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Forklift Truck Accident Claims

Forklift trucks are a common and vital feature in many a construction site, warehouse and factory environment. Any workplace where heavy or large loads need to be moved from one place to another probably has at least one forklift truck on site.

However, the fact is – forklifts are one of the most dangerous vehicles in the workplace. They are powered vehicles and they are heavy, with protruding forks.

Forklift vehicles range from industrial reach forklift vehicles – including those with a higher lift height than others, and ‘stand-up’ forklift trucks with two forks on the front that pass under a load in order to transport it to somewhere else.

Then there are industrial counterbalance forklifts, with dual front forks at the front, which are commonly used in warehouses and stores. There are also industrial side-loader forklifts, telescopic handler forklifts and rough terrain forklifts. Some forklifts are so powerful they can pick up to 50 tonnes.

Given the nature of these vehicles, it’s not hard to see how accidents involving forklift vehicles in the workplace can cause particularly serious and potentially life-changing injuries. The most accidents happen in industry and in the construction sector.

The stop-start motion of operating heavy vehicles on a work or construction site, with their long attachments makes them dangerous machines, particularly as they are often used in close proximity to bystanders.

They are also extremely heavy, weighing up to 4100kg. The average forklift truck can weigh more than three times that of an ordinary domestic car and are far more likely to tip over, particularly if overloaded, driven at speed or are unbalanced while moving.

Employers have serious responsibilities and duties to ensure these are safe to use in the workplace in order to minimise the risk of injuries to workers.

DID YOU KNOW: Forklift trucks are involved in roughly a quarter of workplace accidents involving transport.

I had an accident whilst driving a forklift, can I make a claim?

If you or a family member have suffered injuries from a work accident while driving a forklift truck vehicle, you should be able to make a compensation claim. Contact an expert legal adviser early, so that they can help you make a no win no fee injury claim. Forklift vehicle accidents can injure anyone in the immediate vicinity of the accident, but fork truck drivers are at greater risk of injury. It is very likely that if you were injured while driving a forklift truck, your employer was negligent in some way.

These types of accidents are often serious and can also cause significant injuries – and sometimes death. They are likely to happen because your employer failed in its duties in ensuring the vehicle could be safely used, so if you have been injured following a forklift accident, get in touch with a legal professional as soon as you can for initial help about making a claim.

Compensation can never undo the harm done to you but it can make a real difference to your financial situation and help you on the road to recovery.

Your solicitor will need to demonstrate that your employer owed you a duty of care and that they breached that duty, causing your injuries.

It’s crucial to keep as much evidence as you can. Importantly, check that your employer has kept a formal record of the incident in the works accident book and that the accident was reported to the health and safety executive (HSE).

To find out about making a claim, get in touch with a legal adviser on 0800 234 6438, or use the call back form on this page and they’ll get back to you.

DID YOU KNOW: Men, older workers and lorry drivers are most at risk of forklift truck accidents. The most fatalities are among workers over 45 and HGV drivers waiting while their lorries are loaded and unloaded.

Most common causes of forklift accidents and where they occur

Forklift vehicles are common features on building and construction sites, commercial and shipping yards, and in warehouses, factories and supermarkets. They are a vital asset in the workplace, helping to move large items around an area quickly and efficiently; clearing yards and other spaces; and even moving pallets vertically for storage.

In 2020 the Advanced Fork Truck Training (AFTT) company reported that 42% of forklift accidents involved crushing by a vehicle tipping over; 25% involved people being crushed between the vehicle and a surface; and 11% were run over by a forklift.

The most common causes of forklift accidents include:

Because forklifts are commonly found in the workplace, it can be easy to get complacent as to their presence. This means that carelessness and lack of concentration can lead to an accident involving a forklift, with serious consequences for anyone injured as a result.

Also, where the site or environment itself is unsafe for the forklift vehicle to be used or the machine itself is not safe to use, the results could be catastrophic. Loads can be unstable, operators may turn corners too sharply and ramps may be ridden over too quickly causing the vehicle to tip over.

Poor weather conditions could also cause an accident. If the vehicle is being used outside, it’s not hard to see why poor weather could make the use of forklift vehicles dangerous. Heavy rain or ice can cause the vehicle to slip; and strong winds can cause forklifts being used on gradients to destabilise and tip over.

The risk of injury also increases if there are problems with the energy source of the forklift truck, which could result in an explosion.

DID YOU KNOW: 42% of UK fatalities involving forklift trucks involve crush injuries after the vehicle tipped over; and around 70% of all UK forklift accidents were preventable with adequate training.

What are the most common types of injuries after a forklift truck accident?

Because these vehicles are so large and heavy, accidents can result in significant injuries. They can often be fatal. So it’s hardly surprising to know that crush injuries are by far the most common types of injury sustained after a forklift accident. In fact, the AFTT reported in 2020 that crush injuries were involved in 78% of forklift accidents.

