The oil and gas industry in Texas and New Mexico has been a gift to the economy. It helps many residents earn money and secure a future for themselves and their families. Despite the prosperity, the oil and gas industry is dangerous.
Even though the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) states that every employee should work in a safe environment, that’s not always a possibility on an oil field due to the nature of the job.
The oil and gas industry has one of the highest injury rates in the country. The industry was not even required to report injuries until 2015, so it’s hard to find data on the types of injuries that were sustained before then. Only fatalities and catastrophes—in which three or more employees were hospitalized—were required to be reported. With the new rule change, though, any injury that results in the loss of a body part or hospitalization must now be reported.
On record, there are now several common injuries and accidents that cause liability for oil companies. These are the most common injuries and accidents–and how you can get compensated.
In 2008, there were 120 fatalities in the oil and gas industry. All victims were male, mostly white and, on average, between the ages of 25 and 34. The three main causes of accidents were transportation (41%), contact with equipment and other objects (25%) and explosions and fires (15%). Most of the fatal work injuries happened in Texas (41), Oklahoma (21) and Louisiana (13).
Here is a closer look at some common accidents:
- Falls. Because workers are frequently working on elevated rigs, any fall to the open ocean or to the rig floor can be deadly. In many situations, the fall could have been avoided had there been adequate safeguards or safety structures.
- Explosions and Fire. Gas is combustible, and explosions are common. Fires and explosions are often caused by drilling, well blowouts, swabbing, welding, and failure to maintain ignition sources close to the wellhead.
- Contact with equipment. Moving pipes, spinning chains, rotary tables, kellies, and tongs can all strike an employee, causing serious injuries. If a hose-connection fails, then the whipping hose can also collide with workers, either injuring them outright or causing them to fall.
- Entrapment. Workers often get their arms, hands, legs, or feet caught in equipment, such as tongs, spinning chains, rotary tables, drill strings, and pipes. Many of these entrapment cases prove to be fatal.
- Hydrogen sulfide poisoning. This colorless gas can collect in areas with poor ventilation. Those exposed to it can suffer irregular heartbeat and nervous system impairment before collapsing and dying. This toxic chemical is also highly combustible, which can lead to explosions.
- Collapsing rigs. Structural overloads occur when there is too much weight put on the rig. Rigs can also collapse because they have degraded or were constructed and installed improperly. In a collapse, workers can be crushed or thrown into the ocean.
- Electrocution. Many chemicals on a rig are corrosive and conducive to electricity. Workers can suffer electrocution during many tasks, such as touching worn wires.
Those providing support activities for oil and gas operations had the highest accident rate in 2015-2016, at 148.9 per 100,000 workers. There were 349 severe injuries—more than double the amount of the next occupation, industrial building construction, which had 153 severe injuries.
Injuries in this industry vary dramatically, from injured hips caused by falls to severe burns from explosions. However, the most common injury was amputation, primarily caused by fingers getting caught in machinery. Fractures were the second most common injury. Legs were the body part most commonly fractured.
Head trauma and spinal cord and back injuries due to falls are also common. Explosions and electrocutions happen frequently in the industry, making burns common. Equipment is loud and often causes hearing loss. Misuse of chemicals and equipment can lead to eye injuries.
Whatever your injuries, remember to follow your doctor’s advice about treatment. Any deviation from your doctor’s advice can seriously undermine your ability to receive compensation for your injuries. Of course, if you do not think you are making any improvement, ask for a second opinion. But whatever you do, don’t try to self-diagnose, which will only make your situation worse.
Getting Your Compensation For An Oilfield Injury
You can potentially get compensated for your losses. The funds you receive for your injuries is called workers’ compensation.
Workers’ Compensation Benefits
Injured oil and gas industry workers need compensation to pay for their expenses and get back on their feet. However, because you were injured while on the job, you will first need to make a claim for workers’ compensation benefits. Your employer’s insurance should pay for reasonably necessary medical treatment and also a portion of your lost wages. You do not need to show that your employer was at fault for the injury. Instead, you qualify if you were injured on the job. Contact your employer immediately to begin the reporting process.
Unfortunately, workers’ compensation benefits are usually inadequate to fully compensate an injured worker for all of his losses. For example, workers rarely receive full compensation for their lost wages. Instead, they receive only a percentage. In particular, Texas employees cannot receive more than the average state weekly wage in disability impairment benefits, which might be much less than what an oil and gas worker makes.
Under the workers’ compensation system, you cannot sue your employer for your injuries, regardless of how negligent or careless they were. This is the trade-off at the heart of the workers’ compensation system—you do not need to show that your employer was at fault to receive benefits, but in exchange, you lose the ability to sue them. This might not seem fair, especially if you suffered devastating injuries, but it is the system that states around the country have adopted.
Bringing a Third-Party Claim
In some situations, you might be able to bring an oilfield injury lawsuit. For example, your employer might not have bought workers’ compensation insurance even though it was required by law. This is called a “non-subscriber” case, and your employer opens themselves up to liability if you are injured and they lack insurance.
In other situations, a third party will be responsible for the accident, in which case you might be able to sue them for the following:
- If defective machinery or equipment injured you, then you might be able to sue the manufacturer of the machinery. Manufacturers cannot sell unreasonably dangerous products that injure people in foreseeable ways. If they do, then injured workers can bring a lawsuit for their injuries.
- If a vendor or another party injured you, you might be able to bring a personal injury lawsuit against them if they breached their duty of reasonable care.
There are many benefits to bringing a third-party lawsuit. If successful, the injured worker can receive full compensation for lost wages and benefits. They can also receive compensation for pain and suffering, disfigurement, and loss of enjoyment of life. Workers’ compensation pays out nothing for these intangible injuries, which can be substantial. Surviving family members can also receive full compensation for the death of their loved one in a wrongful death lawsuit.
Injured workers and their family members are not required to know whether they have a third-party claim. Instead, they should meet with an experienced oil field injury lawyer who has experience analyzing these claims. Based on the facts and circumstances, a lawsuit against a third party might be warranted.
Why You Need an Oil Field Injury Attorney
As soon as you report an injury to your employer, an investigation will immediately start. Your employer and their insurer have an incentive to minimize any liability they face, so they will immediately begin collecting evidence to use on their behalf. As a result, injured oil workers are at a disadvantage if they try to navigate the claims process on their own.
Soon after the accident, workers might receive a phone call from an insurance adjuster. This person will probably ask to hear your side of the story and ask about the severity of your injuries. Workers are strongly encouraged to have an experienced oil field injury lawyer by their side before talking to any claims adjuster. All of your statements will be recorded, and the insurance adjuster and your employer could use these statements against you later.
When a claims adjuster calls, simply say you can’t talk with them until you speak with your attorney. Then call an experienced oil field injury attorney to discuss your case.
Contact an Oil Field Injury Lawyer Today
Accidents are common in the oil and gas industry, and many can lead to serious injuries or even death. If you believe your injury was caused by your employer’s negligence, you may be able to file a claim for compensation.
The oilfield injury lawyers at Flores, Tawney & Acosta, P.C. can help you get started on a claim. You need to act quickly, so don’t delay. You don’t want to lose out on receiving the compensation you deserve for your injuries.
Call us today at (575) 222-1000 or message us to schedule your free consultation and learn more about our services and your legal rights.