Who Should Be Liable For Forklift Accidents? - Adamson Ahdoot

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Forklift Accidents: Who is Liable and What to Do After A Forklift Driver Injury

April 19, 2023 Alan Ahdoot
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Forklifts are among the most common pieces of equipment used in construction sites and warehouses. Though they seem safe to operate, they can still cause injuries and even deaths. But, who’s liable in cases of forklift accidents?

In 2020 alone, forklifts caused 7,290 injuries and 78 deaths. For this reason, employees must know what to do if they get involved in a forklift accident.

If a forklift has injured you or a loved one, we’re here to help. In this blog, we’ll discuss how you can get the compensation you deserve for your injuries.

The Most Common Causes of Forklift Accidents

Forklift accidents are on the rise for five common reasons.

Insecure Cargo

Forklifts are meant to lift and transport cargo using large metal tines. But before drivers can move any load, they must ensure everything is properly secured to prevent anything from falling off.

It’s recommended that drivers ensure their load is balanced on the forks. And if they want an additional safety net, they can also angle the forks upward.

Operating With an Elevated Load

Driving a forklift with an elevated load is highly discouraged. Doing so makes it difficult for drivers to see and control their forklifts, which could lead to various accidents.

OSHA recommends drivers keep their load as near to the ground as possible. They can only lift their cargo to a maximum of 4 inches from the ground.


When drivers become too comfortable with their forklifts, they drive faster than normal. As a result, their reaction time is significantly reduced, and they become more prone to accidents. 

The Occupational Safety and Hazard Association (OSHA) says drivers must stay at or below five miles an hour for safety. They also recommend posting speed limits around the warehouse as a reminder.

Tipping and Falling Vehicles

Many factors, like uneven surfaces and improper turning, could cause a forklift to fall or tip over. And since they’re so heavy, these types of machinery can easily crush someone to death. 

As a preventative measure, drivers are asked to avoid operating forklifts on surfaces that can’t support their load. They’re also told to maintain a gradual turning speed to prevent the forklift from tipping over.

Obstructed Visibility

It’s normal for a driver’s visibility to be limited when moving loads. However, driving with obstructed visibility can create dangerous blind zones within the warehouse.

As a result, some drivers are trained to move their forklifts backward to prevent incidents when they can’t see past their load. They’re also advised to stack as much cargo as their vision allows so that they can properly see ahead.

Who Should Be Liable For Forklift Accidents?

Liability for warehouse accidents, like forklift tip-overs, varies. There are times when you can hold the driver responsible and others when you cannot. It all depends on the nature of the accident.

Here are a few examples:

Driver’s Liability

Human errors can lead to someone’s injury or, worse, death. That’s why OSHA has created strict rules and requirements for forklift drivers.

Only those with a forklift license can operate the equipment. And even if drivers are legally allowed to use the machine, they still have to follow a few rules to meet safety standards.

Some of these rules include the following:

  • No stunt driving or horseplay
  • No speeding on wet or slippery surfaces
  • Horns should work and be blown at cross aisles
  • Employees must secure dock plates before use
  • Drivers should only transport secure loads
  • Drivers should regularly check their forklifts for maintenance

If a driver’s negligence of these rules results in a forklift accident, they can be held liable in court.

forklift inside warehouse
Liability for warehouse accidents, like forklift tip-overs, depends on the nature of the incident.

Company Liability

Since forklift accidents fall under the commercial vehicle accident law category, the company that owns the equipment could be held responsible for the accident.

The company’s owners are expected to hire well-trained drivers and are responsible for their maintenance. Suppose they knowingly hire an unlicensed driver, and their decision leads to an accident. In that case, victims can file a lawsuit against them.

The same rule applies if a broken signal causes the incident. Victims could file a claim against their employer if they failed to care for their equipment.

In some cases, victims can also hold the manufacturer liable for their injuries. If a forklift with a faulty brake injures an employee, the victim can sue the manufacturing company for their injuries.

How to File a Claim For Forklift Accidents

You’re entitled to worker’s compensation if you were injured at work, whether because of a forklift accident or not.

Worker’s compensation is an insurance policy that financially relieves employees injured in warehouse accidents. It covers a worker’s medical bills and a portion of the wages they would’ve received if they weren’t on medical leave.

Unlike normal lawsuits, you don’t need to prove your injuries to your employer for worker’s compensation. Instead, here’s what you need to do:

Report Your Injuries and Get Medical Attention

As soon as you get injured, you must report the incident immediately to your employer and seek medical treatment from a healthcare provider. After you get the help you need for your injuries, you must submit a written notice to your employer within 30 days of the incident.

The company can direct you to a specific healthcare provider unless you need emergency services. They must notify you immediately and tell you which provider to contact. 

If your injuries are not so serious but aren’t minor either, such as wounds requiring first aid in two or fewer treatments, your employer will report it to their insurance provider.

They must send your name and location to the nearest OSHA office within eight hours. Failure to do so can be considered a misdemeanor. Your company will be fined at least $5,000 if they don’t report your forklift accident.

Participate in the Investigation

Together with the insurance provider, your employer will have to investigate the incident. This step is crucial to establishing liability. They need to find out whether it was caused by human error.

We suggest you cooperate with them during this time to ensure that the at-fault party will be held liable for their actions.

Hire a Lawyer

In certain cases, worker’s compensation isn’t enough to cover the expenses and help victims recover from a forklift accident. At this point, they would need the help of an experienced lawyer to file a personal injury lawsuit against their employer.

Seek Legal Help for Your Forklift Accident Injuries

Adamson Ahdoot is a full-service civil litigation firm with over 100 years of combined legal experience handling forklift accident cases. You can trust that the best lawyers will handle your case with the intimacy and attention to detail of a boutique firm, with the expertise of a larger one.

Our team will help you file a lawsuit against your employer. We’ll support you throughout the process, from filing your case on your behalf to representing you in court. 

We proudly serve a diverse clientele with their car accident cases and offer free English and Spanish consultations. Call us at (800) 310-1606 and start building a robust case today.

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Our team can better advise you on your legal options once we receive any available evidence about the incident.

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