According to OSHA, the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration, forklifts account for about 100,000 workplace accidents per year. Roughly one-third of these incidents cause serious injuries. If you’ve been injured in a forklift accident, it’s vital that you understand how to protect your right to workers’ compensation benefits.
About Forklift Accidents
Forklifts require special training to operate because of their unique capabilities. Since the average forklift weighs about 9,000 pounds, it is almost three times the size of the average automobile. Other differences between forklifts and automobiles include:
- Forklifts are heavier in the rear to account for the weight of what’s being carried in the fork.
- Cars have brakes on all four wheels, but forklifts generally only can brake with the front drive wheels.
- Forklifts have smaller turning radiuses than cars because you must turn by moving the rear wheels.
Forklift accidents can occur in many different types of settings. For example:
- Manufacturing warehouses
- Big-box retail stores
- Loading and unloading freight delivery docks
- Construction sites
Accidents can cause injuries to the person driving the forklift as well as to others who are working in the area nearby.
Causes of Forklift Accidents
Common causes of forklift accidents in the workplace include:
- Lack of training in how to safely operate a forklift.
- Working conditions where speed and stress cause errors.
- Poor maintenance of equipment.
- Poorly designed workplaces, such as narrow aisles and obstructions at intersections.
- Improper backing up, turning, or accelerating.
- Overloading the forklift.
- Failing to choke or secure the forklift when it’s not in use.
Since workers’ compensation does not take fault into consideration, you can still receive benefits even if the accident was caused by your own error. The only exceptions to this no-fault rule are accidents caused by horseplay or operating a forklift while under the influence of drugs or alcohol.
Eligibility for Workers’ Compensation Benefits
Georgia law grants workers’ compensation benefits to most part-time, full-time, temporary, and seasonal workers on their first day of employment as long as their employer regularly has three or more employees.
Depending upon the severity of your injuries, you may be eligible for the following types of compensation:
- Medical benefits to pay for emergency care, diagnostic tests, surgery, physical therapy, medications, and other related expenses.
- Temporary Partial Disability (TPD) benefits to make up for lost income if you’re only able to work part time or in a lower-paying light duty position because of your injuries.
- Temporary Total Disability (TTD) benefits to make up for lost income if you’re not able to work at all because of your injuries.
- Permanent Partial Disability (PPD) benefits to compensate for the permanent loss of function in a specific part of the body or the body as a whole due to a workplace injury.
In cases involving fatal workplace accidents, death benefits are available to the surviving spouse, children, or other financially dependent individuals. These benefits are used to pay for funeral and burial costs as well as to compensate for the deceased person’s loss of income to pay for necessary household expenses.
Potential for Third-Party Claims
In most cases, workers’ compensation is the exclusive remedy for on-the-job injuries. However, some forklift accidents may form the basis of a valid third-party claim.
Third-party claims are civil claims for damages filed against someone other than your employer. For example, if you are injured on a construction site, and the forklift driver is employed by a different contractor than your employer, you may be able to maintain a claim against the driver's company. Or, you may have a products liability claim if your injuries were caused by some sort of mechanical defect in the forklift. It is also possible to bring a premises liability claim if you were hurt while working for your employer on land owned by someone else.
Protecting Your Right to Compensation
When you’ve suffered a work-related injury, the best way to protect your right to benefits is to retain the services of an experienced attorney. The legal team at Rechtman & Spevak is committed to protecting the rights of injured Georgia workers. Call today to schedule a free, no-obligation initial case review.