Forklift Accidents on the Job Site: Who is at Fault?

By Peter DePaolis

Forklifts are used across the country on construction sites and in industrial warehouse settings. While a common fixture, they are not safe. In fact, it requires special training and certifications to operate a forklift, and even with training – injuries occur daily around the United States.

Fatal accidents from forklifts occur annually, and thousands are injured each year in forklift incidents. Tipping over is the most common cause of a forklift injury, but close behind is being run over or having objects drop from the forklift’s cargo onto a person.

The Types of Forklift Accidents on the Job Site

Forklifts are used to move heavy objects from one end of the job site to another. They maneuver quite well in tight spots and can travel quickly across the job site. Workers must follow all regulations and recommendations when using a forklift. One slight deviation from these regulations could lead to a serious injury.

The most common reasons forklift accidents happen include:

  • Overloading the forklift
  • Hitting employees or people passing by the job site
  • Loads that fall from the forklift and injure those below
  • Missing safety components
  • Driving a forklift off a ledge
  • Using a forklift for lifting people; not cargo
  • Poor workplace design for a forklift
  • Operator error
  • Improper use

Poor maintenance that leads to a safety component malfunction

Workplace Hazards Contribute to Forklift Accidents

If the job site itself is inherently dangerous, then forklift injuries are more likely. For example, an uneven job site or site with severe clutter can cause a tip over or forklift accidentally backing up over a person on the job site.

In a construction zone, operators must maneuver around obstacles, get into tight corners, and still look out for multiple people on the job site–which may not be easily seen.

Who is at Fault for Workplace Hazards?

When job site hazards cause a forklift accident, the operator might be at fault, but ultimately the person in charge of the job site would be responsible for the accident. This could be a job site foreman or another party that is responsible for maintaining the safety of the work site.

Safety Issues and Forklift Accidents

Safety issues include improper maintenance, malfunctioning safety components on the forklift, and operator error.

Operators must be certified and trained. Furthermore, they owe a duty of care to use the forklift with caution, and never horseplay while using a forklift. If injuries occur because of the operator’s negligence, the operator and his or her employer could be considered liable.

If it is a matter of lack of maintenance or a defect, then it could be the employer, company responsible for maintenance, or even the manufacturer of the forklift–depending on which components cause the accident.

Injured at a Construction Site? You Need an Attorney

Injury accidents on the job are complicated. While most fall under workers’ compensation, some may fall under product liability, premises liability, and other forms of negligence laws. Therefore, if you are injured on the job site, speak with an attorney immediately.

Contact the injury team from Koonz McKenney Johnson & DePaolis LLP today for a free case evaluation. You can contact one of our three office locations or speak with us online to schedule your appointment.

About the Author
Peter DePaolis joined the firm in 1980 and has since represented a large number of individuals involved in automobile collisions, truck accidents, bus crashes, defective products, and medical malpractice cases. A significant portion of Mr. DePaolis’ practice is devoted to working on behalf of people suffering from asbestosis, mesothelioma, and other asbestos-related cancers. He has led his firm’s fight against the asbestos industry and has recovered over $30 million in damages for asbestos victims and their families.