Oil and gas production is one of the largest industries in the country. The constant exploration, extraction, and production of oil and gas products contributes to the economies of many states, including Texas, Oklahoma, and Kansas. While the industry may be prospering, many oil and gas workers face constantly hazardous conditions and are put at risk for devastating on-the-job accidents that can seriously injure or kill them. According to the CDC, the fatality rate for oil and gas workers is seven times higher than in any other industry in the United States.
Oilfield accidents can leave a worker with expensive medical bills, lost wages, disabilities, and mental trauma. If a worker is killed in an oilfield accident, their family can be left without a financial provider and face expensive funeral costs all while mourning the untimely death of their loved one. Oilfield workers have rights and deserve fair compensation if they are hurt in an oilfield accident. Our team of experienced trial attorneys is well-versed in oilfield safety requirements, oilfield accidents, personal injury cases, and workers’ compensation requirements. If you or a loved on has been injured or killed in an oilfield accident, contact our office today. We are ready to help you and your family make it through this difficult time.
Types of Oilfield Accidents
While no two oilfield accidents are the same, many are similar or have similar causes. While oil companies are legally required to protect their workers from harm and provide a safe working environment, dangerous accidents still happen.
The most common types of oilfield accidents include:
- Oil truck tip-over and collisions
- Equipment malfunctions
- Drilling accidents
- Collapsing platforms
- Oilfield explosions
- Refinery explosions
- Well fires
- Well blowouts
- Gas refinery accidents
- Fracking accidents
- Hazardous materials exposure or release
- Slip and fall
- Confined space suffocation
- Personal protective equipment failure
- Crushing accidents from falling pipes
- Falls from great height
When an oilfield worker is injured while on the job, the oil company should compensate them for their medical treatment and lost wages either through workers’ compensation, if it is available and/or through the filing of a civil lawsuit. Many oil companies will try to pay the least amount possible to an injured worker or will deny liability for the accident. Oil companies typically work with large insurance brokers that want to pay little to nothing out on claims, bolstered by teams of high-priced lawyers ready to fight on their behalf. By choosing an experienced oilfield accident attorney, you will have someone on your side to fight for your rights and advise you on the best course of action.
Common Oilfield Accident Injuries
Oilfield workers are expected to operate heavy machinery, work in the presence of toxic chemicals, and work in harsh, unforgiving environments on a daily basis. These conditions, on top of company negligence and shortcuts, can quickly lead to serious accidents that cause devastating injuries and even wrongful death.
Some of the most commonly seen oilfield injuries workers sustain include:
- Chemical burns
- Gas inhalation burns
- Lung damage
- Head, neck, and back injuries
- Spinal cord injuries
- Traumatic brain injuries
- Broken or fractured bones
- Crushed limbs
- Amputation of limbs and/or digits
- Torn ligaments, tendons, and muscles
- Electrical burns
- Vision loss
- Hearing loss
- Nerve damage
Many of these injuries leave the victim severely affected both physically and mentally, permanently disabled, or can even take their life. When a worker is injured in an oilfield accident, they may fully recover but only with expensive medical treatment and rehabilitation. They often also have lost wages from the time they were unable to work. If the oilfield accident disabled the worker permanently, they may have lost the ability to provide for their family financially. When an oilfield accident is fatal, the victim’s family is left without their loved one and may not be able to support themselves. In all of these cases, fair and just compensation is deserved and our lawyers will fight for your rights to obtain it.
Oilfield Accident Claims Process
Oilfield accident compensation is accomplished through a complex legal process that our team of attorneys can guide you through. The process will include an investigation of all available evidence related to the accident to determine who is responsible for your injuries. We will then discuss whether workers’ compensation is available from an employer and will ensure the proper paperwork is sent to your employer. Our team will also importantly determine if any third parties can also be held liable for your damages and will pursue every avenue available for obtaining compensation from all potentially responsible parties. Because many injury claims resulting from oilfield accidents are resolved by dealing with insurance companies, we will negotiate with the insurance claims representatives on your behalf to ensure you are not taken advantage of. Never say yes to a settlement offer without speaking to an attorney first. Neither your employer nor any insurance company will have you or your family’s best interests at heart and will try to under-compensate you to mitigate their own losses and liability exposure.
If we determine it is best to bring a lawsuit against your employer and/or a third party, we will show the responsible parties acted negligently and caused your injury. You should take legal action as quickly as possible, as statutes of limitations require lawsuits be filed within a certain time period. In Texas, the statute of limitation within which an victim or their family must file a personal injury, wrongful death, or product liability lawsuit is two years from the date of the incident or death of the victim.
