There are more than one million powered industrial trucks (better known as forklifts) in operation in the United States. Many of these are used in the construction industry for material-handling purposes. Rough-terrain forklifts – ruggedly constructed trucks meant to be operated on unpaved natural terrain – are a common feature on construction sites across South Carolina and the rest of the United States, as are smaller forklifts used to unload heavy items from trucks and trailers.
Used and maintained properly, forklifts can boost productivity and reduce employee injuries. The size and power of lift trucks, however, also pose safety risks to construction workers, especially when trucks are operated unsafely or have design or manufacturing defects.
The Occupational Safety & Health Administration (OSHA) estimates that there are 110,000 forklift accidents across all industries each year, resulting in nearly 95,000 injuries – 20,000 of them serious – and around 100 fatalities.
The construction industry is one of the leading industries for both fatal and non-fatal forklift accidents.
Forklift and other motor vehicle accidents result in higher workers’ compensation claim costs than any other accident type. Such claims average close to $70,000, but this figure only includes medical bills and lost wages. Other losses, such as pain and suffering, aren’t covered by workers’ compensation, but additional relief may be available through a third-party lawsuit.
Forklift accidents are serious, and they demand serious representation. During a free consultation, our South Carolina construction accident attorneys at Joye Law Firm will listen to you and advise you about what actions may be taken to safeguard your rights.
To get started with a free case review, call Joye Law Firm or contact us online today.
Types of Forklift Accidents
Driving a forklift isn’t like driving a passenger vehicle. Drivers must deal with significant blind spots, blocked views, long stopping distances, instability when carrying loads and inattentive pedestrians.
These hazards reflect the types of accidents forklifts are commonly involved in, which include:
- Forklift overturns
- Fall from forklift
- Worker on foot struck by forklift
- Victim crushed by forklift
- Struck by falling material
OSHA Forklift Regulations
According to OSHA, 70 percent of forklift accidents could have been prevented with proper safety measures. OSHA has in place numerous health and safety regulations for powered industrial trucks, including the following:
- Only trained and authorized operators are permitted to operate a forklift. Both a written and a driving test must be completed.
- Operator refresher training is also mandatory.
- Forklifts shall be examined before being placed in service and taken out of service if an examination reveals an adverse condition. Examinations should be made at least daily before the start of a shift. Defects, when found, are to be immediately reported and corrected.
- Elevated loads shall not be tilted forward, except when the load is in a deposit position.
- Nobody is allowed to ride on a forklift, unless it has seats for passengers.
- Forklifts are not to be operated with a load that exceeds manufacturer specifications.
Forklift Accident Lawsuits
Workers’ compensation laws almost always prevent employee lawsuits against employers over workplace injuries, but workers are usually entitled to workers’ comp benefits for an on-the-job accident regardless of fault.
Lawsuits against negligent subcontractors, general contractors, equipment manufacturers and other non-employer third parties may be an option. Any compensation you recover through a third-party lawsuit has no bearing on your ability to recover workers’ compensation.
To illustrate when you might be able to file a third-party lawsuit, consider the following example. You are on foot at the job site when a forklift driven by a worker for another company strikes and injures you. The driver, because he is not your employer or a co-worker, may be sued. You will need to show that the driver was somehow negligent. If he was violating an OSHA forklift regulation at the time of the accident, this may be considered evidence of negligence.
You may also be able to file a lawsuit against a forklift manufacturer or repairer if a defect caused the accident that injured you.
Explore Your Legal Options With a Forklift Accident Attorney in South Carolina
Forklifts are as dangerous as they are commonplace. About 90 percent of all forklifts will be involved in an accident during their service life. Read about other common causes of construction accidents.
If you were injured by a forklift at a construction site in South Carolina, Joye Law Firm wants to help. Let us put our more than 110 combined years of litigation experience to work for you.
Call Joye Law Firm now or fill out our online contact form for a free claim review.
- Occupational Health & Safety Administration: