Overview of Pop-Off Valves
Working in the oil industry is a high-pressure occupation, especially for pipeline workers who literally work with the high-pressure systems that move oil out of the earth and into commerce. If you work within the oil industry, you likely know well what a pop-off valve is and what its purpose is.
However, sometimes, we don’t take the time to stop and appreciate and acknowledge the items in our workplace that help to contribute to our safety, as we take them for granted. Below, we’ll explore in greater detail what a pop-off valve is, how it aims to keep you safe, and what your options are should you suffer injuries on the job as a result of a malfunctioning pop-off valve.
The oil industry and its pipeline workers deal with pressure and danger regularly on the job. If you or a loved one suffered injuries while working on a pipeline, you might have the right to seek damages. Safety measures in the workplace like the pop-off valve should provide protection, and if they do not function correctly and cause harm, an oil and gas injuries attorney can protect your legal rights.
A pop-off valve, commonly called a pressure relief valve, protects against overpressure, and oil and gas companies use it in concert with piping and pumping. The pop-off valve aims to protect against overpressure from the pump supply into the flowline. Settings instruct the valve to open at a preset pressure, and when it reaches that level of hydraulic pressure, the pressure acts on the ball and seat arrangement of the valve.
When a system is running at or below the set pressure, the ball remains seated while checking flow. As pressure increases beyond the set pressure amount, the ball begins to unseat and relieve pressure through the outlet branch. Pop-off valves are generally self-resetting, with a disc spring arrangement in their design providing for a quick reseating action once the overpressure in the system has been relieved.
The basic purpose of a pop-off valve is to maintain a consistent pressure in the system to support functioning, and when there is excess pressure, it exits through the outlet branch. The site of the outlet branch is an area that can cause concern, as when positioned nearby, an individual may experience significant injuries related to the force and heat of the pressure released through the outlet branch.
What Happens When a Pop-off Valve Malfunctions?
The purpose of the pop-off valve is to maintain the pressure of the system so that it functions smoothly and without any kinks, build-ups, or blow-outs. If a pop-off valve malfunctions, the pressure it was meant to relieve will continue to build up in the system. When pressure builds up in a system, it will eventually reach the point that it must find a way out, whether through existing openings or the creation of one by force. When an opening in the over-pressurized system happens by force, an explosion or a blow-out can happen.
The force of an over-pressurized oil system can be quite significant and cause large explosions or releases of pressurized hot air or oil. Outside the risk of explosion, there is also the potential of fire. The failure of something so simple as a pop-off valve can have substantially dangerous implications for the oil rig and its pipeline workers.
Knowing what your options are to collect compensation for your injuries and losses after an accident while working the oil pipeline can be difficult. This underlines the value of having an attorney on your side to advise you of the best course of action in your case.
Common Injuries From Well Blowouts
The experience of living through an oil well blowout can be a highly stressful and harrowing one, and the injuries that can result are substantial. Injuries that occur as a result of well blowouts are often the result of heat, pressure, falls, or fires. The most common injury in this situation is a burn injury.
Burns can range from first to third-degree, with each degree having different symptoms and outcomes. A first-degree burn is when the top layer of skin sustains damage, while a second-degree burn is an injury to the second layer of skin as well as the first. A third-degree burn includes damage to all layers of skin and the tissues and organs below.
Third-degree burns can kill oil workers, and any burn can be life-altering in the short and long term. Burn injuries are serious matters and can require long-term treatment, which can involve multiple painful procedures. Burns can often leave significant scarring, and this change in appearance can impact a burn victim’s mental health, as well.
Falls are also generally common when working on the pipeline or an oil rig. Oil well blowouts release a great deal of pressure, which can cause falls, or someone might fall when trying to escape the explosion. It is all too easy to lose footing when you are in a panic and trying to avoid other harm, but you might suffer serious injuries from the fall (even if you escape the explosion).
Fall accidents on oil rigs can cause a wide range of significant injuries, ranging from fractures to severe brain injury or death. One out of every five falls causes a serious injury, such as broken bones or a head injury. When you experience a head injury, the implications can change how you and your family live your lives forever. Brain injuries can impact the functioning of your body and mind and can be devastating for your present and future earning abilities.
No matter what type of injuries you suffered due to a malfunctioning pop-off valve and the resulting blowout, you should discuss your rights with an oil and gas injury lawyer as soon as possible.
