Forklifts pose a number of risks in the workplace and are a significant cause of death and severe injury each year. Injuries may be sustained by forklift drivers or those working on the ground around them due to their manoeuvrability, carriage of heavy cargo and instability under certain conditions.
You may be able to claim compensation for injuries that result from a forklift accident if it was caused by someone else’s negligence or carelessness. Negligence may arise in a variety of settings.
If you are injured at work, you may be able to claim compensation from your employer. Employers must provide proper and adequate means for employees to carry out their work. This includes:
If you are injured because your employer does not provide safe systems of work, equipment or a safe environment, you may be able to sue for personal injury compensation. This includes late onset injuries and aggravations of pre-existing injuries.
Hazards surrounding the use of forklifts exist in professions where cargo is frequently transported. Industries with the highest use of forklift vehicles are manufacturing, construction, wholesale trades, transportation, retail trades and mining.
Examples: Jeff is injured at work when he falls from a forklift while conducting a warehouse stocktake. He is standing on a pallet that has been elevated on the tines of a forklift to access the higher shelves. Jeff’s employer instructed him to perform the task this way and no other safe elevated work station is provided. Jeff can claim compensation from his employer for his personal injuries as it failed to supply a safe system of work. Rick is injured at work when he walks out in front of a moving forklift and is hit. He is unaware of the presence of the forklift working around him as he is listening to music in his headphones. Rick is unlikely to get compensation for his injuries as they were due to his own negligence. However, he could apply for Workers Compensation payments while he is off work.
See also: WorkCover claims
In general terms, the amount of compensation is gauged by comparing what your life was like before the injury and what it is like now as a result of the injury. Someone whose injury has had a greater impact on their life will be entitled to more compensation than someone whose injury has had only minimal impact. The amount of compensation payable for your injuries will vary greatly from case to case, depending on a variety of variables such as:
General damages compensate you for the pain and suffering you have experienced as well as any permanent loss of enjoyment of life as a result of an injury. They are calculated by reference to the ISV Scale which rates the seriousness of any injury between 1 and 100 and accords a monetary value range to that rating. For example a severe spinal injury like quadriplegia has a rating of 75 to 100 and a monetary range of $232,600 to $349,400 whereas a minor soft tissue injury is rated 0 to 4 with a monetary range of $0 to $5,560.
To diagnose and treat an injury you may ned to consult your general practitioner, consult a specialist, obtain x-rays or MRIs, take pain medications and wear special braces apparatus. The expenses you incur to obtain medical treatment including costs of consultations, diagnostic scans, travel costs, medication and medical equipment may be claimed as compensation. You can also claim for medical costs you will incur in the future as a result of your injury.
Some injuries require surgery to stabilise or repair injured bones or soft tissue. Surgical or hospital costs paid by you can be claimed as compensation as long as the surgery was necessary to treat your condition.
Rehabilitating after an injury may involve physiotherapy, chiropractic treatments, acupuncture, massage, home and vehicle modifications and ergonomic aids. Your reasonable costs of rehabilitation can be claimed back as compensation.
If you sustain serious injuries you may need time off work for several weeks or months immediately after the incident. You can claim compensation for this lost income. If your injury prevents you from working to the same extent as you did prior to the injury you may also be able to claim loss of future income earning capacity. This is usually estimated as a lump sum figure based on the age of the person, their usual occupation and other skills.
Compensation can be claimed for superannuation that would have been paid on lost income.
Serious injuries may prevent you from being able to perform tasks such as personal care, cleaning, laundry, mowing your lawns, caring for the garden or other domestic chores. If you formerly performed these duties but are now unable to due to an injury you can claim compensation for care and assistance provided to you by friends, relatives or paid contractors. In Queensland, there is a minimum threshold for this type of compensation
Interest can generally be claimed on compensation for any out of pocket expenses that are incurred before your claim is resolved.
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For most personal injury claims, a legal action must be commenced within 3 years of the date of the injury. If you miss this deadline, your claim will be statute barred and you will lose all rights to claim compensation. However, depending on where your injury occurred or who you are suing, specific pre-court procedures may apply. Pre-court procedures have their own time limits which are much sooner. If you miss these time limits you may lose your right to claim unless you can provide good reason for delaying and why you should be allowed to proceed with your claim. The time limits specified by some pre-court procedures are set out below.
If you are under 18 years of age For minors, the obligation to serve the other party with a Notice of Claim begins when the child turns 18, however a parent or guardian may do this on behalf of the minor before they turn 18. In the case of medical negligence claims, a parent or legal guardian of a minor must serve a Notice of Claim within 6 years of the day when the parent or guardian knew or ought to have known of the injury.
A variety of accidents may occur involving forklifts and those most commonly encountered include:
The injuries sustained from a forklift accident may range from minor to catastrophic or fatal. Severe crush injuries may result in the loss of limbs, paraplegia, brain injuries and severely reduced quality of life.
Depending on the nature of your injuries and the circumstances that caused them, compensation may or may not be available. You should always seek expert legal help to see if you are able to make a claim.
It’s important to get advice for your specific situation. Check if you can make a risk-free compensation claim and get free initial advice from our Principal lawyer, Greg Smith.
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