Other typical injuries include broken bones and internal injuries from being hit by a forklift. Some forklift accidents result in the victim falling from the forks or from pallets causing broken bones, head and back injuries and serious bruising.

Whatever the injuries sustained in a forklift vehicle accident, you should be able to make an injury claim to help get you back on the road to recovery.

DID YOU KNOW: According to RIDDOR, from 2016 to 2019, 43% of forklift truck incidents involved impacts with a third person. 65% of those were pedestrians engaged in activities unrelated to the truck operation, 20% were co-workers or supervisors and 15% were delivery drivers watching or helping load or unload their vehicles.

The forklift accident was my fault, can I still claim?

It is not uncommon for an injured worker to think that they must have been to blame for what happened. However, in many cases that is not actually the case, so if you believe that the incident was your fault, you must still talk things over with a specialist adviser so that you know where you stand. For example, you may think you had been driving the vehicle too fast and that this caused the accident. However, in practice it may be that the evidence reveals that it was the condition of the truck not your speed that caused the incident. Or you may not have received adequate training in how to drive the forklift properly. It is always safest to check, rather than lose your opportunity to make a claim.

It could be that when you make a claim, your employer may come back and argue you were partly to blame for your injuries (or may even deny responsibility altogether). However, it is then the employer’s responsibility to prove you were to blame. For example, they may try to prove you were speeding and that this is what resulted in the incident.

That said, there are cases where the employee can be treated partially to blame, for example, you may have been operating the forklift vehicle faster than you should have been; but there was also a defect in the vehicle which can also be treated as a cause of the accident.

In these types of cases, you may well be found partly to blame (this is known as ‘contributory negligence’) and your employer’s insurer would probably not have to pay you the full amount of compensation you would otherwise be entitled to. The full amount of compensation awarded to you would then be reduced by a proportionate amount to reflect your responsibility for the incident.

So if you think you were partly to blame for your injuries, it is important to raise your concerns with your solicitor as early as you can. It should not stop you making a claim, though it could reduce the amount of compensation you receive.

What are the employer’s responsibilities?

Your employer has strict legal responsibilities and obligations to ensure the workplace is safe and that any risks to health and safety are identified in a timely way. Employers’ general responsibilities in relation to worker safety are set out in the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 and other laws. These expect employers to ensure that, so far as they reasonably can, they protect their employees’ health, safety and welfare.

Particularly, the 1974 Act requires employers to ensure all machinery and vehicles used by their staff at work are appropriately maintained and that all necessary measures have been taken to ensure employees operating them are protected from the risk of accident and injury.

Apart from ensuring forklift trucks are regularly maintained and free of defects, training and supervision must also be kept effective and up-to-date. The fact is, failures in training and supervision pose a big risk in the workplace because these dangerous vehicles need to be operated with great care.

If forklift drivers and operators are not properly trained, the risks are obvious: they are likely to make mistakes which can result in serious incidents and potential injury. AFTT says 70% of all forklift accidents could have been avoided by standard safety measures.

The training given to workers operating forklift trucks must be to the required standards, using either inhouse or external trainers. Training should also be followed by at least one test and then followed up by suitable refresher training.

Adequate training is expected to last for between three and five days – so if your training was for a shorter period, this is a potential indicator that there has been some sort of short cut in the training process, suggesting your employer may have been negligent.

Forklift truck drivers and operators should be properly trained in areas ranging from how to safely load and unload the forklift; how to safely step into and out of the truck; how to use emergency breaks and stops; and how they should reach to ‘blind spots’.

They also need training in wider general spatial awareness while using the vehicle. This may well include understanding minimum distances to be maintained between the forklift itself and other vehicles and pedestrians and appreciating the traffic system on site and how it is implemented. If a driver is unfamiliar with these issues while operating a forklift vehicle, the risk of an accident escalates.

The HSE has a code of practice for the use and operation of rider-operated forklift trucks which sets outs the minimum standard of training. Evidence that the employer failed to follow the code, and similar guidance, will be extremely useful for an injury claim.

DID YOU KNOW: Operator training should always include three stages: basic training; specific job training; and familiarisation training.

More than one person was injured in the accident. Can we both claim?

If a workplace accident has happened involving a forklift vehicle, anyone who was injured as a result can make a claim. You may not have been the driver, or even a passenger in the vehicle at the time, but if you were hurt and it was someone else’s fault, you should be able to make a claim.

Crush injuries are one of the most common types of injuries following a forklift incident. If, for instance, you were a bystander at the time of the accident, you may have been crushed by the weight of the vehicle. It would not be uncommon for one worker to be operating the forklift while another helps with directing the unloading of pallets on the forklift. An accident can risk serious injury to anyone nearby.

Even if you were not directly involved in the forklift operation at the time of the incident, there may have been insufficient warning signs of the potential dangers posed by the forklift vehicles.

