What You Should Know About Common Types of Lift Truck Accidents

A forklift operator unloading a semi truck while a worker supervises nearby.

Lift trucks, also known as fork lifts or powered industrial trucks, are small trucks that lift and transport loads. They are commonly used both indoors (in warehouses, shipping firms, and distribution centers) and outdoors (at construction sites, lumber yards, and garden centers).

Their widespread use comes at a cost, though. Workers are injured nearly every day in lift truck accidents.

My name is Michael, and I’m a workers’ compensation attorney. Below, I will answer some questions about this particular type of worksite accident and what you can do if you are injured in one.

What Is the Most Common Type of Lift Truck Accident?

Whether lift trucks are being used to move loads inside or outside, the most common forklift accidents involve the forklift tipping over. When the forklift’s center of gravity moves too far forward, such as when the truck is driving down a ramp, a forward tip-over happens. When the center of gravity shifts too far to the left or right of the wheelbase, as in a sharp or sudden turn, a sideways tip-over occurs.

Some forklift accidents involve pedestrians near the truck as well as drivers. One common type of forklift accident is when a load falls off the lift truck. These accidents can result in severe injuries to both forklift drivers and people working in the vicinity of an accident.

Why Do Lift Truck Accidents Happen?

The Forklift Stability Triangle is the area where the truck's center of gravity may fall depending on the load.Truck lift tip-over accidents happen when the truck becomes unstable due to shifts in the center of gravity. If the truck’s center of gravity falls out of the “forklift stability triangle” (reaching from the center of the rear axle to the front wheels), a tip over is likely to occur.

Causes of forklift accidents include:

  • Wet or slippery surfaces
  • Mechanical failures
  • Improperly and unbalanced loaded forks
  • Distracted driving

A yellow fork lift danger warning sign.Forklift operators must be properly trained because a load-bearing lift truck, possibly driven at excessive speed or by a distracted driver, can lead to dangerous situations for operators and other workers. Training, increased awareness of possible hazards, and the regular use of safety equipment can improve on-the-job safety at worksites.


Injuries Most Frequently Caused by Lift Truck Accidents

People involved in lift truck accidents often suffer from the following types of forklift injuries:

And, unfortunately, some people are killed in these types of accidents.

The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) claims that, “Most fatalities occur when a worker is crushed by a forklift that has overturned or fallen from a loading dock.”

NIOSH investigations of fatal forklift-related accidents also indicate that, “Many workers and employers: (1) may not be aware of the risks of operating or working near forklifts, and (2) are not following the procedures set forth in the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) standards, consensus standards, or equipment manufacturer’s guidelines.”

How Often Do Forklift Accidents Happen?

In 2019, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics published a forklift accident statistics report that focused on lift truck accidents between 2011 and 2017. Nationwide, 614 workers lost their lives in forklift-related accidents, and there were more than 7,000 injuries that resulted in days away from work each year.

Forklift accident injuries and deaths in the United States from 2011-2017.

What to Do if You Have Been in a Forklift Accident

If you have been injured in an on-the-job accident involving a lift truck, you should follow the worker’s compensation claims process in your state. For example:

  • When filing for workers’ comp in North Carolina, the first two steps involve informing your employer in writing of the injury within 30 days from the date of the accident and filing a Form 18 with the North Carolina Industrial Commission. (If more than 30 days passed and you didn’t give your employer written notice, you might still be able to pursue your claim. An attorney can explain your options.)

An Example of a Forklift Accident Injury

As a North Carolina State Bar Board Certified Specialist in workers’ compensation law, I help people who have been hurt on the job understand how workers’ compensation works.

One client, for example, was operating a forklift to unload a tractor trailer. When the truck pulled away, my client and his forklift tumbled out of the back of the trailer, and he injured multiple body parts. We worked to get my client medical treatment and weekly checks while he recovered. When he finished healing, we settled his case.1

You Can Seek Compensation if You’ve Been Hurt in a Lift Truck Accident

And we can help.

As described above, there are certain steps to follow, but we can guide you through the process and help ensure that you provide the required documentation and file accurately and on time. We understand how serious forklift accidents can be, and we can assist you in seeking workers’ comp wage replacement benefits and medical expense compensation during your time of need.

And in the worst case scenario of having a loved one killed in a forklift truck accident, we can help you file a wrongful death claim. You do not have to walk this path alone.

If your workers’ compensation claim is denied, we can also help you appeal the decision. The workers’ compensation team at the Law Offices of James Scott Farrin is made up of dedicated advocates for injured employees, some with more than 10 years of experience in workers’ compensation law. Several are also recognized professionals in workers’ compensation and are called upon to speak at seminars for other workers’ compensation attorneys.

Add us to your team. Call 1-866-900-7078 now for a free case evaluation, or contact us online.

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About the Author

Michael F. Roessler practices workers’ compensation law in North and South Carolina for the Law Offices of James Scott Farrin. Michael is among the less than 1% of attorneys licensed to practice in North Carolina who are North Carolina State Bar Board Certified Specialists in Workers’ Compensation law.a He has contributed several written pieces to legal publications, including the North Carolina Law Review, the Charlotte Law Review, and the Southwestern Law Review. He is a member of the North Carolina Advocates for Justice and the North Carolina Bar Association. In 2022, Michael was named to the “Best Lawyers”b list for Workers’ Compensation Law by Best Lawyers in America.

aFigures provided by the NC State Bar as of 2/21.

bFor more information regarding the standards for inclusion, please visit www.bestlawyers.com.