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How to Make a Forklift Accident Claim in New York

How to Make a Forklift Accident Claim in New York

Even the most experienced forklift drivers risk injuries on the job site if an employer, subcontractor, job site property owner, or manufacturer has been negligent. Forklift accidents contributed to 70 deaths in 2020 and 7,290 non-fatal injuries that required more than one day away from work. 

After sustaining an injury in a forklift accident, the process of filing a personal injury or workers’ comp claim may seem overwhelming, but it is crucial to seek compensation and hold the negligent party accountable. If you suffered injuries due to a forklift accident, contact a forklift accident lawyer in NYC immediately.

Common Injuries to Forklift Operators in Accidents

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, 614 workers died in forklift accidents between 2011 and 2017, with annual non-fatal injuries requiring over one day away from work averaging over 8,500. In 2017, the median number of days away from work after a forklift accident was 13, compared to 8 days for all workplace injuries that year.

Common injuries from forklift accidents include:

  • Cuts and scrapes
  • Sprains and tears of muscles, tendons, and ligaments
  • Broken bones or fractures
  • Crushing injuries
  • Amputation or loss of limbs
  • Death

Forklifts carry similar risks as other heavy equipment. Their weight, improper maintenance, improper use, and employer or operator negligence can all contribute to a forklift accident that causes serious injuries.

How Do Forklift Accidents Happen?

The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) reports three primary contributors to fatal accidents involving forklifts. The forklift itself, the driver’s actions, and the environment of the work area can all play a significant role in causing a forklift accident.

The Forklift

Forklifts can weigh 9,000 pounds or more, leading to crushing injuries when they collide with, run over, or fall on a person. They can also travel approximately 18 mph and only have front wheel brakes, making them difficult to stop if you need to make a sudden course correction.

Forklift drivers turn their machines with the rear wheels, sometimes making tight turns difficult for novice forklift operators. Most of the machine’s weight is at the back of the vehicle to counterbalance heavy loads on the front forks, and larger loads can block a driver’s view.

Even a properly maintained forklift can pose a danger to forklift drivers and the workers around them. However, a forklift with defective parts puts people nearby at even greater risk. Problems with steering mechanisms can make the machine’s movement unpredictable for the operator and broken rear axle stops can cause a forklift to tilt or tip over during a turn.

The Operator

Many forklift operators don’t have the proper training and certification to drive certain forklift types. Some forklift drivers may drive with an elevated load or use excessive speed without considering the grade of a ramp. Inexperienced drivers can cause serious injuries to themselves and others by using equipment improperly.

Sometimes forklift operators need to lift themselves or a colleague using a forklift platform. Certain forklift models allow operators to lift a person safely, but approved safety equipment, including a cage, body belt, and deceleration device, is always necessary to prevent falling from the platform.

The Environment

Even the most experienced forklift drivers can still have accidents while operating a forklift, especially in busy work environments where products and people are moving in and around the forklift work zone. Other elements of the work environment can also lead to forklift accidents, including:

  • Cracks in the pavement that create an uneven surface
  • Gaps between trucks and loading docks
  • Blind corners
  • Lack of barricades around forklift work areas
  • Aisles and work zones without designations for forklifts or workers on foot

A court could determine that an employer was negligent in maintaining the workplace environment, providing appropriate training, and maintaining the equipment if any of these factors contribute to a forklift accident. An NYC forklift accident lawyer can help you determine liability for your injuries if you were injured at work by a forklift.

How to File a New York Forklift Accident Claim

Do you know what legal requirements your employer has during a workers’ comp claim? Your employer must follow these steps when a worker suffers an injury at work.

1. Seek Medical Treatment

You must tell your employer or supervisor immediately that you suffered an injury and give details about when, where, and how the injury occurred. Except in emergencies, you must seek medical treatment with a healthcare provider authorized by the Workers’ Compensation Board. You are also responsible for submitting a written notice to your employer within 30 days of the injury.

Unless part of the Preferred Provider Program or an Alternative Dispute Resolution Program, your employer may not recommend or direct you to use a certain healthcare provider without informing you of your right to choose your own provider using Form C-3.1.

Some employers maintain the right to require employees to take diagnostic tests and fill prescriptions from a contracted in-network provider, including self-insured employers, insurance carriers, and the New York State Insurance Fund (NYSIF). In this situation, your employer must provide notice to you.

2. Cooperate with Your Employer’s Investigation

Your employer must investigate the accident and provide their findings throughout the investigation to the insurance carrier. Employer or workers’ compensation insurance written communications with your health care provider should also be copied to you and your lawyer.

Your employer may not attempt to influence your doctor in what diagnostic or treatment procedures you need. This could interfere with your treatment and is a misdemeanor offense.

3. Report Your Injuries

Your employer must report any injuries beyond minor injuries to the Workers’ Compensation Board and workers’ comp insurance company within ten days of the accident. If your employer fails to notify the Board, it is a misdemeanor, and the Board may fine your employer up to $2,500. Your employer must file Form C-2F to report to the Board that an employee reported a work-related injury.

What Are Minor Injuries in Forklift Accidents?

Employers must complete Form C-2F, but don’t need to file it with the Board or insurance carrier if the injury was minor. Minor injuries include those that require first aid in two or fewer treatments and require less than a full day away from work. Your employer must retain the form for 18 years after your accident.

4. Understand How Wage Reimbursement Works

If your employer advances your pay while you are on leave for work-related injuries, they may file with the Board for reimbursement of your wages from any subsequent compensation awards. If your employer fails to make their request for reimbursement before the Board awards compensation, your employer forfeits their right to reimbursement.

If the Board grants your employer reimbursement, it will come from your compensation award. Notify your attorney if your employer advances your pay or workers’ compensation payments.

Contact an Experienced New York City Construction Accident Lawyer

Workers’ compensation doesn’t always cover all of your expenses and make you whole again after getting injured on the jobsite. You may need to file a personal injury lawsuit against your employer, the property owner at the jobsite, the forklift manufacturer, or a subcontractor who works on the same site.

Your New York City construction accident lawyer from our firm can help you determine the negligent party who contributed to your forklift accident to file suit. Schedule a free consultation with an attorney from our law firm at William Schwitzer & Associates law firm.


What is the most common fatal accident on a forklift?

According to the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH), the most common forklift accidents leading to death are:

  1. Forklift overturns
  2. Pedestrian worker struck by forklift
  3. Worker crushed by forklift
  4. Worker fell from forklift

What is the single largest cause of forklift accidents?

According to case studies in DHHS (NIOSH) PUBLICATION NUMBER 2001-109, the main causes of forklift accidents are not having seatbelts, forklift operators using the equipment improperly, and negligence in maintaining the work environment for forklift use. NIOSH reports three primary causes of forklift fatalities: the forklift itself, the factory work environment, and operator actions.

What does OSHA say about forklifts?

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) categorize forklifts as “powered industrial trucks.” Different forklift types and the industries in which they are used represent different hazards. Additionally, minors may not operate a forklift except under very specific conditions, such as working on their parents’ farm or in a vocational agriculture program.

About The Author

John C. Merlino, ESQ.

John C. Merlino, ESQ.

John C. Merlino is a zealous legal voice for injured construction workers. A senior managing member of the firm, Mr. Merlino was born and raised in Brooklyn, to immigrant parents. Mr. Merlino learned the importance of educating our clients of their rights and being a strong-compassionate advocate. Mr. Merlino, along with his mentor William Schwitzer, are among the most respected Construction Site Accident Lawyers in the State of New York.