Oil field work is among the most dangerous professions. There are many ways that oil field workers can suffer injuries or even fatal accidents on the job. Not only is the equipment incredibly dangerous, but conditions on the field itself can be hazardous. The industry is currently experiencing a shortage of oil field workers, who require high degrees of training to perform this kind of labor safely. Therefore, incidents of negligence and workplace injuries are increasing.
Older data shows that over 4,000 people are injured in the oil and gas drilling industry each year. This high injury rate is from before the dramatic increase in U.S. oil production from shale drilling. Over ten years, 1,566 workers in the industry died on the job. The fatality rate in the oil and gas drilling field is five times that of every other major industry.
If you know someone who’s been hurt by an oil rig accident or succumbed to fatal injuries due to someone else’s negligence, you should contact a law firm with experience in oil field injuries to find out about your rights to compensation.
More Oil Industry Employees in Texas Means Cutting Corners
In Texas alone, the oil industry is exploding. Texas is the largest oil producer in the country, and the oil industry is one of the biggest drivers of the state’s economy. Production in the state has reached approximately five million barrels per day. Much of it comes from the oil fields in the Permian Basin. The rise of shale oil drilling has given a further boost to the Texas oil industry.
According to recent data, there were over 170,000 derrick operators in the state – 50,000 more than there were at the start of the past decade. This increase, combined with a lax safety attitude among many major companies, has caused an uptick in serious injuries.
Given the dangers and lifestyle involved, these jobs are in high demand and low supply. Oil companies will scale up production quickly when oil prices are elevated, bringing additional rigs online to take advantage of money-making opportunities. That means that they need to bring in workers quickly.
Oil Field Workers Need to Be Specially Trained
An oil rig worker requires specialized training to safely operate the necessary machinery. Still, all it takes is one small mistake to injure or kill many people when working with such a combustible substance.
Upstream oil companies do not have some of the same safety rules as downstream industries, such as refiners. They are exempt from many major OSHA rules. The oil and gas industry often resists efforts to institute new safety standards, no matter how many people are injured or killed on the job. Even the rules that are in place are not always followed. Companies are frequently not penalized for safety violations until after someone gets hurt.
Common Types of Oil Field Accidents
Oil field accidents are commonly caused by equipment and the way that it is operated. In addition, oil is a highly toxic and volatile substance, which makes extracting it very dangerous.
Some common causes of oil field accidents are:
- Slip and falls – Oil is a naturally slick substance. The combination of this and equipment scattered across an oil patch causes fall hazards. Trips, slips, and falls can result in broken bones, traumatic brain injuries, and internal organ damage.
- Oil rig explosions – Oil is a highly flammable and combustible substance. Unsafe drilling procedures or faulty equipment can cause explosions, the force of which can cause severe injuries or death. Compressed gasses and faulty pipelines can also cause fire and explosion hazards.
- Blunt force injuries – There is quite a bit of specialized equipment on an oilfield. If it is not properly assembled, even one loose screw can cause a piece of equipment to fall and hit a worker. In addition, falling or flying debris can also cause injuries.
- Transportation accidents – There are numerous trucks on-site and other vehicles. Workers can be struck by these and suffer serious injuries.
- Crushing Accidents – Workers commonly get caught in spaces and gaps in oilfield equipment. Drilling rig equipment can also collapse, leading to catastrophic crushing injuries.
- Chemical Leaks – Fires at oil fields can release dangerous chemicals into the air. In addition, oilfield workers are also at risk of overexposure to hydrogen sulfide, and they can be poisoned by this, often dying instantly.
- Exposure to Dangerous Substances – Long-term work on oilfields means that employees are continuously breathing in the heavy dust that can be a byproduct of oil drilling and extracting oil from shale.
Common Oil Production and Drilling Injuries
Common injuries that oilfield workers will suffer in accidents include:
- Broken bones from
- Crushed limbs
- Chemical poisoning
- Neck and back injuries
- Wrongful death
You may seek financial compensation that pays you back for the money you lost and paid out (lost wages and medical bills) and for everything you experienced after your accident (pain and suffering, emotional distress, and permanent disability.) These damages can add up quickly, and they can be considerable. They increase even further if you cannot work again.
If your loved one has died, you can file a wrongful death lawsuit against the responsible party under certain circumstances.
Who Can an Injured Worker Sue in an Oil Field Accident Lawsuit?
