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Most Common Forklift Accidents: Causes, Types, and Associated Injuries

Written By:
Tor Hoerman
Tor Hoerman

Attorney Tor Hoerman, admitted to the Illinois State Bar Association since 1995 and The Missouri Bar since 2009, specializes nationally in mass tort litigations. Locally, Tor specializes in auto accidents and a wide variety of personal injury incidents occuring in Illinois and Missouri.

This article has been written and reviewed for legal accuracy and clarity by the team of writers and attorneys at TorHoerman Law and is as accurate as possible. This content should not be taken as legal advice from an attorney. If you would like to learn more about our owner and experienced injury lawyer, Tor Hoerman, you can do so here.

TorHoerman Law does everything possible to make sure the information in this article is up to date and accurate. If you need specific legal advice about your case, contact us. This article should not be taken as advice from an attorney.

An Overview of the Most Common Forklift Accidents and How They Occur

On this page, we’ll discuss the Most Common Forklift Accidents, how forklift accidents happen, common forklift injuries, and much more.

Types and Causes of Forklift Accidents

Forklift accidents pose a significant threat to workers and pedestrians alike because of the machinery’s size, weight, and power.

While forklifts are indispensable in many workplaces, their misuse or negligence can lead to severe consequences.

Most Common Forklift Accidents Causes, Types, and Associated Injuries

Forklift accidents can have devastating effects, ranging from physical injuries to emotional trauma and financial burdens.

Victims may suffer from fractures, traumatic brain injuries, or even loss of limbs, leading to long-term disabilities and psychological distress.

Countless individuals are killed annually by forklift accidents.

Families of those affected may experience emotional turmoil and financial strain due to medical expenses and loss of income.

If you or a loved one are suffering from forklift accident injuries due to someone else’s negligence, you may be entitled to compensation.

TorHoerman Law is dedicated to representing victims of forklift accidents and helping them seek justice and recover the damages they deserve. 

Contact us for a free consultation.

You can also use the chatbot on this page to find out if you qualify for a forklift accident lawsuit instantly.

Table of Contents

The Significance and Hazards of Forklifts

Powered industrial trucks, more commonly known as forklifts or lift trucks, are indispensable machinery in various industries, enabling easy and efficient material handling and logistics operations.

Whether in a construction site, warehouse, manufacturing facility, or even a retail store, forklift trucks are a staple in many workplaces worldwide.

Their significance also comes with inherent hazards that require proper training, operation, and maintenance to avoid accidents.

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) reported that forklifts account for 85 fatal forklift accidents and 34,900 forklift-related injuries annually in the United States alone.

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) recorded 614 fatalities and over 7,000 nonfatal workplace injuries involving forklifts from 2011 to 2017.

These forklift accident statistics highlight the severity and frequency of forklift accidents, which significantly impact the safety and well-being of workers and pedestrians.

To improve forklift safety and reduce accidents and injuries, OSHA has strict regulations and guidelines for safe forklift operation and maintenance, as well as training of forklift operators, employers, and employees.

These regulations include proper inspection and upkeep of forklifts, operator training, and adherence to safety protocols in the workplace.

OSHA requires forklift operators to be at least 18 years old and have proper training and certification to operate forklift equipment safely.

Additionally, employers must provide a safe working environment by ensuring regular equipment maintenance and fostering a culture of safety in the workplace.

Failure to comply with OSHA standards and guidelines can result in fines, penalties, or legal action.

In the event of an accident, not following OSHA’s regulations can also serve as evidence of negligence, making employers liable for any resulting damages.

Common Forklift Accidents

Forklift accidents have various forms, with different causes and severity levels.

Some of the most common forklift accidents include:

  • Tip-overs or rollovers
  • Struck-by incidents
  • Falls from forklifts
  • Collisions with objects or structures
  • Operator error

Tip-Overs or Rollovers

Forklift rollovers or tip-overs are the most common and fatal forklift accidents.

They occur when a forklift’s center of gravity shifts and causes it to tip over.

Some causes of forklift tip-overs include:

  • Uneven weight distribution
  • Excessive speed, especially when rounding corners
  • Uneven or unstable surfaces
  • Improper loading of cargo
  • Operating on inclines or ramps
  • Lifting loads that exceed the forklift’s capacity

On December 2, 2021, an employee died when his forklift tipped over while he was moving products.

One of the rear wheels got caught in a ditch, causing the forklift to overturn.

At the time, the employee was not wearing a seatbelt and tried to jump out of the lift truck in panic, but it landed on him.

Struck-by Incidents

Struck-by incidents refer to accidents where a forklift collides with an object, person, or another vehicle.

