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Question: Like cars or trucks, forklifts can be operated on public roadways, driveways or sidewalks when performing certain types of jobs. So does that mean that they need to be covered under a company’s automobile or truck insurance policy?
Answer: Probably not, although the insurance laws in every state are different.
Most Forklifts Don’t Need Auto Insurance
According to David W. Marquis, a personal injury attorney working in Dayton, Ohio, in that state forklifts don’t need to be included under the auto coverage.
“Automobile insurance is not required to operate a forklift in Ohio,” Marquis wrote on a recent web posting. “Only vehicles that can be operated legally on the road are required to have coverage.
“With regard to accidents occurring due to the operation of the forklift, workers compensation will cover your injuries and any injuries to fellow employees. If you injure someone who is not a fellow employee … that injured person would present a claim to the (business) and their carrier.”
What Insurance Covers Forklifts?
So does that mean forklifts are covered under a business’s general insurance policy?
Yes and no, said Mark Barbour, a personal injury attorney from Westlake, Ohio.
“You are covered under the (business’s) insurance, if they have any, if you are using their forklift with their knowledge and consent,” he wrote. “Automobile insurance won’t cover a forklift unless it is a street legal vehicle.”
Would Forklifts Ever Need to Be Registered?
Why in the world would a forklift need to be street legal?
While Australia is an entirely different country, the insurance rules there are similar to those in the US. And Milne Alexander, an insurance broker based on Australia’s West Coast, recommended that forklifts be registered as a street legal vehicle if they are being used primarily in parking lot or other areas where they may interact with cars, trucks and other vehicles.
“If our forklift enters or is used in the car park of your premises, it probably should be registered,” states a recent blog post on the company’s website. “Most car parks are considered a road-related area that the public has access to.”
If your forklift is not registered and it is involved in an accident in “road-related area” –such as a parking lot — your Public Liability policy may not provide coverage, the company stated.
“Road-related areas include footpaths and nature strips, service station driveways, public and private car parks and access areas, private roads the public are normally invited to drive on, drive-in fast food outlets and other drive-in commercial areas used by the public,” the blog post stated.
Understand Your Insurance Coverage
Because every jurisdiction has slightly different rules regarding what type of insurance coverage is required to cover your forklift and protect your company in the event of an accident, your best bet is to check with either your insurance carrier, your business’s attorney, or both.
Knowing ahead of time how much coverage you have for your forklift is better than trying to figure it out later — especially if you learn that you don’t have the insurance coverage you thought you did!