When you consider that there are over 5,000 reported accidents a year in the workplace which involve transport (figures provided by the Health and Safety Executive), it will be no surprise to learn that forklift truck accident compensation claims are not uncommon. There are many things to consider if you have suffered a forklift truck accident which may or may not lead to compensation. There are strict regulations regarding health and safety and the legal obligation which employers have towards employees, customers and contractors.
Common Forklift Truck Accident Claims
It is very easy to assume that it is the driver who is always injured in forklift truck accident compensation claims but in the majority of cases it tends to be site visitors and other employees. There are obvious occasions where the forklift truck driver is injured but it is fair to say that the dangers of forklift trucks are often underestimated. Some of the more common actions involved in forklift truck accidents include:
- Moving between locations.
It is also worth noting that while the vast majority of forklift truck accident claims for compensation will likely revolve around workplace incidents, a number of incidents have occurred in a public space or on a public highway. As the vast majority of forklift trucks are able to travel on public highways this does tend to extend the potential danger areas out from a normal workplace.
Unfortunately, not only does the degree of injury vary widely but on many occasions more than one person may be involved. If you have received an injury as a consequence of a forklift truck accident then you may be liable to claim compensation.
Employers Duty Of Care
The Health and Safety Executive has a very clearly defined duty of care to all employees whether the employment involves forklift trucks or not. The general duty of care is a legally binding agreement ensuring that all employees are:
- Fully trained.
- Receive the appropriate safety equipment.
- Experienced for the actions required.
- Only allowed to operate well maintained machinery.
- Made aware of all working and safety procedures.
When it comes to workplace transport vehicles like forklifts there are a number of additional specific regulations and obligations defined by the Health and Safety Executive.
Safe Site Design
Where forklift trucks and other vehicles are used in the workplace it is vital that hazards and risks are reduced as much as possible. In many cases this will involve a specially designed workplace which will effectively segregate vehicles and workers, contractors and visitors. There will obviously be crossover situations but these need to be clearly signed and rights-of-way clearly defined. Speed limits should also be clearly marked within the workplace, and any outdoor areas, where transport vehicles are used. In some circumstances, evidence that an employer has fulfilled their duty of care could negate potential liability if an employee driving a forklift truck ignored speed limit warnings causing an accident, etc.
It goes without saying that where forklift trucks are involved there should be sufficient space to move in a safe manner. Over the years we have seen many issues with regards to uneven surfaces, cluttered workplaces and even spillages which can cause slips, trips and falls for employees and often endanger those driving forklift trucks. It is therefore essential there should be extended visibility at all times, no sharp bends, no blind corners and all routes should be clearly defined. It is worth noting that the signposts used in the workplace should be exactly the same as those used in the Highway Code.
Common Injuries From Forklift Truck Accidents
The specific type of injuries incurred as a consequence of an accident involving a forklift truck will vary from workplace to workplace. However, the main specific injuries can be grouped into three individual types which include:
- Crush injuries caused when an individual is crushed between a vehicle and wall for example.
- Collision injuries as a consequence of direct impact with a moving forklift truck.
- Impact injuries as a consequence of falling objects caused by a forklift truck.
While the vast majority of injuries from forklift truck accident will be relatively minor there are unfortunately a number of deaths reported each year as a consequence of accidents involving forklift trucks. It is therefore vital that not only do employers abide by the regulations and their duty of care to employees, contractors and visitors, but also employees act within the regulations and ensure a safe environment at all times.
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The vast majority of potentially dangerous situations regarding forklift trucks and other transport vehicles are covered in the following acts of Parliament:
- Workplace (Health Safety and Welfare) Regulations 1992.
- Provision and Use of Work Equipment Regulations 1998.
- Rider-Operated Lift Trucks: Operator training and safe use: Approved Code of practice and guidance.
These are specific acts of Parliament associated with areas such as workplace transport which are also complemented by traditional Health and Safety Executive regulations. If an employer is found to have flouted regulations and neglected their duty of care to employees, contractors and visitors to their site, there is every chance they could be found negligent and liable to forklift truck accident compensation. At this point it is also worth noting that even if the injury was the result of negligence by a fellow employee it is still the employer who may be liable in the eyes of the law.
Making A Claim For Forklift Truck Accident Compensation
If you have been the victim of an accident involving a forklift truck then the first port of call is to seek medical assistance and treatment as soon as possible. This may involve simple on the spot treatment or potentially long-term rehabilitation. The very fact that medical assistance was sought will ensure that details of the accident and your injuries are noted on your medical records. This can prove to be very useful if your compensation claim was to proceed.
Once any injuries from the forklift truck accident have been addressed it is then time to make a detailed report of when the accident happened, where the accident happened and why the accident happened. It is also imperative that you inform your employer of the incident as soon as possible and ensure that it is noted in the accident book and, where applicable, reported to the Health and Safety Executive. In many situations there will be witnesses to the forklift accident and their details should be gathered and included in your report to a personal injury solicitor. Any visual evidence such as photographs, camera phone snaps, of the area where the incident occurred can also prove extremely beneficial further down the line.
As workplace accidents are fairly commonplace across the UK, an experienced work accident solicitor will be able to advise you of the strength of your forklift truck accident claim. If they believe the claim is strong enough to succeed they will likely offer a No Win No Fee arrangement whereby any compensation awarded by the courts is split between the claimant and the solicitor. This ensures that our clients do not have to pay cash upfront for representation and is a strong indicator of the strength of a case.
Types Of Forklift Truck Accident Compensation
There is no hard and fast rule with regards to forklift truck accident compensation levels although courts will use figures from years gone by when considering similar injuries. Each case will be reviewed on its individual merits with general damages and special damages considered.
In simple terms, general damages relate to the pain and suffering, life changing injuries and any mental trauma suffered as a consequence of the forklift truck accident and resulting injury. There is significant scope for input by the judge, assuming the case goes to court, which will depend upon the severity of the injuries and the degree of negligence on behalf of an employer.
While general damages relate to specific pain and suffering as a consequence of any injury, special damages are a reimbursement of costs as a consequence of the forklift accident and any potential expenditure going forward. They include:
- Loss of your earnings.
- Loss of your future earnings.
- Any related medical expenses incurred.
- Additional transport expenses.
- Specialist equipment and adaptions required.
- Any future medical expenses.
When negligence and liability are fairly straightforward it is highly likely that any forklift truck accident compensation claim would be settled out of court. This ensures that the employer is not exposed to negative press coverage and also reduces potentially high legal costs. It is up to the claimant to present figures for general damages and special damages and the data used to arrive at these figures. Where negligence and liability are proven, assuming your forklift truck accident compensation claim is realistic, the courts will look favourably upon detailed compensation requests.