Montana workers injured in forklift accidents are entitled to workers’ comp benefits, regardless of who is at fault for the accident.
Montana is a leader in manufacturing and construction, with growth in the construction industry up 12.3% in the state from February 2020 to February 2022.
Many of the workers in these industries rely on forklifts to lift and move heavy items such as pallets, crates, boxes, bulk products, machinery and vehicles on a daily basis. Forklifts are also frequently used to load and unload trucks and move materials between storage areas.
Because of the inherent dangers that exist when using a forklift, special training and certification are required to operate one. But even when these and other safety precautions are followed, accidents still occur that can result in serious and life-altering injuries for these workers.
Fortunately, most workers who are injured in a forklift accident in Montana are entitled to workers’ compensation benefits to cover medical expenses and lost wages. This article will explain your rights and the steps you need to take to file a successful workers’ comp claim.
Common causes of forklift accidents
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), 614 workers died in forklift-related incidents between 2011 and 2017 alone. Additionally, more than 7,000 workers sustain nonfatal injuries from forklift accidents annually.
Some common causes of forklift-related accidents include the following:
- Operator error. This can include improper turning, driving too fast or not paying attention to the surrounding area.
- Equipment malfunction. This can include brake failure, steering problems, or fork or lifting mechanism issues.
- Inadequate training. If operators are not properly trained to use the forklift and follow safety protocols, they’re more likely to make mistakes that lead to accidents and injury.
Other risk factors that can increase the likelihood of forklift-related injuries include:
- Crowded or cluttered work environments
- Poorly maintained equipment
- Operator fatigue
- Lack of proper signage and markings
Common injuries that result from forklift accidents
Some common forklift-related injuries that can occur in the workplace include the following:
- Crush injuries. These can occur when a worker is caught between the forklift and another object, such as a wall or vehicle.
- Amputations. These can occur when a worker’s body part is caught in the moving parts of the forklift.
- Fractures. These can occur when a worker falls from or is struck by a forklift.
- Lacerations. These can occur from coming into contact with the forklift’s sharp edges or falling objects.
- Head injuries. These can occur from a fall from the forklift or from being struck by a falling object.
- Burns. These can occur from contacting hot parts of the forklift or from forklift fires.
- Back injuries. These types of musculoskeletal injuries may be caused by prolonged sitting and the vibrations of the forklift.
- Repetitive motion injuries. These can occur from operating the forklift for an extended period or performing the same motions repeatedly.
If you’re injured in a forklift-related accident, seek medical attention immediately to ensure that any injuries that have been sustained are properly assessed and treated. This can help to prevent minor injuries from becoming more serious and minimize any potential long-term effects of the accident.
Workers’ compensation for forklift-related injuries
Under Montana’s workers’ compensation law, most employers with 1 or more workers must provide workers’ compensation insurance to their employees.
Workers’ comp is a form of no-fault insurance, which means that in most cases, workers are entitled to compensation after an accident, even if they caused the accident. As long as the injury or illness occurred while the worker was performing their job duties, it should be covered under workers’ compensation insurance.
Types of workers’ comp benefits
In Montana, injured workers may be eligible for the following types of benefits:
- Medical benefits. These benefits cover the cost of all medical treatment, including surgeries, hospital stays, doctor visits, rehabilitation, medical supplies and medications.
- Wage loss benefits. These benefits are available to employees who cannot work or can only work in a limited capacity after an on-the-job injury or illness. Workers are typically entitled to two-thirds of their average weekly wages for a period of time that depends on their disability.
- Death benefits. If a worker dies of an injury or illness due to their job, their dependents are entitled to benefits that include lost wages and burial expenses.
Steps to take if you are injured in a forklift accident in Montana
If you’re injured at work, it’s necessary to take the following steps to get compensation:
- Seek medical treatment for your injuries. Always seek medical attention as soon as possible after any work accident to prevent your injuries from getting worse and to provide medical documentation that can link your injury to your job.
- Report the injury to your employer. According to Montana’s law, you must report your injury to your employer within 30 days. This should be done in writing and include details of the accident, including date, time, location and circumstances.
- Employer files First Report of Injury form. Employers are required to file a First Report of Injury form within 6 days of being notified by the injured worker to start the workers’ comp claim process.
- Wait to hear if your claim is accepted. Your employer’s workers’ comp insurer will then have 30 days to accept or deny your claim after receiving the First Report of Injury form.
- Consult a workers’ compensation attorney. If your claim is denied or you need help filing a claim, contact an experienced workers’ comp attorney to ensure your rights are protected.
Preventing forklift-related injuries in the workplace
Some steps that can be taken to prevent forklift accidents include the following:
- Follow safety protocols. All employees who operate forklifts or work in areas where forklifts are used should be familiar with and follow established safety protocols. This includes wearing appropriate personal protective equipment, adhering to posted speed limits, and keeping a safe distance from other workers.
- Conduct regular equipment inspections. Employers should ensure that all forklifts are inspected regularly by trained personnel. This includes checking for any damage or wear and tear that could affect the forklift’s performance and safety.
- Provide proper training to operators. Forklift operators should be properly trained and certified. Employers should also ensure that workers are trained to operate specific types of forklifts and to handle unique loads and materials.
Contact a Montana workers’ compensation attorney
The process of obtaining workers’ compensation benefits can be complex and challenging. Even small mistakes can prevent injured workers from getting the benefits they deserve, so it’s always best to consult with an experienced workers’ compensation attorney who can inform you of your rights and ensure all necessary paperwork is filed on time.
If you’ve been hurt at work in Montana, contact our Great Falls work injury attorneys at Murphy Law Firm. Our Great Falls lawyers have more than 75 years of experience helping workers across Montana get maximum compensation after a work-related injury or illness.
Contact us today to learn more about your legal options and receive a free case evaluation.