Forklifts are industrial trucks used to lift and move heavy loads over short distances. They play an essential role in a wide range of industries like manufacturing, construction and warehousing. Unfortunately, they are also one of the most dangerous pieces of equipment at the workplace.
According to the British Safety Council, every year around 1,300 employees are hospitalised with severe injuries after a forklift accident at work. They are particularly dangerous due to their unstable nature, making them likely to fall over if not loaded or operated properly.
Some forklifts can lift up to 50 tonnes, and even a slight collision could have catastrophic consequences. The injuries often affect other workers walking in the area rather than the driver. Forklift truck accidents are on the rise, but most of them could be prevented with adequate training according to the safety standard guidelines.
The majority of incidents are caused by poor training, careless driving or improper loading. Driving a forklift requires a special license and training. If your employer failed to offer you any of these and you suffered an injury, you might be able to make a forklift accident claim.
Can I make a forklift accident claim?
The most straightforward way to find out if you can make a forklift truck accident claim is by contacting an experienced solicitor. They can let you know if your employer breached their duty of care towards you by acting negligently.
Usually, a personal injury claim is possible if:
- Your accident happened in the last three years
- Someone else who owed you a duty of care was responsible
- You suffered an injury as a result
Forklift accidents can cause significant injuries and even death. When such an accident happens, it is often due to the negligent behaviour of employers who fail to provide proper training or make sure that the vehicle is safe for use.
In order to secure compensation, your solicitor will need as much evidence as possible to prove a breach of duty and the extent of your injuries. This evidence could be:
- Medical records of the injuries you sustained, the treatments you received and your recovery prospects.
- CCTV footage that might have captured the incident. Many workplaces have cameras that supervise the working areas; you should secure a copy as soon as possible since the footage could be wiped within days.
- Witness statements from your co-workers or anyone else that saw the accident taking place, and can give an independent view of what happened.
- Accident reports. Every workplace should have an accident logbook to record any incidents that might take place. You are entitled by law to ask for a signed copy stating the time, date and location of your accident.
- Training records, stating the instructions you received to carry out your job. Training certificates must be stored and accessible when needed to know what training an employee has completed.
If you do not know who might be at fault for your injury or are worried you do not have enough evidence to support your claim, your solicitor can help assess liability and gather proof. Furthermore, if you have a valid forklift accident claim with a high chance of success, they will likely offer you a no win no fee agreement.
No win no fee claims are the preferred way of funding personal injury claims by providing a number of benefits, such as:
- There are no upfront or hidden charges
- Comprehensive financial coverage if you end up losing the case
- An independent medical assessment which serves as proof in your claim
- Support and advice at every step of the claiming process
In no win no fee claims, you will only have to pay a solicitor fee after you receive compensation. This is known as the success fee and cannot exceed 25% of your compensation award.
What are the most common types of forklift accidents?
According to statistics, forklift trucks are the most dangerous form of workplace transport in the UK, accounting for around 25% of workplace transport injuries.
According to the Advanced Fork Truck Training (AFTT) Company reports, the most common causes of forklift injuries are:
- 42% of accidents are caused by a vehicle tipping over
- 25% of injuries involve being crushed between the forklift truck and another surface
- 11% of the victims get crushed between two vehicles
- 11% of all accidents involve getting run over by a truck
- 8% of victims are struck by a falling vehicle
- 4% of all injuries happen due to falling from forks
Unfortunately, you do not have to be a driver to suffer a forklift injury. They are actually more dangerous for people working around them, who could suffer severe or fatal crush injuries. The most common situations leading to a forklift truck accident include:
- Lack of regular inspection and maintenance of vehicles
- Unsafe environments, such as floor defects, spillages or debris left in walkways
- Lack of proper training
- Not having a special license for the forklift
- Mechanical failures and other forklift defects
- Driving too fast
- Improper loading of vehicles, causing them to overturn
- Failing to secure the load which might cause objects to fall from the forklift
- Falls while getting on and off the vehicle
- Failure to provide adequate warning signage
- Colliding with other objects or vehicles
- Driving in unregulated areas
Whether you suffered an injury due to poor maintenance, inadequate training or forklift defects, you might be able to claim forklift accident compensation. A free consultation with a legal adviser will let you know if you can make a claim and how much compensation you might expect.
Employer responsibilities to prevent forklift accidents
According to the Health and Safety at Work legislation, you have the right to work in a safe and risk-free environment. It is your employer’s duty to conduct regular risk assessments and maintenance and make sure you are appropriately trained for the job. Doing so can help to minimise the risk of forklift and other machinery accidents from happening in the workplace.