A work injury can involve negligence and responsibility from multiple parties. While you cannot file a lawsuit against your employer if they have workers’ compensation insurance, the typical oilfield has many third parties involved in production. Each of these can be sued in a personal injury lawsuit.
These potentially responsible third parties include:
- Other contractors on the site – Oilfield service companies and operators will hire numerous contractors to perform different functions. These third parties can be sued if their workers cause you injury.
- Trucking companies – Trucks constantly enter and leave oilfields, transporting equipment and other supplies.
- Your employer – Participation in Texas workers’ compensation insurance programs is not mandatory. However, an employer can be sued if they do not have this insurance for injured employees.
- Oil rig and equipment manufacturers and operators – One of the most common causes of oilfield accidents is faulty equipment. There can be issues with either the equipment design or maintenance that causes accidents. When that happens, you can sue the company that made the equipment or the one that operates it.
- Landowners – If the oil company is leasing the land on which they are drilling, the landowner can be held responsible for personal injury under certain circumstances.
Plaintiffs in Texas Can Sue Employers for Gross Negligence
Even if your employer has workers’ compensation insurance, Texas law is more favorable to oil workers in that it still allows for wrongful death lawsuits against employers when they have committed gross negligence.
In Texas, gross negligence involves
“an extreme degree of risk…of which the actor has actual, subjective awareness of the risk involved, but nevertheless proceeds with conscious indifference to the rights, safety, or welfare of others.”
In other words, your employer knew full well of the high level of danger involved and consciously ignored the risks. This is more than just simple negligence.
Here are some examples of what may be gross negligence in oilfield work:
- Failing to provide workers with personal protective equipment in the face of known hazards
- Conscious disregard of OSHA safety violations stemming from a pattern of broken rules
- Cutting corners with safety inspections of intricate and dangerous machines
- Knowingly exposing employees to hazardous substances
How a Lawyer Can Help You Prove Negligence in an Oil Field Injury Lawsuit
Retaining the services of a lawyer with experience in oil field accidents is crucial If you or a loved one suffered injuries on the job. Your lawyer may help you obtain compensation by proving that:
- A third party was negligent and was the cause of your injuries
- Your employer did not have workers’ compensation insurance
- In cases of death of the employee, the employer was grossly negligent
Proving negligence means that another party owed you a duty of care and failed to uphold it by acting unreasonably under the circumstances. Such actions could include:
- Failure to properly hire and train employees before sending them out to work
- Failure to properly maintain oilfield equipment
- Manufacturing defective oilfield equipment that causes injury
- Failure to clear the oilfield area of debris
- Workers driving equipment recklessly or carelessly around the site
Pursuing Compensation From the Insurance Company
If you have been injured, your lawyer can help navigate the claims process and will immediately begin filing the necessary paperwork.
Like any personal injury claim, there is an insurance company involved. Oil production companies will have insurance policies with high policy limits because of the extreme dangers and profit motive involved. These companies will do anything to avoid going bankrupt in a lawsuit and avoid writing a large settlement check. Nonetheless, the higher coverage levels could lead to higher compensation for your injuries, provided you can count on an attorney who can skillfully negotiate for you.
The insurance company may make you a quick settlement offer, trying to get you to accept a low payment. While it may seem like a convenient solution, accepting a lowball offer will cause you and your family financial hardship in the future. This is why you need an attorney with specialized experience in dealing with oil and gas injury claims.
An attorney knows how to value your claim and will advise you accordingly. Only an attorney with the necessary experience in oil field injury claims will be able to take on these big companies and fight tirelessly on your behalf.
Don’t Wait to Contact an Oil Field Injury Attorney
Specialized experience is also necessary to investigate and prove the cause of oilfield injuries. Many oilfield workers develop illnesses years after the fact because they were continuously exposed to hazardous substances.
In these situations, it’s essential to consult an attorney to find out what your legal options are and if the statute of limitations applies to your case. At Wyatt Law Firm, you can count on our attorneys to do the following:
- Interview witnesses to the accident
- Review other accident reports
- Review the company’s safety history
- Consult oil and scientific experts to determine the cause of the accident
- Understand the nature and extent of your injuries
- Properly value your claim for the insurance company
Retaining an attorney will not cost you anything out of your pocket. Should you choose to work with an experienced attorney, the fees incurred through the claims process will only be paid if and when your case achieves a settlement or verdict.
There is nothing to lose by contacting an attorney for a free consultation. However, you can lose much by not doing so after an oil field accident. At Wyatt Law Firm, our lawyers are eager to answer your questions and find out how we can help you recover.