Forklift Accident Lawyer
Forklift Accidents: A Major Problem in Texas
Forklifts are classified as powered industrial trucks by OSHA. According to OSHA, an estimated 96,700 people have been injured and 85 killed each year since 1981 due to unsafe powered industrial truck operation. (Almost 35,000 of those are serious injuries.) Thus, out of an estimated 855,900 total forklifts in the United States, greater than one out of every ten will be involved in an accident resulting in an injury.
Experienced Houston Forklift Accident Attorneys
Simmons and Fletcher, P.C., has handled numerous forklift accident cases involving serious injuries against negligent employers in and around the Houston area. From the warehouses to the shipyards, forklift accidents are a regular occurrence in Houston and the southeast Texas region. If have been injured due to the negligent operation of a forklift, you should call us now for a free consultation. We charge no fees unless we win your case.
Call Simmons and Fletcher, P.C. toll free to learn about your rights: (800) 298-0111.
Common Causes Of Forklift Accidents
There are many reasons why Forklift accidents occur. Sadly, all of them are preventable yet they still occur with great frequency. They can be divided into two main categories: Operator Negligence and Employer Negligence.
- Excessive speed
- Driving with the load elevated
- Unbalanced loads
- Improper turning, braking or other driving procedures
- Backing when unsafe
- Failure to account for low clearances or narrow corridors
Another common reason for accidents involving forklifts is employer negligence. Employers have a duty to protect their workers from hazards at work and to provide a safe working environment. As we and many forklift injury lawyers know all too well, when employers cut corners workers get hurt.
There are several ways in which an employer’s malfeasance can cause forklift accidents. Some of these are:
- Failure to provide proper training
- Failure to maintain the forklift
- Failure to adopt clear safety rules for the operation and maintenance of forklifts
- Failure to design and provide a safe work place for the operation of forklifts
- Allowing too much noise in the work area for safe communication and hearing alarms
- Failure to provide low clearance warnings
- Failing to adopt proper procedures to prevent trailer-dock separation accidents by trucks while being unloaded.
Common Injuries From Forklift Accidents
Forklifts are heavy equipment and can cause very serious injuries. The typical types of forklift injuries are:
Companies Have a Duty to Prevent Forklift Accidents
All employers owe a duty to provide a safe workplace to their employees under Texas law. Safety starts with training. Not only does the employer owe a duty to make sure the operator knows how to safely operate the forklift but that he is responsible and of sober mind to do so.
In addition to training, this duty to provide a safe workplace to anticipate potential hazards in the work area that may affect the safe operation of forklifts. Low hanging doors and ceilings must be accounted for with proper markings and low clearance alarm bars where necessary. Travel space must be not only wide enough but clear of blockage and debris that would affect the safe operation of the forklift. Furthermore, noise must be held to a minimum in the work area so alarms and coworkers can be heard.
In the end, it is up to the employer in charge to make sure the work area is safe for all employees whether they are operating the forklift or merely forced to work in and around the forklift. If you suspect your employer failed to honor his obligation to provide a safe workplace resulting in your injury, you should speak with a forklift accident attorney immediately. Call Simmons and Fletcher, P.C. for a free consultation today.
What If My Employer Provides Worker’s Compensation?
If your employer is one of those that provides Worker’s Compensation for its employees, you cannot bring a claim directly against your employer. However, you may have a claim against another company. For example, if the forklift malfunctioned because of a manufacturing defect, design flaw, or other failure you may be able to bring a claim against the fork lift manufacturer.
Texas Worker’s Compensation Law shields employers from lawsuits by their own employee for on the job injuries except in the case of gross negligence. However, you may have a claim against another company if you are on a job site where employees of other companies are involved. If the forklift operator works for another company, you may very well have a third party injury claim against that company for its failure to train the employee. Similarly, if the work place you are in is owned by another company and it causes or contributes to the accident, you may have a third party injury case.
Determining whether there is or is not a third-party injury claim can be tricky and confusing. Thus, even if you have Worker’s Compensation coverage, you should consult with an attorney about your rights.
Do I Still Have A Case If the Forklift Operator Is Certified To Drive a Forklift?
The short answer is: Yes. Just because the operator who injured you is OSHA certified to operate a forklift does not mean he cannot be held liable for the negligent operation of a forklift.
Did you know that a company can get its employees OSHA certified to safely operate a forklift in only one hour of training time? A simple search of Google reveals numerous websites that offer these courses for as little as $49.95 and promise certification in about an hour of time. One site states: “There are no books or videos to buy, costly training facilities to rent or special times to schedule. If it’s a 15 minute break, over lunch or after work… simply log in and start!” Another site boasts: “You can get certified on most smart cellphones, any time – any place.” Even those that go to actual training courses such as that provided by the Forklift Academy only receive a total of 4 hours of instruction for which they pay about $150.00. Thus, just because an employee has a certificate does not mean he is an experienced forklift operator.
Do I Still Have A Case If My Employment Agreement Requires Arbitration Of Injury Claims?
Yes. Many employers who are too cheap to provide workers compensation force their employees instead require their employers to “opt-in” to an employee occupational injury benefit plan which is really just fake comp. These plans are typically provided in conjunction with an employer-employee agreement that requires the employee to waive his right to sue the employer and, instead, submit the case to arbitration when he is injured on-the-job by the negligence of the employer or a coworker.
The problem with these arbitration agreements is that they often severely restrict discovery by imposing limits on how long you have to bring a claim/request arbitration, the length and number of depositions that may be conducted, restricting or even prohibiting written interrogatories, requests for production and/or requests for admissions that would normally be available under the law, and by prohibiting the issuing of subpoenas to third-parties. Texas law is rather vague on what these agreements can and cannot get away with, however, an arbitration agreement “is unenforceable if, given the parties’ general commercial background and the commercial needs of the particular trade or case, the clause involved is so one-sided that it is unconscionable under the circumstances existing when the parties made the contract.” In Re Poly America, L.P., 262 S.W.3d 337 (Tex. 2008).
If you are injured in a forklift accident and your employer has a fake comp. policy in conjunction with an arbitration clause, you should definitely seek the advice of an experienced on-the-job accident attorney to determine your rights. Call Simmons and Fletcher, P.C. for a free consultation with a forklift injury lawyer trusted by Texans for decades to help them with their on-the-job injury case. You should bring all of the items below that you can gather.
What Should I Bring To My Free Consultation?
There are several important things your attorney will need to review to properly handle your case. The more that you can gather and bring to the interview, the smoother your appointment will go. These items include:
- Any Occupational Injury Plan documents you have detailing the requirements of your plan,
- Your employee handbook,
- Any documentation showing who, if anyone, has paid any of your medical bills or lost wages,
- A copy of any paid or outstanding medical bills you have,
- A copy of your last pay stub showing your earnings at the time of the injury and the correct name of your employer,
- Any photographs of the scene, your injury or any other matter relevant to the case that you have in your possession,
- the name, address and phone number of any persons who witnessed the incident or the dangerous working conditions.
All of these items will help us to understand your case and advise you of your rights.
Contact Our Forklift Injury Attorneys
If you were injured at a store or at work in a forklift accident, you may be eligible to file a claim seeking compensation. Call Simmons and Fletcher, P.C., today at (713) 932-0777 to schedule a free and confidential consultation. With so much at stake you need Simmons and Fletcher, P.C., on your side. We’ve been helping Houston area residents hold negligent parties accountable since 1979. Let us help you too.
More Information Regarding Forklift Accidents