The Workplace (Health Safety and Welfare) Regulations 1992 applies to all workplaces and impose requirements on employers, such as:
- Proper maintenance of premises
- Providing sufficient lighting and emergency lighting in all areas
- Keep floors, walls and ceilings clean and prevent the accumulation of waste
- Make sure there is adequate space to handle a forklift
- Maintain the pavements in good condition
- Offer suitable routes for pedestrians and vehicles
- Contain the risk of falling objects or falling from a forklift
The Approved Code of Practice (ACOP) published by the Health and Safety Executive sets the minimum standard of training workers should receive before operating a forklift. Employers should not allow anyone to operate a vehicle, not even occasionally, if they have not received proper instructions. Training should include:
Basic training needs to cover all the skills and knowledge required to operate the type of forklift provided and all the associated risks.
Specific job training can be integrated with basic training or follow the completion of it. This part covers:
- The knowledge and understanding of the operating principles and controls of the vehicle
- Routine inspection and servicing of the forklift as they can be reasonably carried out by the operator
- The use of forklifts according to working conditions such as doorways, slopes, loading platforms, etc.
- Instruction on site rules like speed limits, emergency procedures and other hazards.
- Loading and handling materials and using the forklift with working platforms
Familiarisation training aims at applying the training provided on-site, starting with simple tasks and moving to more complex ones.
The personnel should be carefully selected and should be:
- Reasonably fit, both physically and mentally
- Reliable and responsible
- Over the minimum school-leaving age of 16, and at least 18 when working in ports
The Provision and Use of Work Equipment Regulations 1998 state that equipment should be suitable and safe for the intended use. Forklift features that should be considered include:
- The capacity needed according to the size of the cargo.
- Restraining systems and protective structures. Since 2002, forklift trucks need to be fitted with seatbelts or other restraining systems.
- Adequate protection from the weather when forklifts are being used outside
- Dangerous moving parts should be fitted with guards
- Seat design to reduce fatigue and discomfort and prevent illnesses caused by vibrations
According to the Health and Safety laws, your rights at work as an employee include:
- Working in a safe and risk-free environment
- Receive appropriate training and protective equipment
- Use only vehicles that are safe and properly maintained
- Stop working if you feel at risk for injuries
- Report any health and safety concerns to your employer
- Have access to first aid facilities on site
If your employer violated any of your rights or failed to comply with the health and safety regulations and you suffered an injury as a result, you might be eligible to make a forklift truck accident claim. You could receive compensation for your pain, suffering and any financial losses you incurred.
How much compensation can I claim for a forklift truck accident?
Forklifts are one of the most important modes of transportation of heavy loads over short distances, widely used and indispensable in many industries. However, when employers fail to provide proper training to operators and maintain the vehicles safe for use, you could suffer severe and even fatal injuries.
The most common injuries suffered in a forklift truck accident include:
- Sprains and strains
- Bruises and contusions
- Head and brain injuries
- Crush injuries
- Lacerations and puncture wounds
- Leg and arm injuries
- Back injuries
If you are eligible to make a forklift accident claim, the compensation award you might receive will take into consideration the type and extent of the injuries you suffered. You could also claim for:
- Emotional and psychological distress
- Lost wages, including future losses
- Costs of care and private treatments
- Medical costs for medication, surgery and other interventions
- Travel costs
- Scarring and disfigurement
- Reduced quality of life
- Mental and physical impairment
- Adaptations to your home and vehicle
- Mobility aids
- Loss of amenity
- Any other financial expenses related to the accident
Your solicitor will take into consideration all the ways in which your injuries affected your life and negotiate a suitable compensation amount with the defendant. According to the guidelines offered by the Judicial College, personal injury claims could be compensated with:
- £1,880 to £10,890 for minor head injuries with recovery within a few weeks
- £13,430 to £112,130 for moderate head injuries that affect the brain and might result in intellectual impairment, depression or epileptic attacks
- £240,590 to £344,640 for severe brain injuries causing vegetative states and severe disability needing full-time nursing
- Up to £6,680 for minor soft tissue neck injuries
- £7,410 to £47,760 for moderate neck injuries leading to chronic or recurrent pain and limitation of movement caused by fractures or dislocations
- £56,100 to £139,210 for severe neck injuries causing partial paraplegia or significant disability
- £11,730 to £26,050 for moderate back injuries, including a fractured spine, prolapsed disks or other wounds that might require surgery
- £36,390 to £151,070 for severe back injuries causing impaired movement, loss of bladder and bowel function or partial paralysis
- £10,890 to £16,380 for moderate shoulder injuries like fractured clavicle or rotator cuff tear that require surgery
Arm and Hand Injuries
- £5,630 to £16,380 for minor arm injuries like fractured forearm
- £33,430 to £111,690 for moderately severe arm injuries resulting in an inability to use the arm to some extent
- £82,040 to £255,930 for severe arm injuries, including amputation of one or both arms
- £13,360 to £27,320 for elbow injuries resulting in restricted movement
- Up to £8,740 for minor wrist injuries with recovery within two years
- £20,900 to £51,070 for severe wrist injuries causing permanent disability or complete loss of function
- £24,740 to £171,920 for severe hand injuries, including amputation of fingers or one or both hands
- £7,780 to £12,010 for minor leg injuries with recovery within a few months like lacerations or contusions
- £15,320 to £46,780 for moderate leg injuries such as minor fractures, severe soft tissue injuries or ligament damage leading to a certain degree of instability
- £46,780 to £240,590 for severe leg injuries resulting in permanent disability or amputation
- £22,340 to £37,070 for moderate knee injuries such as damaged kneecaps, torn meniscus and ligaments resulting in ongoing pain
How long do I have to make a forklift accident claim?