These accidents can happen due to blind spots, inadequate signaling, or negligent operation.

Some causes of struck-by accidents include:

  • Pedestrians or workers entering a forklift’s path
  • Falling loads from the forklifts’ elevated forks
  • Visibility issues such as poor lighting or obstructed view
  • Lack of warning signs in the workplace
  • Improper turning

OSHA reported an incident on February 1, 2022, in which an employee suffered a fractured ankle.

He was waiting on a truck trailer while his coworker unloaded it using a forklift.

The forklift driver drove into the truck with elevated forks, striking the employee’s right ankle.

The employee only sustained a fracture without the need for hospitalization.

Falls From Forklifts

Forklift operators and workers can also fall from forklifts, resulting in serious injuries or fatalities.

These accidents may occur due to the following reasons:

  • Excessive speed or reckless driving
  • Operating on inclines or uneven surfaces
  • Unstable or excessively tall loads
  • Lack of safety harness, seat belt, or restraint

An example of a forklift fall accident happened on December 27, 2021, when a forklift operator fell from his forklift while unloading products from a truck.

The truck driver thought the operator was done unloading and began pulling away, causing the lift truck to fall while the operator was still on it.

The operator rolled in reverse and fell approximately four feet, resulting in back and shoulder contusions and a need for surgery.

Collisions With Objects or Structures

Collisions with objects or structures are common forklift accidents that can result in property damage, injuries, or even fatalities.

These collisions may occur due to:

  • Lack of visibility and poor lighting
  • Maneuvering narrow aisles or small spaces
  • Operator error or negligence
  • Malfunctioning or defective forklift parts

A collision with an object occurred on February 16, 2022, when a forklift driver struck a guardrail because he wasn’t paying attention while driving.

In his attempt to correct the direction of the lift truck, he lost control and hit another guardrail.

He sustained a severe laceration on his lower leg, requiring hospitalization.

Operator Error

Forklift operator error is a broad category of accidents that may involve any of the above causes and more.

Some operator errors include:

  • Failure to follow safety protocols
  • Inadequate training or certification
  • Operating under the influence of drugs, alcohol, or medication
  • Reckless driving or horseplay with the forklift

An operator error incident occurred on November 2, 2021, when an employee got pinned between two forklifts.

A coworker parked a Crown forklift, leaving its control arm in the on/coast position.

The employee parked the Hyster forklift she was using next to the Crown forklift.

As she exited the Hyster forklift, she grabbed the handle of the Crown forklift for support, accidentally engaging the throttle and pinning her between the two lift trucks.

She sustained a fracture in her left leg, requiring hospitalization.

Causes of Forklift Accidents

Understanding the root causes of forklift accidents is essential for implementing effective prevention strategies.

While these accidents have unique circumstances, there are common causes of many forklift accidents that operators and employers should be aware of to prevent forklift injuries.

Causes can include:

  • Inadequate training
  • Poor workplace design
  • Mechanical failures
  • Lack of safety protocols

Inadequate Training

Lack of proper training can make operators unaware of safety protocols, weight capacity, or maneuvering techniques, increasing the risk of accidents.

Employers should ensure that all forklift operators are adequately trained and certified before operating the equipment.

They should also provide refresher training and regular evaluations to ensure continued competence.

Poor Workplace Design

A poorly designed workplace can be a significant contributor to forklift accidents.

Narrow aisles, blocked sight, and uneven surfaces can make it challenging for operators to maneuver safely.

Employers should assess their workplace design regularly and make necessary changes to improve safety.

Some safety solutions may include:

  • Separating pedestrian and forklift traffic with physical barriers or designated pathways
  • Installing warning signs, mirrors, and lights to improve visibility
  • Leveling and maintaining smooth surfaces

Employers must also alert pedestrians of potential hazards to improve safety in forklift operation areas.

Mechanical Failures

Malfunctioning or defective forklift parts can also lead to accidents.

Faulty brakes, steering systems, or other mechanical issues can compromise a forklift’s safety, highlighting the importance of regular maintenance and inspections.

Employers should have a designated forklift maintenance schedule and ensure that all equipment is in proper working condition before use.

Pre-shift inspections are critical in identifying potential issues, such as damaged tires or fluid leaks, before operating a forklift.

Lack of Safety Protocols

Forklift accidents can also occur due to a lack of safety protocols.

Employers should establish and enforce strict safety protocols for all forklift operators to follow.

These protocols should include wearing seatbelts and protective equipment, maintaining a safe distance from edges and other hazards, and not exceeding the forklift’s weight capacity.

