Many things can go wrong on an oil rig, like falls from great heights, exposure to toxic or caustic chemicals, explosions, burns, and getting struck or pinned by heavy equipment. When these things happen, they can cause catastrophic injuries that can change a person’s life forever.
Dallas, Texas is one of the most important cities in the United States for the gas and oil industry. This industry, however, is not without risk of workers getting injured or killed on the job. If you got hurt or your close relative lost their life, a Dallas oil rig accident lawyer could advocate for you to receive the money damages you deserve for your losses.
Is the Oil Rig Industry Dangerous?
Yes, there are fatalities every year in this industry. People tend to think of mining as a dangerous way to make a living, but there are more deaths in the gas and oil extraction industries than in all other types of mining put together, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.
Oil Rig Accidents Are Under-Reported
Far more accidents happen on oil rigs than get reported on the news. For this reason, the general public is unaware of how many people get hurt and killed on oil rigs.
After the BP Deepwater Horizon explosion killed 11 workers in 2010, the federal government set up an agency with a twofold purpose: improving the safety of operations on oil rigs and enforcing environmental regulations that already existed for the offshore oil and gas industry. The Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement (BSEE) is supposed to keep track of the number of worker deaths in this industry.
However, an investigation by multiple news organizations, including Southerly magazine, accuses BSEE of creating an inaccurate picture of the safety of the industry. By using loopholes in the reporting criteria and reporting inconsistent information and missing data, some workers’ fatalities have not appeared in BSEE’s reporting. More people are getting hurt and killed on offshore jobs than the official reports would indicate.
Safety Guidelines from the CDC
The Workplace Safety and Health Department of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), worked with the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) to create Rig Check. Rig Check is a set of 35 inspection forms that oil rig workers can use to document inspections they make of the tools and equipment on an oil rig.
The CDC recommends that oil and gas rig employees use these forms monthly. These inspections aim to find problems before they cause catastrophic explosions or other safety or health issues.
What Is the Settlement Value of Your Oil Rig Injury Claim?
Oil rig injury claims do not have a one-size-fits-all compensation package. It would be unfair for a person with a minor abrasion wound to receive the same amount of money as someone who suffered a severe spinal cord injury that left them paralyzed from the neck down.
Here are some of the factors your Dallas oil rig accident lawyer will consider when determining the financial value of your oil rig injury claim:
Severity of Injuries
Your injuries’ severity is a significant element in the valuation of your claim. An injury claim seeks to determine a fair amount of compensation for your losses. In general, the greater your loss, the higher the economic value of your case.
How well your wounds healed may also play a factor. Even with identical injuries, one person might heal more completely than another. A younger person will typically heal better and faster than an older oil rig worker, but that is not always the case. Sometimes, the injured body part is never the same.
Your Medical Treatments
The sum of your medical bills is a major factor in calculating a fair settlement of your oil rig injury claim.
If you had complications from your wounds or treatment, you might qualify for an even larger settlement. If your burn wounds got infected or you had an allergic reaction to a drug your doctor prescribed as part of the medical treatment, your medical bills could be higher than for other oil rig workers injured in the same accident.
Additionally, if the medical procedures you underwent to treat your injuries were invasive, painful, or inconvenient, your case might warrant a higher settlement. For example, surgery is far more invasive and painful than getting stitches.
Disfigurement or Scarring
Sometimes injuries cause disfigurement from extensive or obvious scars. This fact is particularly applicable when a person sustains wounds to the face, throat, hands, or arms, as one might in an oil rig explosion or fire.
Loss of Function
Loss of function may also qualify you for additional compensation. If your oil rig accident injuries prevent you from performing certain functions, like walking, climbing, or carrying heavy objects, you may receive compensation for loss of function. Also, being unable to perform certain tasks might make you less employable.
Your lost wages equal the amount you did not get paid while you were unable to work while recuperating from your injuries. This category could include hourly wages, salary, bonuses, or other forms of income.
Diminished Earning Capacity
The amount you can earn after reaching maximum medical improvement will be yet another component in the calculation of the settlement value of your claim. If you can return to work after recuperating, but you have to take a lower-paying job because of your injuries, you may be able to recover compensation to recover the difference between your old salary and your new salary.
How much money you made before the accident will also affect your losses. For example, let’s say you are paralyzed because of your oil rig injuries and cannot work to support yourself. If you could have been gainfully employed for another 20 years had the accident not happened, you could be compensated for those 20 years of lost wages.
However, your compensation amount will be higher if you earned $100,000 annually than if you earned $50,000 per year before getting injured.
Who Can You Sue for an Oil Rig Injury?
Your boss is not the only party who could be legally responsible for your injuries. For example, if workers from multiple companies are present on the rig and an employee of another company negligently caused the dangerous condition that harmed you, that business could be liable. You may also sue a manufacturer of defective equipment that causes injuries.
