Can You Sue for Forklift Accidents?


Laura Schaefer

In most states, you cannot sue your employer for forklift accidents, but you can file a workers’ compensation claim to cover your damages instead. Common examples where you may file a claim for forklift accidents include:

  • Untrained staff operating a forklift and inflicting harm
  • Improper machine maintenance resulting in forklift failure
  • Loads falling from forklifts caused by incorrect stacking

Forklifts make life easier for manufacturers and workers worldwide, but they can be dangerous without appropriate care and training. Forklift accidents led to 73 work-related fatalities in 2022, according to the National Safety Council, and 7,290 non-fatal injuries in 2020.

Seek immediate medical help if you get into an industrial workplace forklift accident. Injuries like the ones caused by a forklift accident may not heal if you do not act immediately. Next, speak with an attorney to discuss legal options after your accident.

You may qualify for compensation by filing a workers’ comp claim filed against your employer or a responsible third party. Read on for more information about forklift safety and how to prevent forklift accidents.

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Common Types of Forklift Accidents

The most common types of forklift accidents often occur due to misinformation on how to operate this unique type of vehicle. Newer operators may not immediately realize that forklifts only have front brakes. As a result, they take more time to stop than new drivers might anticipate.

Also, loads must be placed in front of the forklift, of course, so the rear of the vehicle is designed to be heavier. Therefore, when the load is empty, the forklift is unbalanced and still needs to be operated with care.

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) reported that the leading causes of forklift-related injuries are:

  • Overturned (rolled over) vehicles
  • Pedestrian injuries, including being struck by a forklift or by falling loads
  • Falling from the forklift
  • Improper use due to lack of training
  • Crashes from blocked vision
  • Mechanical failures

Your managers must provide adequate accommodations to prevent industrial accidents from occurring in the workplace. If you were injured while operating a forklift, you may qualify for a workers’ compensation claim.

Struck By Forklift

A man struck by a forklift.

A forklift operator may accidentally hit a bystander or co-worker if they operate the vehicle while distracted. Forklift drivers may also strike others due to unsafe working conditions, reducing the reaction time needed to avoid others successfully.

Proper employee training on how to maneuver forklifts can reduce this type of accident from occurring. Managers can use floor tape to designate forklift working zones to alert workers passing by.

Forklift Rollovers

A forklift rollover accident.

Forklifts weigh about 9,000 pounds on-average and are often counterweighted on its rear-wheels to offset its load. If an operator tries to turn too fast, a forklift rollover can happen.

Forklift rollovers can also occur if the load exceeds capacity. To prevent this type of accident, ensure an even load, avoid turning too fast, and slow down over uneven surfaces or around turns.

Falls From Forks or Platforms

Someone falling off the fork from a forklift.

Workers should not use the forklift to elevate themselves in the warehouse as advised by OSHA. Operators must take their time, use the provided guardrails, and take safety measures to avoid falls.

Loads Falling from Forklifts

A box hitting a worker from an unbalanced load off of a forklift.

Uneven or unbalanced loads shift and fall as the forklift moves. This can lead to a bystander getting struck with a heavy object. To prevent, stop moving too fast with a load. Make sure all loads are carefully centered on the forks.

Untrained Workers

An untrained worker.

Before operating a heavy piece of machinery, all employees must receive proper forklift training. Become familiar with the parts of a forklift that can cause injury and learn all best practices around operation. OSHA requires a certification to operate the machine; this is nonnegotiable.

Blocked Vision

Just as when you’re on the road, you as a forklift driver have a responsibility to see exactly where you are driving. Don’t try to “squeak by” an obstacle. Accidents occur when operators don’t slow down around blind spots. Use a spotter and don’t try to drive if a large load blocks your line of sight. Drive slowly to reduce forklift injuries.

Forklift Failures

The forklift vehicle itself must be properly maintained, just as a personal vehicle must be maintained. Mechanical failures and breakdowns can cause unexpected problems at just the wrong moment. Prevent accidents by immediately addressing issues such as leaking valves and hoses, worn out breaks, or damaged tires.