OSHA provided safe operating rules for powered industrial trucks, including forklifts, which employers should review and incorporate into their safety protocols.

Regular training and reminders can also help reinforce these safety protocols.

Injuries Associated With Forklift Accidents

Forklift accidents can result in a wide range of injuries, from minor cuts and bruises to severe trauma and fatalities.

Some common forklift injuries include:

  • Bruises, cuts, and lacerations
  • Soft tissue injuries
  • Fractures and broken bones
  • Traumatic brain injuries (TBI)
  • Spinal cord injuries
  • Internal injuries
  • Crush injuries
  • Amputations
  • Paralysis
  • Fatalities

Bruises, Cuts, and Lacerations

Minor forklift incidents may result in bruises or superficial cuts due to contact with sharp edges, falling objects, or machinery components.

While these injuries may seem small, they can lead to more severe complications if not treated promptly.

Frequent minor incidents can indicate more significant safety issues that employers must address.

Soft Tissue Injuries

Soft tissue injuries, such as sprains, strains, or tears in muscles, ligaments, or tendons, are common in forklift accidents.

These can result from sudden stops or movements, overexertion, or falling objects.

While they may not always require hospitalization, these injuries can lead to significant pain and discomfort for employees, affecting their productivity and quality of life.

Fractures and Broken Bones

Forklift accidents can cause severe trauma, resulting in fractures or broken bones.

These injuries often occur when an operator falls from the forklift or gets pinned between objects.

Depending on the severity and location of the bone fracture, these injuries may require surgery, physical therapy, and extensive recovery time.

Traumatic Brain Injuries (TBI)

Traumatic brain injuries (TBI) are a prevalent type of forklift accident injury, often caused by falling objects or tip-overs.

These injuries can range from mild concussions to severe brain damage, depending on the impact and location of the injury.

Those injured must seek immediate medical attention in case of a TBI, as long-term consequences can be severe.

Spinal Cord Injuries

Forklift accidents can also cause severe damage to the spinal cord, resulting in paralysis and lifelong disabilities.

These injuries often occur when an operator is pinned between objects or falls from the forklift.

Employers must implement strict safety protocols and provide proper training to avoid these life-altering injuries.

Internal Injuries

Forklift incidents can also result in internal injuries, such as broken ribs, organ damage, or internal bleeding.

These injuries are challenging to identify and may not immediately manifest symptoms.

It is essential to seek medical attention after any forklift accident and undergo a thorough examination to rule out any potential internal injuries.

Crush Injuries

Being caught between a forklift and another object or being struck by a falling load can result in crush injuries.

These injuries often require immediate medical attention and may result in permanent disabilities.

Employers must train forklift operators on proper load-handling techniques and provide necessary safety measures to avoid these accidents.


Severe crush injuries or entanglement with machinery components can result in traumatic amputations.

The loss of limbs can be life-changing for the individual and affect their ability to work and perform daily tasks.

Long-term support and rehabilitation may be necessary for those who experience amputations due to forklift accidents.


Forklift accidents can result in paralysis, either partial or complete.

This injury occurs when the spinal cord gets severely damaged and interrupts communication between the brain and other parts of the body.

Paralysis can significantly impact an individual’s quality of life and require long-term care and support.


In the most severe cases, forklift accidents can result in fatalities.

Forklift trucks are heavy, powerful machines and can cause significant damage and harm if not operated correctly.

Tipping over, falling objects, and collisions can all result in fatal injuries.

These tragedies can leave families devastated and communities mourning the loss of loved ones.

Emotional and Psychological Impact

Aside from physical injuries, forklift accidents can also have a significant emotional and psychological impact on those involved.

Witnessing or experiencing an accident can cause post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), anxiety, depression, and other mental health issues in workers.

These individuals may require ongoing therapy and support to cope with the event and return to work.

Employers must prioritize the emotional well-being of their employees and provide necessary resources for mental health support.

Financial Burden and Loss of Income

Forklift accidents can result in significant financial burdens for the individual and their families, especially if they are the primary provider for their household.

Medical expenses, lost wages during recovery, and rehabilitation costs can all add to the financial strain.

In severe cases, individuals may be unable to return to work at all, resulting in a loss of income and long-term economic hardship.

Preventing Forklift Accidents

Preventing forklift accidents requires a multifaceted approach that addresses both systemic issues and individual behaviors.

Some key strategies include:

  • Comprehensive operator training programs
  • Regular equipment maintenance and inspections
  • Adherence to safety guidelines and regulations

Comprehensive Operator Training Programs

Proper training is crucial for all forklift operators.