Do OSHA Regulations Apply to Oil Rigs?
The Occupational Safety & Health Administration (OSHA) has safety regulations that apply to multiple aspects of the gas and oil industry. Also, the “General Duty Clause of the OSH Act (the law that created OSHA) requires employers to provide workers with a safe workplace that does not have any recognized hazards that cause or are likely to cause death or serious injury.”
Your employer could be negligent if:
- They pressured employees to work in hazardous conditions for long hours.
- They did not provide the safety equipment OSHA requires.
- They did not properly train workers how to use safety equipment.
- They failed to provide a workplace free of recognized hazards known in the industry or the general workplace.
Injuries That Can Happen on Oil Rigs
Offshore oil rigs are located in water, so one of the risks oil rig workers face is falling or getting knocked off the platform and drowning. In addition, workers can suffer wounds in these situations:
- Explosions from pressure or contact with some of the chemicals on oil rigs can cause severe burns.
- Fires on oil rigs can also cause burns and smoke inhalation injuries. A worker cannot escape a fire on an oil rig as easily as a fire on land.
- Oil rig workers could develop lung disease, cancer, and other adverse health consequences from exposure to toxic chemicals.
- If a worker falls from a considerable height on an oil rig, they can suffer spinal cord damage or a traumatic brain injury (TBI).
- There are many heavy moving parts on an oil rig. A worker could be injured from getting struck by these massive objects or falling.
These are some of the injuries that workers on oil rigs can suffer, but it is by no means an all-inclusive list. You can talk to your Dallas oil rig attorney about all of your injuries, whether your wounds appear on this list or not.
What Should You Do After Getting Hurt on an Oil Rig?
The circumstances of your accident will dictate what actions you should take after getting hurt on an oil rig. Of course, you should do what makes sense based on your situation. Here are some suggestions of steps you might want to take:
Seek Medical Treatment
One of the first things to do after getting injured on an oil rig is to obtain medical treatment. Often, an on-rig infirmary can administer first aid. Depending on the nature and severity of your wounds, you might need additional medical intervention.
You should always complete all prescribed medical treatments, both to maximize your chances for recovery and demonstrate that you are taking your injuries seriously in your future potential claim or lawsuit.
If you have an adverse reaction to a treatment or an allergic reaction to a drug, contact your doctor for instructions immediately.
Documenting the accident scene can be essential to proving the hazardous conditions that caused your injury. If your wounds prevent you from collecting evidence, you might ask a coworker to snap some photographs of the scene and your surroundings.
Notify Your Employer
Let your employer know that you got injured. If you make a written report, keep a copy of the form.
Consider Hiring a Dallas Oil Rig Accident Lawyer
We recommend you call us for a free consultation as soon as possible. If you hire a Dallas oil rig accident attorney, they can help you preserve evidence that could get lost or destroyed too soon. Also, your lawyer can protect your legal rights from the very beginning.
This list is merely the beginning of the steps you will want to take when beginning your injury claim. Your Dallas oil rig accident attorney can guide you on additional things you can do to help your case.
Categories of Money Damages Available for Injured Oil Rig Workers
The facts of your situation will determine what kinds of monetary damages you can pursue in your injury claim. Every oil rig injury case is unique, but many cases include the following economic and non-economic damages:
Your medical expenses can include bills from the medical evacuation flight, the ambulance that provided emergency ground transportation, and the emergency room or trauma center that performed treatment and diagnostic work during the medical crisis. Your claim can also include bills for the doctors, hospital, surgery, lab work, therapy, plastic surgery, and other care you needed because of your wounds.
The salary you did not get paid, self-employment income you could not earn, and paychecks for the wages you missed because of the accident, necessary medical procedures, and recuperation time all fit in this category.
Decreased Earning Capacity
Sometimes, oil rig accident victims cannot work the long hours they did before getting injured or perform the tasks necessary for their previous job. If you had to switch to a lower-paying position or reduce your hours, you could have a claim for decreased earning capacity. It may also be more difficult to get a job after suffering a catastrophic injury, such as paralysis.
Pain and Suffering
The category of pain and suffering can encompass several different losses, such as:
- Physical discomfort
- Anxiety or emotional distress
- Inconvenience an oil rig accident victim experiences due to medical treatments, recuperation time, and limitations on physical and emotional capacity while recovering
Decreased Quality of Life
If you lost the ability to do certain things you enjoyed before suffering a devastating injury, you might not enjoy life as much as you did before the accident. A person who can no longer ride their bicycle on the weekend, play baseball with their child, or merely walk across the room without assistance might have a diminished quality of life because of residual problems from their wounds.