Forklift Accident Statistics

Forklift statistics show how common severe injuries are each year. You are not alone if you’ve been hurt.

OSHA estimates that about 1.5 million workers operate over 855,900 powered industrial trucks, a vehicle class that includes forklifts. They report that forklifts account for about 25% of construction accidents – approximately 35,000 serious forklift injuries and 62,000 non-serious injuries occur each year.

From 2011 to 2018, an average of 7.1% of workers missed work each year due to a forklift-related injury, according to the BLS. In 2020, forklift transportation incidents caused 44 deaths.

You may qualify for a workers’ comp or personal injury claim when involved in a forklift accident at work. After you inform your employer about your accident, seek legal counsel to protect your interests and receive an appropriate amount of compensation for your injuries.

Options for financial recovery include workers’ compensation, a lawsuit against your employer, or a lawsuit against a third party.

Workers’ Compensation

In this type of coverage, benefits are determined by law. Thus, amounts are non-negotiable. If your employer carries workers’ compensation insurance, this is your only option for seeking damages following a forklift accident.

Workers’ compensation provides payment for:

Though workers’ compensation will reimburse a worker’s lost wages and offer permanent impairment benefits, workers’ compensation generally includes no coverage for pain and suffering.

Lawsuits Against Employers

There are states where employer participation in workers’ comp insurance is optional. In this case, if you can show that your forklift accident resulted from someone else’s negligence, you may be entitled to damages. Talk to a lawyer about your unique case, because legal representation is vital when filing a personal injury lawsuit.

Lawsuits Against Third-Parties

If you’re injured on the job by a forklift accident and a third party was involved in the injury, you may be able to bring a personal injury suit against them. Potentially relevant third parties include:

  • The property owner of the job site,
  • The forklift manufacturer, or
  • An individual working for another company and their employer

Injuries After a Forklift Accident

In 2018, the three leading injuries from forklift accidents, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics were:

  • Fractures (1,710)
  • Bruises and contusions (1,570)
  • Sprains/muscle tears (1,490)

How to Prevent Forklift Accidents

Taking precautions to prevent forklift accidents like using seat belts and maintaining specific forklift safety guidelines in the workplace can significantly reduce accidents. Make sure to keep in the mind the following points when operating or working around a forklift.

  • Review and follow the specific forklift manual: Every operator should understand their workplace’s specific vehicle. Don’t exceed your forklift’s weight capacity and appropriately stack loads on the fork.
  • Operate if you have the proper training, licenses, and certifications: Only agree to drive a forklift that you are familiar with and comfortable operating. An employer telling you to operate a forklift without proper certification or if you’re under 18 years old is committing an OSHA violation.
  • Wear proper clothing: This includes puncture-proof shoes, safety glasses, and brightly colored clothing while the vehicle is in motion.
  • Slow down: Warehouses may have obstacles and narrow passageways. Don’t rush the job, slow down and proceed with caution.
  • Balance your loads: Objects will fall off the forklift and cause injuries if they aren’t properly weighted and centered.
  • Work with others: You may need the help of a spotter. Or, you may need help with loading and unloading. Don’t try to do a job alone if it can be done more safely with assistance.

A Workers’ Comp Attorney Can Defend You After a Forklift Accident

Find an attorney to fight for your rights after a forklift accident. LegalASAP can help you receive compensation from your loss when you file a workers’ comp claim. We have 500+ law firms across the country who may help find you an attorney experienced in your case.

Call us at 888-927-3080 or fill out this quick consultation form, and we’ll get in touch as soon as possible.

Laura Schaefer

Laura Schaefer is the author of The Teashop Girls, The Secret Ingredient, and Littler Women: A Modern Retelling. She is also an active co-author or ghostwriter of several nonfiction books on personal and business development. Laura currently lives in Windermere, Florida with her husband and daughter and works with clients all over the world. Visit her online at and