Originally published March 30, 2022. Updated August 17, 2023.
Forklifts are inherently dangerous yet simultaneously essential to many occupations in South Florida and all over the country. From boatyards to warehouses, this heavy machine has the ability to accidentally seriously injure, maim, or even kill its operators and bystanders.
The injuries from a forklift-related accident may be severe but are often preventable. On average, forklift accidents account for 85 deaths and 34,900 serious, permanent injuries every year. By law, forklift operators are required to be trained in compliance with Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) standards. Employers often have their own, though inadequate, standards for operation of forklifts.
Such inadequacy is inexcusable, because by simply raising standards of safety, lives can be saved. If forklift accidents are preventable, how are they still happening? Our blog explores this topic.
Why Do Forklift Accidents Occur?
Injuries from a forklift-related accident can happen for many reasons, including when:
- the operator is insufficiently trained
- the workplace is designed with impediments or is ill-suited for the forklift
- improper or no maintenance of the forklift is performed
- an operator is negligent in their use of a forklift causing harm to themselves or others
The operator, the forklift, and the workplace are crucial factors in forklift cases which operate under the same formula as every negligence case: duty, breach, causation, damages. Basically, the injured party must prove that the Defendant (typically the workplace, forklift manufacturer, or another worker) was negligent and that said negligence was the cause of the injury. An experienced lawyer analyzing all of the facts surrounding each and every forklift injury is essential to proving negligence.
Real-World Example from a Naples Boatyard
On March 17, 2021, a mechanic’s arm became lodged in a forklift while working in a boatyard in Naples. The mechanic was nearly 30 feet off the ground when he became stuck in the heavy-duty machine. Rescue crews worked for over seven hours to free his limb from the forklift. Using heavy-duty tools to cut through sections of the lift and its chains, the man was freed. Tragically, the mechanic required amputation of the arm at the hospital.
In this case, there are various sources of negligence and a wide variety of factors that affect it:
- The experience and qualifications of the operator
- The layout of the boatyard and any potential impediments on the property
- The number of employees working on the boatyard
- The instruction that the employee operator received from their boss
- And any potential defects of the forklift.
There are many unexplored nuances which could also serve as a factor in determining negligence in this case. In a case like this, the boatyard mechanic will have to prove that one or a combination of these factors led to his injury and that a third party is responsible and or his employer was grossly negligent or intentionally hurt him.
How We Handle Forklift Accident Claims
In the event of one of our clients suffering a tragic accident, such as the incident in the Naples boatyard, Aigen Law Firm would immediately begin a subsequent investigation of the facts and circumstances leading to the accident. Every culpable party, from the boatyard company to the forklift manufacturer, would be scrutinized.
Employers benefit from workers’ compensation immunity, except in the most egregious circumstances. In this case, the mechanic working for the boatyard will have to prove that that the boatyard’s conduct was virtually certain to result in his injury or that they deliberately intended to hurt him. This concept, which shields the boatyard, is known as vertical immunity.
On the other hand, if the injury arose from the negligent actions of another subcontractor, then the mechanic must only prove that the subcontractor was grossly negligent. This concept, which shields any potential subcontractors at play, is known as horizontal immunity.
Oftentimes, a thorough investigation by a competent Miami personal injury attorney will reveal several safety violations and carelessness that led directly to the victim’s catastrophic injuries or death.
Contact Aigen Law Firm
If you or someone you love has been injured in a forklift accident, contact Aigen Law Firm. There is no upfront cost to you to contact Aigen Law Firm for a case review. Call our office today for a free consultation and learn more about how we can help you.