Employers must provide comprehensive training programs that cover not only the technical aspects of operating a forklift but also safety protocols and hazard recognition.

Regular refresher courses help reinforce safe practices and address any issues or gaps in knowledge.

Regular Equipment Maintenance and Inspections

Routine maintenance and inspections are essential for identifying and addressing mechanical issues before they escalate into safety hazards.

Employers should have a system for regular maintenance and inspections of all forklifts, ensuring they are always in safe operating condition.

Neglected or poorly maintained equipment can put operators and others at risk of accidents.

Adherence to Safety Guidelines and Regulations

OSHA and other regulatory bodies have specific guidelines and regulations for the safe operation of forklifts.

Employers must adhere to these rules and ensure that their employees are following them at all times.

They must also implement additional safety measures as needed to mitigate risks in the workplace.

Safety protocols such as wearing seatbelts, reducing speed, and avoiding shortcuts can significantly reduce the risk of accidents.

Legal Implications

In the unfortunate event of a forklift accident, victims may be entitled to compensation for their injuries and damages.

Pursuing a forklift accident lawsuit can help victims hold negligent parties accountable and secure the compensation they need to rebuild their lives.

Types of compensation available in forklift accident lawsuits may include:

  • Medical Bills: Compensation for past and future medical expenses related to the treatment of injuries sustained in the accident
  • Lost Wages: Reimbursement for income lost due to time off work for medical treatment, rehabilitation, or recovery
  • Pain and Suffering: Damages for physical pain, emotional distress, and mental trauma resulting from the accident and injuries
  • Wrongful Death: Compensation for the family members of victims who have died as a result of a forklift accident, including funeral expenses and loss of financial support

Consulting with a forklift injury lawyer is essential for understanding your legal rights and options following a forklift accident.

An experienced attorney can assess the circumstances of the accident, gather evidence, and advocate on your behalf to ensure that you receive fair compensation for your injuries and losses.

Talk to an Expert Forklift Accident Lawyer Today

Forklift accidents are a critical concern in the workplace, posing significant risks to workers and pedestrians.

In the event of an accident, victims should seek legal guidance to understand their rights and pursue compensation for their injuries and losses.

At TorHoerman Law, our experienced team of personal injury lawyers has a deep understanding of forklift accidents and the legal process involved in seeking compensation.

We have a proven track record of success in representing victims of forklift accidents and securing fair settlements for their damages.

Contact us for a free consultation.

You can also use the chatbot on this page to find out if you qualify for the forklift accident lawsuit instantly.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • What are the most common types of forklift accidents?

    Forklift accidents frequently involve forklift rollovers, where the forklift tips over due to uneven weight distribution or sharp turns.

    Collisions are also common, particularly when forklifts strike pedestrians in shared work areas or when two forklifts collide on narrow aisles.

    Accidents often occur when loads being carried fall from the forklift due to improper securing or overloading.

  • How do forklift accidents usually happen?

    Forklift accidents typically occur due to operator errors such as excessive speed, lack of attention, or failure to adhere to training protocols.

    Environmental factors like operating on uneven surfaces or in areas with poor visibility also contribute significantly.

    Failures in adhering to safety standards like not using seat belts or ignoring load capacity limits can lead to serious accidents.

  • What are typical injuries sustained in forklift accidents?

    Typical injuries from forklift accidents include broken bones, particularly fractures from being pinned by a forklift or from falls when loads shift unexpectedly.

    Spinal injuries and head trauma can occur, especially in rollover accidents or if the operator or a pedestrian is struck by the forklift or its load.

    In severe cases, these injuries can lead to long-term disability or even be fatal.

  • What factors contribute to forklift accidents?

    Several factors contribute to forklift accidents, including inadequate training on how to operate the forklift safely, especially in complex environments.

    Mechanical failures, such as brake malfunctions or hydraulic issues, also lead to accidents.

    Workplace conditions such as congested areas, the presence of blind spots, or inadequate signage contribute to the likelihood of accidents.

  • How can forklift accidents be prevented in the workplace?

    To prevent forklift accidents, workplaces should enforce strict training programs that emphasize safe operation practices and certify operators regularly.

    Implementing rigorous maintenance schedules for all forklifts to ensure they are in optimal working condition is critical.

    Workplaces should also redesign their layout to minimize interactions between forklifts and pedestrians, clearly mark forklift paths, and improve visibility with adequate lighting and mirrors.

    Employers should ensure that all safety features, like seat belts and audible warning devices, are used consistently.

Written By:
Tor Hoerman

Tor Hoerman

Owner & Attorney - TorHoerman Law

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