Massachusetts Forklift Accidents

The personal injury lawyers at Ellis Law Offices have successfully represented workers injured in forklift accidents, and we specialize in workers' compensation law and third-party negligence law. We represent injured workers in Worcester, Boston, Fitchburg, Springfield, Southbridge and other surrounding towns and cities throughout Massachusetts.

Forklifts and spider forklifts are commonly used in congested construction areas where people and building materials are in close proximity. Combine that with a small, fairly quick and extremely heavy piece of equipment and you have the potential for serious personal injury accidents. In fact, forklift accidents are among the most common construction site accidents and warehouse accidents. Each year over 20,000 workers are seriously injured in forklift accidents. Of this 20,000, a high percentage sustain serious injuries. Due to the extreme weight of the forklift and the loads they carry, these accidents have a tendency to create debilitating injuries.

What Caused The Forklift Accident?

Forklift operators are often pushed hard to make deadlines, and this combined with long hours and fatigue can play a role in the careless operation of this dangerous piece of equipment. Oftentimes, employers are more concerned about getting the job done quickly rather than getting the job done in a safe manner. This mindset often causes both the employer and forklift operator to overlook certain safety standards. It is never a good idea to push a dangerous piece of heavy equipment, such as a forklift, past its safety limits. The accidents and injuries that result are often catastrophic or fatal.

The following are some examples of how forklift accidents can occur and cause injury:

  • Tipping over – Forklifts have a specified maximum load they can lift. If that limit is exceeded, then the forklift can tip over. As the forklift tips over, it can crush other workers in its path, with either the machine itself or with its overloaded materials. The forklift driver also is at risk for injury during a tip-over, especially if an appropriate rollover protection system was not installed or was in a state of disrepair.
  • Driver ejection – In addition to the rollover protection system, forklifts should be equipped with seatbelts, armrests and grab handles. All these combine to minimize the risk of operator ejection and serious injury.
  • Falling debris – Construction site forklifts, as well as forklifts used in warehouses, and where there is a risk of falling debris from above, should have a falling object protection system. This system protects the operator of the forklift from falling objects, such as construction site debris or materials or, if in a warehouse, stock-building supplies.
  • Hitting pedestrian – Forklift vs. pedestrian accidents are fairly common due to close proximity in which they work. Sometimes an operator of a forklift may not notice workers in the vicinity, which can result in a collision and injury. Oftentimes, in a busy work environment, it's the worker who does not notice an oncoming forklift, which results in collision. This type of collision is sometimes caused by a broken or deactivated automatic signal alarm on the forklift or the absence of such a warning device altogether.
  • Poor training – Forklift operators must be properly trained and have a license to operate a forklift. Some work sites or warehouses have very high worker traffic, while others are congested with workers, building material and site debris. Regardless, forklifts must be operated with extreme care and caution, at all times and under all circumstances. OSHA has a standard evaluation and training course that all forklift operators must complete before operating a forklift. If an employer does not follow OSHA guidelines, they can be found negligent and liable. The employer has the duty and responsibility to inform untrained and unlicensed employees that forklifts are "off limits."
  • Unsafe driving conditions – In order for a forklift to be operated safely, the site driving conditions must also be safe. If there is low light or visibility, narrow or congested pathways or travel ways, then this constitutes unsafe conditions to drive in. Such conditions on a job site may expose the owner, general contractor, subcontractor or project manager to liability.
  • Elevating workers or workers hitching a ride – A forklift is not designed nor made neither to elevate workers nor to give fellow workers rides. The worker may fall from the elevated height or the worker may be crushed between the forklift, and other objects, especially if the operator drives in an unsafe manner or loses control.
  • Maintenance – A forklift must be properly maintained and inspected to ensure safe operation. If service or repair is needed, competent personnel must be brought in for such repairs. If an injury occurs due to improper service or maintenance, multiple parties may be found liable including the repair company.

If you have been injured in a forklift accident and are collecting workers' compensation, please be aware that a second case may exist under third-party negligence law. These recoveries are often significantly larger than that of workers' compensation as a pain and suffering claim is now allowed as compensation.

If you or a loved one has been injured in a forklift accident, contact Ellis Law Offices by email or telephone for your free consultation. Our attorneys have over 120 years of combined experience in personal injury law, construction site law, workers' compensation law and third-party negligence law. For your convenience, home and hospital visits are available anywhere in Massachusetts.