The oil industry is huge and employs workers all over the country. In fact, some areas of the United States are booming, with multi-million dollar deals formed in the Permian Basin, which stretches across New Mexico and Texas.
The Basin has been called the “crown jewel” of the world’s oil industry, and has brought in thousands of new jobs for workers. The Permian Basin currently pumps out about two million barrels per day. But there is no doubt that working in the oil industry comes with risks. Oil and gas accidents continue to cause serious injuries to workers in the Permian Basin and elsewhere throughout the country, some of which are fatal.
When you suffer a serious, injury, our team can help.
Common Oil Field and Oil Rig Injuries
Working in an oil field or around an oil rig is one of the most dangerous jobs that there is in America today. According to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), some of the most common causes of serious injuries in the oil industry include:
- Transportation incidents;
- Fires and explosions; and
- Coming into contact with objects and equipment.
These accidents, and others, can occur as a result of slip and falls or falls from heights; unsecure rigs, which can give way; defective equipment; lack of proper safety equipment and tools; worker fatigue (workers often work long days, topping 12 or 14 hours); operator inattention when manning a machine, tool, or motor vehicle; lack of signage; lack of training; and other acts of general negligence. Sadly, nearly all oil field accidents that occur are a result of negligence. For example, a transportation incident may be avoided by paying more attention during operation, or a machinery accident may be prevented by proper maintenance of the machinery and more thorough worker training. Sometimes, simply slowing down and prioritizing safety can save a life or prevent a serious injury.
These accidents can lead to serious injuries. There are dozens of workers who are killed in oil fields every year throughout the United States. When injuries are not fatal, they may be very severe, leaving a worker with permanent scarring, disfigurement, and disability. These injuries include, but are not limited to:
- Severe burn injuries, including second and third degree burns;
- Loss of limb/limb amputation injuries;
- Hearing loss (constant loud noise exposure or acute loud noise exposure, such as that produced during an explosion);
- Bone fracture injuries;
- Spinal cord injuries, resulting in full or partial paralysis;
- Blindness or other eye injuries;
- Traumatic brain injuries;
- Soft tissue injuries;
- Internal injuries; and
- Occupational diseases, which can occur as a result of exposure to workplace chemicals or toxins, amongst other things.
Life After an Oil Field Injury
Those who take a job on the oil field usually do so because they view it as a chance to make money, and a better opportunity in life despite the risks. For those who are harmed while serving in the oil field industry, however, life is often never the same. A worker who suffers a serious on-the-job oil field or oil rig industry has to live with the pain of their injury and any disability or scarring they incur. They may also face huge medical expenses, and be weighed down by the loss of their wages. They may have to invest in home healthcare aid, or life adjustments, such as a wheelchair and wheelchair-friendly home or vehicle. They may even be unable to secure a job in the future, particularly one that pays them a living wage and allows them to provide for their family. Of course, the worker may have also sustained psychological injuries as well, which harms not only them, but their loved ones too.
Recovering the Compensation You Deserve After an Oil Field Injury
If you have been injured in an oil field in Texas or New Mexico and have suffered any of the losses listed above, or if you are the surviving loved one of an oil field worker who was killed while on the job, you need a legal advocate on your side who can help you to understand the process of filing a claim and recovering compensation for your losses. There are typically two ways to do this:
1. Workers’ Compensation Insurance
If you are an oil field employee, it is likely that your employer is required to carry workers’ compensation insurance. Workers’ compensation insurance provides a worker with compensation for their reasonable and necessary medical expenses, a percentage of their lost wages, and their disability (as well as death benefits for family members) when an employee is injured while performing a work-related task.
The problem with workers’ compensation insurance is that while it is a no-fault system, it often does not allow for workers to file a personal injury lawsuit directly against their employer, nor seek compensation for noneconomic losses, such as the value of their pain and suffering. There are some noteworthy exceptions to this, depending on your state, such as:
- In Texas, there still may be a case against an employer with worker’s compensation when there is a death and there is gross negligence by the employer, as set forth in the Texas labor code.
- There may still be a case against an employer with worker’s compensation in New Mexico when the employer intentionally places a worker in harm’s way, resulting in injury or death.
2. Third Party Liability Claims
The other option for recovering compensation after an oil field injury is to file a third party liability claim directly against liable party. While there are limits to when you may be able to file a claim directly against an employer if you are covered by workers’ compensation insurance, there are exceptions like the ones mentioned above. You should speak to a lawyer to understand if this is an option for you. But you can still file a claim against a third party whose negligence lead to your injury. For example, if your injury was caused because of an equipment defect, you may file a third party personal injury claim against the manufacturer. In a third party liability claim, you can seek benefits for the full extent of your economic and noneconomic losses. That includes all of your lost wages (not merely a percentage of lost wages, as is available through workers’ compensation insurance). You can also seek damages for pain, suffering, and emotional distress. However, you must prove that your injuries would not have occurred if not for the actions of the defendant.
Depending on where you are located and where the accident occurred, the laws will be different. In New Mexico and Texas, as each state has its own workers’ compensation and civil laws. So it is very important that you speak with an attorney who is experienced in personal injury law in both states, and who is licensed to represent you in either.
You Need to Act Quickly
Regardless of the extent of your injury, the state in which you live, or where your injury occurred, if you have been injured and want to seek compensation, you need to act quickly. Both New Mexico and Texas maintain statutes of limitation for pursuing work injury claims. If you do not act quickly, you may forfeit your right to benefits. Losing your right to benefits could mean missing out on hundreds of thousands, or even millions, of dollars.
Contact the Law Offices of Flores, Tawney & Acosta, P.C. in Las Cruces and El Paso Today
The oil boom in Texas and New Mexico may be great for the oil industry and for the economy, but it isn’t without its downsides. Many truck drivers are leaving their jobs to work in the oil fields, where they are sometimes improperly trained, improperly equipped, extremely fatigued, and working in dangerous conditions. These factors are a recipe for disaster. Oil field workers are involved in terrible accidents, ranging from being caught in lines and having limbs ripped off to transportation accidents and more. These are gruesome injuries to think about; for the injured workers and their families, the reality can be devastating.
At the law offices of Flores, Tawney & Acosta, P.C., our experienced oil field injury lawyers in Las Cruces and El Paso want to help. If you have been injured in an oil field accident, our law firm is here to represent you. You can reach us to schedule your free consultation to learn more about our services and your rights by calling us directly, or sending us a message. We work on a contingency fee basis, so you will never be asked to pay for our services up front.