Get the compensation you deserve. Find out how to file a claim for your North Carolina workers’ compensation benefits.
Weighing about 9,000 lbs on average, these vehicles require special training before workers are permitted to operate them. Forklifts can be a challenge to maneuver because they’re heavier in the rear, and they only have brakes on their front wheels. They also have smaller turning radiuses than cars because the operator must move the rear wheels to turn.
Every year in the U.S., workers across many industries suffer serious injuries and even death due to preventable forklift accidents. In fact, according to the National Safety Council, forklift accidents caused 70 work-related deaths in 2021 and resulted in more than 7,000 nonfatal injuries.
Fortunately, most employees who get hurt on the job in North Carolina are eligible to receive compensation for their medical expenses and time off from work through workers’ compensation insurance.
In the news: In December 2022, a worker was killed in a forklift accident at a Dunn, North Carolina, warehouse used by the Food Lion grocery chain. The worker was hit by the forklift while walking down an aisle in the warehouse collecting items for an order. A coworker was operating the forklift at the time of the incident.
Common causes of forklift accidents
There are several factors that may contribute to a forklift accident.
Because forklifts maneuver differently than cars, accidents are common if employees don’t receive the proper training. Accidents are also more likely to occur if operators feel pressured to work quickly or if they’re otherwise stressed at work.
Other risk factors include:
- Overloading a forklift
- Improperly storing a forklift
- Lack of necessary maintenance
- Failure to inspect the forklift before use
Certain environmental factors also increase the risk of a forklift accident happening. For example, a poorly designed workspace that has narrow aisles or obstructions can make it difficult for even an experienced operator to safely move around their work area.
Common forklift accident injuries
Due to their size and weight, forklifts can often result in severe life-threatening injuries. In addition to forklift drivers, the people who work in close proximity to the vehicles are most likely to be injured in an accident.
Common injuries include the following:
- Broken bones
Forklift operators and other workers who are injured on the job should immediately seek medical attention to prevent any serious medical complications and ensure they remain eligible for workers’ compensation benefits.
North Carolina workers’ compensation law
North Carolina law requires most companies with 3 or more employees to carry a workers’ compensation insurance policy. If an employee sustains a work injury, the employer is required to file a claim with its insurance company to allow the worker to receive compensation for their work-related injury.
The workers’ comp process generally provides a fast and efficient process through which injured workers may receive the medical attention and supplemental payments they need to recover from their injuries and return to work.
Eligible workers don’t need to prove their employer was at fault for their injury. In most cases, employees can receive benefits after an injury regardless of who caused the accident as long as they can prove that their injury or illness occurred within the scope and course of their work (while they were at work or performing their work duties).
Types of workers’ comp benefits
If you’re injured in a forklift accident or any other kind of work-related accident in North Carolina, workers’ comp will provide the following benefits:
- Medical expenses. All necessary medical expenses are covered under workers’ comp. Examples of typical medical expenses include exams, follow-up visits, surgeries, hospitalizations, medications, medical supplies, medical devices, and related transportation expenses.
- Lost wages. In addition to medical expenses, workers’ comp provides supplemental payments to compensate workers for lost income during the time the worker is required to take off to recover. This amount is typically two-thirds of your average weekly wage for a period of time that varies depending on your disability.
- Death benefits. These benefits for funeral expenses and lost wages are payable to certain dependents if a worker dies from their work injury.
When it comes to workers’ compensation, there is a lot of misinformation, myths and misconceptions out there that confuse everyday folks who aren’t sure whether or not they are covered.
Filing a workers’ comp claim in North Carolina
Workers who are injured by a forklift on the job should take the following steps in North Carolina to receive workers’ comp benefits:
- Seek medical care. You should always seek immediate medical attention due to the potentially serious nature of forklift-related injuries. Doing so will also provide medical documentation linking your injury to your work accident, which is necessary for a successful workers’ comp claim.
- Notify your employer. Next, you must notify your employer about your injury in writing within 30 days. Your employer will need to know all of the details regarding the accident, including the date, time and location of the accident.
- File a claim. After you notify your employer, you must file a claim with the Industrial Commission. If this claim isn’t filed within 2 years of your injury, you won’t be eligible to receive any benefits.
- Contact an attorney. If your claim is denied or you need help filing your claim, contact an experienced workers’ compensation attorney to ensure all necessary steps in the process are followed.
Are you aware of the time limits for filing a claim after a workplace injury or occupational disease in North Carolina? The clock is ticking, and missing the deadline can jeopardize your chances of getting the compensation you deserve.
Preventing forklift injuries in the workplace
Employers and their workers can take preventative measures to avoid forklift accidents.
Training is a critical starting point for forklift operators. Employers should only allow properly trained workers to drive forklifts and use other heavy equipment.
Supervision is also important. Managers should supervise workers to ensure everyone follows the required safety protocols, including:
- Traveling at low speeds
- Using safety equipment during operation
- Staying out of the path of moving forklifts
- Properly securing loads
- Only driving with loads in the lowest position
Equipment should also be regularly inspected for routine maintenance and repair-related issues.
Contact a North Carolina workers’ compensation attorney
Taking proper steps to prevent forklift injuries can keep workers safe and even save lives. But even with proper precautions in place, accidents still happen.
If you experience a forklift accident at work, a workers’ comp attorney can help you explore all possible avenues for collecting compensation. In some instances, injured workers may be able to file a personal injury lawsuit against a 3rd party (someone other than their employer) to receive additional compensation for their injuries. (For example, if a forklift manufacturer is at fault because of a defective part.) An attorney can help you decide which parties may be liable in your case.
At Wilder Pantazis Law Group, our experienced work injury attorneys are committed to helping workers in North and South Carolina recover maximum compensation for their injuries.