Like other forms of construction equipment, accidents involving skip loaders are often caused by rollovers and tip-overs.
Although these two types of incidents (the rollover and the tip-over) may sound the same, they are distinctly different:
- A rollover involves the skip loader falling onto its side.
- A tip over involves the front of the skip loader tipping forward, usually caused when its center of gravity is thrown off by a heavy load.
These types of accident occur when a skip loader becomes unstable while carrying loads on an incline or operating on uneven surfaces. Operators and those permitted to work around these large machines are more than aware that there is very little time to react once an incident starts. Due to its own weight and the fact it often hulls heavy loads, a skip loader is deadly when it is about to tip or roll over.
One can make the argument “to err is human” and, at times, circumstances that occur are inevitable. However, most accidents can be prevented with the right training and extensive safety precautions.
Causes of skip loader rollovers and tip-overs
Rollovers and tip-overs are some of the most common types of skip loader accidents. Causes of accidents include failure to plan, manage and monitor work using a skip loader and allowing an untrained employee to use the vehicle.
To avoid accidents, operators should:
- Know the load capacity and the gradient the skip loader can safely handle
- Avoid driving with a heavy load lifted high
- Perform a 360° pre-work walkaround to inspect the equipment and the surroundings
- Slow down when traveling up or downhill
- Avoid uneven work surfaces or unmarked holes or trenches
- Avoid backing downhill
- Drive around ditches, not across them
- Slow down when turning on a curve
- Don't apply uneven braking while traveling at high speeds
- Avoid soft ground if possible
- Avoid collisions with vehicles or other objects
- Train appropriately for working with a skip loader
- Wear the seatbelt
The Dangers of rollover and tip over accidents
An unstable skip loader may overturn and crush the operator, or the operator may be flipped from the machine and sustain impact injuries. Bystanders can also be at risk of crush or impact injuries if they are close by when overturning occurs.
While skip loaders are safe when used correctly, they can be extremely dangerous in a rollover. By far, the greatest danger is the possibility for the operator to be thrown from the vehicle and crushed by the skip loader, especially if the worker forgets to wear their seat belt. This can result in:
There are also significant dangers for people adjacent to the skip loader as it rolls over or tips over. They too can be crushed and severely harmed by the vehicle, or the load can crush them.
Accident victims have rights
Under workers’ compensation laws of most states, including California, individuals who are injured in skip loader accidents which occur while on the job are usually entitled to make work comp claims and receive benefits for medical treatment and indemnity (lost wages).
Workers injured in skip loader accidents are often surprised to learn that, in addition to any work comp claim, they may have the legal right to file a claim against other, non-employer parties. This even applies to workers driving skip loaders.
In some instances, a bystander may be injured in a skip loader accident. For example, someone walking by a work site may be struck by a skip loader.
Who is liable?
Whether it’s a work-related accident involving a skip loader driver or an innocent bystander who is hit by a skip loader, investigating the entity responsible for operating the skip loader will determine who is liable for the accident. Skip loader accident lawsuits are often filed against:
- Skip loader owners
- Skip loader operators
- Skip loader maintenance companies
- Skip loader manufacturers
At the O'Brien & Zehnder Law Firm, our attorneys work closely with scientific experts and accident reconstructionists to determine precisely what caused our clients’ injuries. If the problem was a defective machine, our lawyers help clients recover maximum compensation for their losses through product liability claims. If someone you care about suffered an injury while using a skip loader, and you suspect someone's negligence or defective equipment caused the accident, please contact our office to arrange a free consultation and case review.