A person can experience disfiguring scars from various sources after getting injured on an oil rig. For example, devastating lacerations and burns from an explosion can leave a person with extensive scars, even after plastic surgery. Money damages for disfigurement may be awarded in addition to the bills for the medical treatment of those scars.
Loss of Independence
If you have to rely on a cane, walker, wheelchair, or the assistance of other people to perform routine activities because of your wounds, you have lost your independence. This loss can lead to chronic depression, a sense of hopelessness, and other emotional consequences.
If you cannot work because of long-term impairment from your injuries, you deserve to be compensated for your disability. When a person is used to being an able-bodied worker who supported themselves through gainful employment, not being able to do so again can be a devastating blow.
Some oil rig injury victims need mobility equipment like a wheelchair and an adapted vehicle for transportation. They may also need to modify their home by adding wheelchair ramps and an accessible shower to accommodate their long-term medical issues after a catastrophic injury on an oil rig.
Your Dallas oil rig accident lawyer can tell you about all the monetary damages that might be available for you to pursue in your situation.
Damages Recoverable in Wrongful Death Claims from Oil Rig Accidents
If your close relative died because of an oil rig accident, your wrongful death claim could recover compensation for your loved one’s medical expenses, end-of-life costs, pain and suffering, and funeral and burial expenses.
Also, the survivors could have a claim for their losses, such as:
- Loss of the decedent’s financial support
- Loss of services the decedent contributed to the household
- Loss of companionship and guidance
- Grief and emotional pain of the survivors
How do Maritime Law and the Jones Act Affect Oil Rig Accident Cases?
Workers who fall under the protection of the Jones Act (46 U.S.C. § 30104) cannot recover workers’ compensation benefits, but they can sue their employer for personal injury damages if they get hurt on the job. You must be a “seaman” to be covered by the Jones Act.
Anyone whose job involves spending significant time on a vessel might have a claim under the Jones Act. Both full-time and part-time workers can qualify under this legislation.
Your employer has a duty under the Jones Act to:
- Provide a reasonably safe workplace
- Use ordinary care to maintain the vessel in a reasonably safe condition.
Failure to satisfy these requirements can be negligence on the part of your employer.
Is a Platform Rig Considered a Vessel?
Some laws apply to vessels, while other regulations do not. Depending on the facts of your situation, it could matter whether the offshore drilling platform or oil rig where you got hurt is considered a vessel. In general, any mobile rig can be considered a vessel.
According to the American Association of Petroleum Geologists (AAPG), offshore oil rigs have many features in common with land rigs, as well as elements that are necessary for a marine environment, like living quarters, cranes, risers, and a heliport or helipad. There are several types of platform rigs:
- Barge rigs are floated to the drilling location, in shallow water (20 feet deep or less). The lower hull sits on the sea bottom.
- Submersible rigs are barges that work at water depths of up to 50 feet. Extensions or pontoons lift the upper hull above the level of the water.
- Platforms are permanently attached to the ocean bottom.
- Jackups look similar to platforms but are not attached to the seafloor permanently.
- Floaters are not attached to or resting on the ocean bottom. Instead, they use anchors or other devices. Semisubmersibles and drill ships are types of floaters.
You can speak with your Dallas oil rig accident lawyer to determine whether the oil rig you worked on when injured is considered a vessel under the Jones Act.
Our Dallas Oil Rig Accident Lawyers Are Dedicated to Treating Our Clients Like Family
You deserve to know what to expect if you choose our lawyers at Domingo Garcia to handle your oil rig accident injury claim. We will keep you informed about developments in your case. We will explain the legal process, so you know how your case is moving along and what will likely happen next.
Our Dallas oil rig accident attorneys can also translate “legalese” (terminology) into terms you can understand. We also have Spanish-speaking team members who can assist you if that is your preferred language.
Our Oil Rig Accident and Other Personal Injury Case Results
After a severe injury, you need a law firm that can get great results. Every case is different, and the facts of your case will determine how much compensation you could recover, but we promise to work relentlessly to get you the best result possible in your situation.
Here are a few examples of settlements we have negotiated for our clients:
- We won a $1,550,000 settlement for our client in an offshore incident/Jones Act case.
- The settlement was $5,000,000 in a case involving a fall from a height of 15 feet, resulting in paralysis.
- A fatal accident resulted in a $3,000,000 settlement for the family of a man who died after getting struck with heavy steel beams.
What a Domingo Garcia Attorney Can Do for You After an Oil Rig Injury
If you become one of our clients, your Dallas oil rig accident lawyer can handle your claim so that you can focus your attention and energy on getting better. We can negotiate directly with the insurer and advocate for you if the insurance company denies your claim. If appropriate, we can file a lawsuit asking a judge or jury to rule in your favor.
Contact us at Domingo Garcia today to get started with a free consultation.