Usually, you have up to three years to claim forklift accident compensation. This is known as the claim limitation date, after which it is no longer possible to start legal proceedings unless a judge decides you had a strong justification for your delay.
The three-year limitation date is not always three years from the date of the accident:
- If you were under 18 when you got injured, a litigation friend could claim compensation on your behalf at any point while you are still a minor. Afterwards, you have until your 21st birthday to make a forklift accident claim on your own.
- Some injuries may not become apparent immediately after an incident or might develop over some years due to poor work practices, as in the case of repetitive strain injuries. In these situations, you will have three years to make a claim from the date you learned of your injury, known as the date of knowledge.
- According to the Health and Safety Executive and the Equality Act 2010, people with disabilities should not be excluded from working with forklifts if they develop skills to compensate for their disability. If a person who lacks the mental ability to make a claim suffers a forklift truck accident either as a driver, worker or visitor, a litigation friend can claim compensation on their behalf at any time.
- You could make a forklift accident claim if you suffered an injury while working abroad. The time limit can vary significantly according to each country’s legislation.
- If a loved one suffered a fatal forklift truck accident, a close family member could claim compensation within three years from the date of their passing away.
Regardless of the limitation date that might apply to your situation, you should contact an experienced solicitor as soon as possible after an accident. They can let you know how long you have to start legal proceedings and help gather the required evidence. This can be a lengthy process, so most solicitors do not accept a case with less than half a year left to claim.
Can I make a forklift accident claim if I was partly at fault?
Even if you hold some part of the blame for your injuries, you could still make a forklift accident claim. If both you and your employer share some responsibility, your compensation award will be reduced due to contributory negligence, also known as split liability.
Based on the accident circumstances, this could be 50:50, 30:70, 40:60 or any other ratio deemed reasonable by a judge.
In many circumstances, the victim of an accident might believe they were entirely at fault for their injuries. For example, you may think the accident occurred because you were driving too fast, but an investigation could prove it was due to a forklift defect.
Although your settlement could get deducted due to driving above the speed limit, you should still be entitled to compensation for your injuries. You should always contact an experienced solicitor who can help sort things out instead of losing your opportunity to make a forklift accident claim.
In any case, if you make a claim against your employer and they deny liability for your accident, it is up to them to prove you were to blame. If they have no evidence that you acted negligently, you may still receive the entire compensation amount you are entitled to.
For a free consultation with a legal adviser, call 0800 678 1410. They can let you know if you may be eligible to make a claim and whether your employer is likely to be held fully or partially responsible for your injuries.
Could I lose my job for claiming forklift accident compensation?
Every employer has the legal duty to protect the health and safety of every employee. They should provide an appropriate level of training and well-maintained forklifts to carry out their tasks. Otherwise, they might be held directly responsible for any injuries they may suffer in an accident.
If you suffer an injury at the workplace, you could make a forklift accident claim against your employer, and they will be expected to pay compensation for your damages and cover all the claiming costs.
Under no circumstances is an employer allowed to fire you or make your life at work more difficult if you claim compensation from them. Nonetheless, many employees fear that an accident at work claim will cost them their job or change their relationship with their employer.
Every employer must take out insurance to cover the personal injuries their employees might suffer at work. This is known as Employers Liability Compulsory Insurance, and the insurance details should be available to employees.
Therefore, if you claim forklift accident compensation, it is your employer’s insurance company that will cover your damages, and they will not lose a single penny.
Furthermore, the Employment Rights Act 1996 offers legal protection to workers against unfair or wrongful dismissals. Generally, only employees who worked for at least two years have the right to bring a claim for unfair dismissal, but there are exceptions for cases in which an employee was dismissed automatically.
An experienced solicitor can let you know if you are protected by unfair dismissal laws in case you make a claim.