In mid-August, Edwin Gomez-Zarate, 35, was working for SiteOne Landscape Supply and operating a forklift to load and unload paver stones for a residential driveway project. Details are not immediately known, but Gomez-Zarate became trapped in the forklift in some way. Police were sent to the worksite that afternoon and Gomez-Zarate died shortly after 3 p.m. before arriving at a hospital.
This tragedy is an example of the dangers of many common workplace vehicles and equipment. While forklifts are routinely operated across the country, they require special training and a great deal of care. If the operator and workings around vehicle are not careful and observant, deadly accidents can occur.
The situation that led to Gomez-Zarate’s death is currently under investigation by the California Division of Occupational Safety & Health (CAL/OSHA), which may lead to more information. If there is evidence of a health and safety violation, SiteOne Landscape Supply may be sanctioned. Additionally, evidence of a violation or another person’s negligence may support a legal claim by the surviving spouse.
Forklift Accident Statistics
There are about 855,900 forklifts across the country. Of those, about 11% will be involved in some type of accident, resulting in 61,800 non-serious injuries, 34,900 serious injuries, and 85 fatalities each year.
Common Causes of Forklift Accidents
Forklift accidents are often predictable and preventable. In many situations, if safety experts were to witness how the forklift was regularly maintained and operated prior to accidents, they could easily have foreseen what was about to happen. Incidents, injuries, and fatalities are typically caused by:
- Lack of proper operator training or certification
- Operating the vehicle with an unsecured, imbalanced, and/or elevated load
- Inappropriately giving rides to others
- Playing around in the vehicle
- Backing up without looking or being able to see
- Improper vehicle maintenance
While many forklift accidents are caused by negligent operation of the vehicle, accidents are also caused by improper environments, lack of supervision, and other factors. It is possible for the employer or another worker to be responsible for an incident that led to an individual’s injury or death.
Types of Fatal Accidents
The common underlying causes of forklift accidents often lead to fatal situations, including individuals being:
- Crushed by the vehicle tipping over
- Crushed between the vehicle and another surface
- Crushed between two vehicles
- Struck by the vehicle
- Run over by the vehicle
- Struck by falling materials
- Falling from the platform on the forks
Recovering Compensation After a Forklift Accident
When a family loses a loved one in a forklift accident, they may be interested in learning how to obtain compensation. While compensation will not bring back their spouse, parent, child, or sibling, it can help them pay for the funeral and burial and replace some of the lost income. Depending on the cause of the accident and the victims relation to the party responsible, the family may be able to pursue compensation through a workers’ compensation claim, a third-party liability claim, a premises liability claim, or if the forklift was defective, then a products liability claim.
Contact a San Francisco Wrongful Death Attorney Today
If you lost a spouse, parent, or child in a forklift accident, contact the experienced California wrongful death attorneys of Brod Law Firm at (800) 427-7020. We offer free consultations to give you the opportunity to learn more about your rights and options.
(image courtesy of Jacob Ufkes)