The attorney’s primary goal is to represent you throughout the process and ensure that you receive fair treatment from your employer and the workers’ compensation insurance company. An attorney can help if your employer retaliates by firing or demoting you, denies your claim or delays paying your benefits.
- They can negotiate on your behalf. Workers’ compensation insurers look for reasons to dispute claims, and an attorney can represent you in mediation, negotiations and at a hearing.
- They can ensure you get maximum compensation. A workers’ compensation attorney has seen many cases and will ensure that your settlement is fair and includes all the benefits to which you’re entitled.
Can I sue my employer for a forklift injury?
Workers’ compensation insurance is a form of ”no-fault” insurance, which means that, in most cases, you should receive benefits regardless of who was at fault for the accident. In exchange for this no-fault system, workers typically give up the right to sue their employers after a work injury.
Let’s take a look at the differences between workers’ compensation and personal injuries to see if you are entitled to benefits.
When can I sue a 3rd party?
Depending on the cause of the forklift accident, workers may be able to sue a 3rd party (like a manufacturer or property owner) for additional compensation.
Forklift manufacturers are responsible for ensuring their forklifts are well-designed to avoid accidents. If your employer properly maintained the forklift and provided proper safety measures, then the cause of the accident might fall back on the forklift manufacturer. However, this option isn’t available in all cases, though.
Also, the premises owner is responsible for ensuring that the work area is safe and has no hazards that might lead to accidents. If the condition of the work premises caused your forklift accident, you might have a legal basis to sue through a personal injury lawsuit.
How long do I have to file a workers’ compensation claim for a forklift injury?
The amount of time you have to file a claim, called the statute of limitations, varies by state. In Georgia, you have 1 year to file a claim after the date of your injury or after the date you discovered your injury or illness. If you don’t file by this deadline, the workers’ compensation insurance will likely reject your claim.
Certain filing exceptions exist, so if you have questions about the filing deadline for your claim, you should consult a workers’ compensation attorney.
How can I prevent forklift accidents in the workplace?
Forklift safety is not something that a 1-time training class can adequately address. It must become a consistently reinforced element of a company’s culture.
Safety starts with proper training. Drivers must understand the protocols for driving, carrying loads and other vehicle maneuvers. OSHA requirements also mandate training and certification for forklift drivers, with performance assessments every 3 years.
Other safety protocols to avoid forklift accidents include the following:
- Post and follow a speed limit not to exceed 5 mph, as dictated by OSHA guidelines.
- Never drive a forklift with the load elevated; keep the forks as close to the ground as possible.
- Take turns slowly while driving to avoid tipping the forklift.
- Provide plenty of floor markings and signage to alert personnel to avoid forklift areas when possible.
- Only ride a forklift while sitting in the designated seat with a seatbelt on if one exists.
- Drive the forklift backward if the load obscures the operator’s front vision.
- Inspect the forklift daily, and conduct proper ongoing maintenance to prevent injury due to heavy loads and mechanical failure.
Keeping staff aware of these forklift safety practices can lay the foundation for an ongoing safety program.
Contact a Georgia workers’ compensation attorney
Workers’ compensation claims can be complicated, and even small mistakes can greatly limit your ability to collect fair compensation after an injury. If you or a loved one has been injured in a forklift accident in Georgia, contact the experienced workers’ compensation attorneys at Gerber & Holder Workers’ Compensation Attorneys. Our attorneys have over 75 years of combined experience helping injured workers across Georgia recover compensation after an injury. We’re here for you and ready to fight for your rights.