Frequently Asked Questions About Oilfield Accidents
People working in or around the oil and gas industry are exposed to hazards that can result in serious injury or death. Workers not only face threats to their immediate physical safety but may also suffer health issues over time due to environmental conditions at a work site. Even when employees are properly trained and make an effort to perform their duties according to appropriate safety standards, oilfield accidents can still occur.
Answers are provided to the following frequently asked questions for persons looking for information about getting compensation for injuries sustained in an oilfield accident.
How Often are Workers Injured in Oilfield Accidents?
Oil and gas extraction operations have significantly more fatal occupational injuries than all other mining occupations. When oilfield accidents occur, they tend to be more severe and result in greater injuries.
In 2020, occupational fatalities in natural resources and mining industries in Texas made up about 12 percent of our state’s fatal occupational injuries.
Why Do Accidents Occur on Oil and Gas Work Sites?
According to a recent study, the six most frequent types of events that resulted in serious accidents in the oil and gas industry involved:
- Human error
- Technical failure
- Toxic release
What are the Primary Hazards for Oil and Gas Workers?
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) identifies the following as types of hazards that could pose a threat to the health and safety of workers on oil and gas job sites:
- Vehicle collisions – Vehicle crashes are the leading cause of oil and gas worker fatalities.
- Struck by/Caught in/Caught between – Three in five oil and gas industry worker fatalities are caused by accidents involving scenarios where they are struck by items like high-pressure lines or caught in or between pieces of operating equipment.
- Explosions/Fires – Flammable gases can leak from wells and containers, becoming concentrated and making ignition more likely.
- Falls – Workers can be many feet above the ground on platforms and other elevated equipment.
- Toxins – The gases that are a byproduct of oil and gas operations are poisonous.
How Dangerous is Hydrogen Sulfide Gas?
One of the most hazardous items to be exposed to in an oilfield is hydrogen sulfide gas. Hydrogen sulfide gas (H2S) is a lethal gas released or produced during extraction and refining operations. It is highly flammable, explosive, and toxic when inhaled.
H2S is sometimes known as sour gas because of the distinct rotten egg smell that identifies its presence in lower concentrations. Exposure to an unsafe amount can kill a person within a few seconds. Repeated exposure to smaller amounts can result in coughing and trouble breathing, runny nose, headache, nausea, confusion, and disorientation.
Exposure to unsafe levels of H2S in the Texas oilfields is an ongoing problem. Over the years, there have been a number of fatal accidents from H2S poisoning. The Texas Railroad Commission is in charge of enforcing the regulation of permissible H2S concentrations for oil and gas operations within the state. The agency has been criticized for lax enforcement as oilfield workers continue to experience poisoning due to unsafe concentrations of H2S.
What Compensation Is Available for Oilfield Accident Injuries in Texas?
Insurance is usually the ultimate payer when someone is injured in an oilfield accident. It may be an employer’s insurance or an equipment manufacturer’s insurance or maybe the insurance of a third party. The damages that can be compensated and the amounts of compensation may be different depending on the terms of the applicable insurance coverage.
In many states, employers are required to carry workers’ compensation insurance for the benefit of employees who get injured while on the job. In Texas, purchasing workers’ compensation insurance is optional for many employers. Employers who choose not to subscribe to the Texas workers’ comp system can be sued directly by employees who are injured on the job.
Can I Sue My Employer for An Oilfield Accident Injury?
Employees injured while working for employers without workers’ compensation insurance may be able to sue their employer. Employers will usually be responsible for compensating employees for losses experienced as the result of a work-related injury, even if the injury was caused by an employee’s mistake.
An injured employee may have an additional claim against an employer who fails to take appropriate measures to fix or alleviate an oilfield hazard. An employer who knows or should have known that an unsafe hazard existed can be held directly responsible for the injuries caused by the hazard.
Who Can Make a Claim When Someone Dies in An Oilfield Accident?
The immediate surviving family members of the decedent – their spouse and children – are able to bring a wrongful death claim or file a wrongful death lawsuit against the persons and businesses responsible. The Texas wrongful death laws also give a decedent’s parents the right to recover compensation for their loss.
What Compensation is Available After an Oilfield Accident?
Persons injured in oilfield accidents can be compensated for the cost of medical treatment and a portion of the income they have been unable to earn. If a lawsuit is filed, money may be awarded to compensate injury victims for other damages, such as non-economic damage including but not limited to pain and suffering, mental anguish, and the extent to which the enjoyment of life has been diminished by the injury.
Oilfield Accident Attorneys
Lovell, Isern & Farabough, LLP is ready to help you and your family after an oilfield accident. If you or a loved one were injured or killed on the job, we will take a close look at your situation and discuss the best legal options with you. We partner with our clients to ensure their current and future needs are met through fair and appropriate compensation. Contact us today at 806-373-1515 to discuss how we best serve you and help you recover from the trauma you’ve experienced.