A law firm familiar with oil well accidents and how they happen will know how to seek the compensation you deserve for your:
- Past medical bills
- Future medical expenses
- The income you already lost
- Future lost earnings
- Pain and suffering
- Permanent impairments and disfigurement
You deserve to recover every penny for all of these losses.
You Can Hold Third Parties Liable for Valve Failures
When you suffered injuries on an oilfield or rig due to a valve failure, you may qualify to receive damages from a third party. Sometimes, injuries happen because of the failure of a manufacturer to make a product that is safe and operates as intended. When this happens, those people who suffer injuries due to the manufacturing defect can seek damages for their extensive losses from the manufacturer. This is the legal cause of action of product liability.
When a producer makes a product, they have a responsibility to ensure that the product functions as intended, without malfunction or danger to the user. For example, if you purchase a blow-dryer that causes you to suffer electric shocks when holding it properly, the manufacturer would be automatically liable for any injuries you suffered as a result of the malfunctioning product. This can apply to nearly any product out there-including pop-off valves.
When it comes to pop-off valves, the entire purpose of the item is to provide for the safety of the users. Companies should install this product to release excess pressure, and the failure of the device to do so can cause a significant explosion that can lead to injury and death. This is an example of a defective product causing injuries, just like any other type of consumer product.
Manufacturers of such devices must properly test their products and ensure they will fulfill their purpose, which is safety in this case. When a valve malfunction occurs, it can be difficult to know exactly why it happened. Did someone install the valve incorrectly? Did someone working on the oil well not follow procedures? Or did the valve itself have manufacturing defects that caused it to malfunction?
As you can imagine, these are technical questions that require a highly technical investigation. If investigators uncover that a faulty valve led to the explosion and resulting injuries to workers, you have a product liability claim.
Because of the complex nature of valve malfunctions, any subsequent injury claims against valve manufacturers will be similarly complex. Always seek legal help to first determine what type of claim you have and, then, to have an attorney who can stand up to large manufacturing corporations on your behalf.
What Can You Recover in an Oil Well Blowout Claim?
Determining what you can recover in an oil well blowout claim will depend on the facts and circumstances of your injury and situation. The amount of compensation available to an injured person is generally equal to their losses, which can be more difficult to calculate than you might imagine. Injuries can lead to many types of losses, both economic and non-economic. An experienced attorney is of particular value in calculating losses and their value.
Some injuries from oil well blowouts have long-term treatment requirements and can also cause significant mental pain and anguish, given the changes to life that occur following the accident.
During the recovery period, you may be unable to work, and even after your recovery, you still may never return to work or the same level of employment. You can recover damages for lost wages and also lost future earnings as a result of your injury from the time of your injury through your working life.
While presenting medical bills and pay statements showing the costs of past medical treatment and past lost wages is relatively straightforward, determining the value of future and non-economic losses is entirely different.
- Future medical expenses – Your lawyer can seek help from medical experts who can testify to the treatment your specific injuries will require in the years to come, as well as the estimated costs of those treatments.
- Future lost income – If you can no longer work at all, your lawyer can work with economic experts to determine how much money you could have earned over the rest of your working years.
- Pain and suffering – This non-economic loss encompasses physical pain, mental trauma, loss of enjoyment of life, and many other losses you experience due to your injuries and your limitations. There are different methods of calculating and proving the value of these intangible losses, and an experienced injury lawyer will know how to address this.
An experienced personal injury attorney can help you navigate the process of identifying what damages you deserve and identifying which parties are liable for covering those damages.
Valve-Related Blowout Fatalities
If you lost a loved one in a tragic oil well blowout, you might not know where to turn. Your loved one is no longer alive to file an injury claim and seek compensation for their injuries and losses, but your family is now facing different losses of its own. Speak with a San Antonio oil and gas attorney about a possible wrongful death claim as soon as possible.
Through a wrongful death claim, the family and loved ones of a person who passed away in an accident can bring a claim to collect compensation from the liable parties.
This compensation can cover:
- The loss of the financial contribution of that family member, including the earnings of your lost loved one from the time of their untimely passing through the remainder of their working life.
- The loss of inheritance if it decreases below where it would be if not for the fatal accident.
- The loss of the emotional support, love, and companionship of your loved one.
- The loss of household services of your loved one, which can include maintenance, child care, housework, and more.
- The emotional grief and suffering of the surviving family members.
Losing a loved one to an accident is a horrible experience, and an attorney can step in to help close family members recover what they deserve.