So, anyone injured at work as a result of a forklift vehicle accident can start an injury claim if it was someone else’s fault.

What are the average compensation amounts for forklift accidents?

While some workplace accidents often result in minor injuries, forklift truck accidents can, by their very nature, cause catastrophic injuries in many cases. It is only right and fair that levels of compensation should be significant to match the level of harm and injury caused to the individual. However, it is difficult to estimate how much an injury victim may win in their particular injury claim because it depends on a number of factors, including the nature and extent of the injuries; and the wider impact of the injuries on your life and ability to work.

That said, there are formal judicial guidelines on the assessment of what is known as ‘general damages’. Lawyers rely on this guidance to calculate what an injured person is entitled to as compensation. For example:

Depending on your own injuries, you can try our online compensation calculator, but you should bear in mind this is intended as a starting guide only. Specialist advice should always be sought.

You will also need expert medical evidence to help your lawyer negotiate a fair injury compensation settlement, but you need not worry about how to arrange this because your solicitor will do that for you.

In addition to general damages, you can also include a claim for ‘special damages’. This will compensate you for any accident-related financial losses (such as loss of wages and overtime, and rehabilitation costs). Your solicitor will discuss this with you and explain when they need to claim back your costs.

Will I need to go to court or visit a solicitors during my forklift compensation claim?

The very prospect of taking legal advice after an injury can be daunting, particularly if you are still recovering. It can be even more worrying, thinking about whether you might have to go to court. The good news is that it’s very unlikely you’ll have to go to court when you make an injury claim following a forklift truck accident. The vast majority – more than 95% – of personal injury claims are settled before formal court proceedings are even issued, which means a court hearing does not become necessary.

This is because no one wants their case to go to court – not even the employer and their insurer. Usually, it is only the biggest claims that reach the courts. You can be assured that your specialist injury solicitor will work hard to settle your claim to avoid a court hearing. However, your solicitor will not settle for anything less than you deserve.

Settling your injury claim will be best for all the parties concerned – it enables you to concentrate on getting your life back on track and means your employer can quickly put the incident and any repercussions behind it (while hopefully learning lessons from what happened).

In many cases, the claim is settled after court proceedings have been started. If this happens, it’s still unlikely you’ll end up going to court. It’s not unusual for solicitors to decide to issue proceedings as a way of persuading the other side to agree to settle if negotiations have reached an impasse; or because the other side is not complying with the rules under the pre-action protocol. Often, issuing proceedings can actually speed up the resolution of your claim.

Even if you were expected to attend court in future, you need not worry that you’ll be facing a jury – injury claims are civil claims, not criminal trials, so any hearing will be before a judge. The experience is not nearly as daunting as you might imagine.

You might not even have to visit your solicitor in person. Communications can almost always now be conducted remotely, via telephone or video conferencing, such as Zoom and Facebook Live. If an in-person visit ever became necessary, your solicitor may well be able to come to you if possible – but that can be arranged if and when the need arises.

How can I make my claim?

To start your claim, contact an expert legal adviser now for free on 0800 234 6438, or simply enter your name and phone number at the bottom of this page to request a callback. The legal adviser will listen to the details of your accident, and if they think you are in a position to make a claim, they will pass you on to a specialist injury solicitor.

For your claim to succeed, your solicitor will have to prove on balance that your employer was negligent and that you were injured as a direct result of the forklift truck accident. If your solicitor can show there were, for instance, failures in training and supervision, insufficient warnings signs or lack of maintenance and repairs of the vehicles, your claim will succeed.

Examples of real-life forklift accidents

  1. Essex steel firm PCR Steel Ltd was fined after a 47-year-old worker visited its premises to collect a load – but was killed when the 400kg balcony frame fell on him. The company had failed to ensure the lifting operation was properly planned by a competent person, appropriately supervised, and carried out safely – including no plan for how to exclude people from the danger zone.
  2. A Tesco warehouse worker won more £86,000 in compensation following a forklift truck accident at a distribution centre. The employee was standing on a pallet truck in an empty loading bay when someone drove a forklift truck into it, throwing him to the floor. His injuries included serious and long-lasting damage to his back, hip and wrist. The extent of his injuries meant he had to leave his job with Tesco. The supermarket giant admitted liability.
  3. A carpet sample book manufacturer was fined £20,000 after two workers were seriously injured in a forklift truck crash. One of the forks impaled the arm of a worker to the side of the truck. The company admitted failing to implement a safe system of work and to provide adequate instruction and training to employees.
  4. A man who suffered serious soft tissue injury to his foot in a forklift truck accident won £10,000 in compensation from his employer. His supervisor was driving the vehicle when he dropped an industrial bin on the claimant’s foot.
About the Author

Nicola Laver LLB

Nicola is a dual qualified journalist and non-practising solicitor. She is a legal journalist, editor and author with more than 20 years' experience writing about the law.

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