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Forklift Accident Reconstruction

Forklift and Material Handler Accident Analysis

Forklift accidents pose certain challenges during accident reconstruction due to their relatively small size, but heavy weight. Typically forklift accidents occur when the operator misjudges the handling of the forklift, or when the forklift contacts another object. Rough terrain forklifts and telehandlers (telescoping material handler) are typically used in challenging environments or in areas of uneven terrain. These machines are designed with wide track widths to aid in lateral stability  and with multiple degrees of freedom to allow them to tilt from side to side when used off-road. The complexity of the machine along with uneven terrain can be challenging to an operator which can result in a variety of accidents.


Forklift Involved in Accident

Forklifts are designed to be operated in many different environments. Their ease of use makes them invaluable in factory work settings as well as in outdoor loading areas alike. Most of the time, forklifts are designed to lift loads that have been “palletized” with a wooden pallet underneath the payload. Pallets position the load at a small distance above the ground, allowing the forks of the forklift to slide underneath the load, within the spacing that the pallet provides, and lift the pallet and load together off of the ground.

Common Forklift Accidents

Tipping due to an overloaded forklift is one type of common accident. When positioned properly, a palletized load is positioned such that the forks of the forklift are completely underneath the load and the load is near the forklift mast before it is lifted. If the load is not positioned near the mast of the forklift, the load can cause the forklift to become unbalanced, and may potentially tip the forklift forward. It is important for a forklift operator to understand the proper operation of lifting a heavy load with a forklift in order to minimize the potential for tip over accidents.

Forklifts are commonly used in loading dock areas. It is common for the dock ledge to be built at a height consistent with the deck height of a commercial vehicle’s trailer, typically around four feet tall. With this consistent height, forklifts can be used to unload commercial vehicle trailers very easily. Accidents within this setting can occur when a forklift operator misjudges the location of the forklift in reference to the ledge of the dock. It is common for forklifts to be inadvertently driven off the ledge of the dock, causing the forklift and operator to fall off of the dock. It is common for forklift operators to become partially trapped underneath the forklift from a fall like this, and serious crushing-type injuries to the operator are common.



Operation of forklifts and material handlers on uneven terrain is also common. Telehandlers are commonly used in construction sites due to their off-road capabilities and load-carrying capacity. Also, the forks of a telehandler are positioned at the end of an extendable boom instead of affixed to a mast, as they are on traditional forklifts, and the extendable boom allows the telehandler to position loads at significant heights. Tip-over events with telehandlers are common, due to the influence of the vehicle mass on soft dirt surfaces. These types of accidents require consideration of the payload weight, load positioning, and external factors such as the operating environment when performing an accident reconstruction.

Exemplar Telehandler

All forklifts contain a wide array of moving parts. Due to the flexibility in the usage of the equipment, these working parts have to be properly inspected and maintained to ensure that the machinery systems do not fail. A failed part can result in catastrophic accidents and severe injury due to the significant mass of the equipment. The condition and proper operation of these mechanical systems may prove to be a significant contributing factor to an accident or to occupant injuries. Our trial-experienced Professional Engineers are well qualified to handle complicated issues and to assess critical investigation points which often arise during the litigation process. Contact us today to discuss the specifics of your case.


Please contact one of our licensed professional engineers at 303-660-4395 to discuss your case and receive a free initial consultation with honest and candid comments.

Mark Kittel, PE expert witness

Mark Kittel, P.E., D.F.E

Principal Engineer

Joe Tremblay, PE expert witness

Joe Tremblay, P.E., D.F.E.

Principal Engineer

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