Oil rigs employ many Texans, and oil drilling is one of the most vital industries in the state. But unfortunately, oil workers are surrounded by heavy equipment and flammable substances daily, contributing to a hazardous work environment. And tragically, any significant accident could lead to devastating or lethal injuries.
If you or a loved one suffered catastrophic injuries in an oil rig accident, you might be entitled to compensation for medical bills, diminished earning capacity, pain and suffering, and other losses. If you are considering filing a personal injury claim or lawsuit to seek damages for your injuries, an Odessa oil rig accident lawyer at Domingo Garcia is here to help.
How an Odessa Oil Rig Injury Lawyer Can Help You Pursue Compensation
Pursuing an oil rig injury claim requires performing many investigative and administrative tasks and the ability to navigate the complex legal process effectively. Our Odessa oil rig accident lawyers can help by handling the following and more:
- Explaining the legal process and ensuring you understand your rights and options for compensation
- Understanding and prioritizing your needs and goals
- Keeping you informed on new developments
- Offering advice and insight to help you make decisions as your case advances
- Investigating your oil rig accident and collecting evidence
- Gathering needed documentation, such as accident reports, your medical records, and eyewitness statements
- Identifying your losses and calculating their worth
- Sending a demand letter to liable parties requesting fair compensation
- Negotiating with responsible parties to reach an out-of-court settlement, if possible
- Filing a lawsuit and representing you at trial, if necessary
- Advocating for your best interests at every stage in the process
An Odessa oil rig injury lawyer from Domingo Garcia can help you identify your recoverable damages based on your unique situation and pursue the compensation you are entitled to. For example, we secured a $1.07 million settlement for an oilfield blowout.
Who May Be Liable for Your Oil Rig Accident?
If you are covered under workers’ compensation insurance, your options to seek additional restitution may be limited. However, in some instances, you might be able to file a lawsuit against your employer, such as if negligence was a factor or specific maritime laws apply.
In fact, offshore oil rig workers are protected by several laws, including the Longshore and Harbor Worker’s Compensation Act (LHWC), the Jones Act (a.k.a. the Merchant Marine Act), and the Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act. How these laws apply depends on where the accident occurred, the injured worker’s job duties, and the accident’s circumstances.
Third parties you might have a case against if their negligence contributed to your injuries and losses include:
- Contractors and subcontractors
- The oil company managing the site
- The property owner
- The oil rig owner or manufacturer
- The owner, manufacturer, or driver of shipping equipment
Establishing Duty of Care, Negligence, and Liability
An Odessa oil rig accident attorney can help you determine which parties are responsible for the accident that harmed you and your injuries. Then, you and your personal injury attorney can pursue these parties in an insurance claim or civil lawsuit and demand compensation for the many losses you’ve suffered.
To prove negligence in a lawsuit, it is usually necessary to establish the following elements:
- Duty of Care: This is a responsibility to others to exercise sufficient caution and avoid acting in ways that might cause harm. When you are on the job, your employer and others owe you a duty to ensure you aren’t unreasonably placed in harm’s way.
- Breach of Duty: This element represents a party’s failure to fulfill the duty of care expected of them, such as if an employer knew of a hazard on an oil rig and failed to remedy it or warn others.
- Causation and Damages: The breach of duty of care must have been the direct or proximate cause of the oil rig worker’s injuries and not an unassociated event. These injuries must have led to quantifiable damages (losses), such as medical bills and pain and suffering.
Compensation You May Recover in an Odessa Oil Rig Accident Claim or Lawsuit
Injured oil rig workers can pursue several damages after an accident, depending on the circumstances. If compelling evidence that your employer or a third party was negligent exists, you may seek compensation for the following losses and more:
- Medical bills, such as emergency care, hospitalization, rehab, surgery, doctor’s visits, etc.
- Loss of past and future income
- Reduced earning capacity
- Physical and emotional pain and suffering
- Long-term or permanent disability
- Scarring and disfigurement
- Loss of independence or quality of life
Wrongful Death Damages
You could initiate a wrongful death lawsuit if an employer or another co-worker was negligent and caused an oil rig accident resulting in a loved one’s fatal injuries. Per Texas Civil Practice and Remedies Code Chapter 71, a surviving spouse, children, parents, or estate executor is entitled to bring this action and pursue compensation for the following losses:
- The decedent’s medical expenses
- The decedent’s pain and suffering
- Grief and emotional anguish
- Loss of companionship
- Loss of guidance and support
- End-of-life expenses, including funeral and burial costs
- Loss of the decedent’s financial support
Texas Civil Practice and Remedies Code § 16.003 allows individuals seeking a personal injury lawsuit to file within two years of the accident date. The same is true for wrongful death lawsuits, even if the decedent did not succumb to their injuries until later.
Oil Rig Injuries and Deaths: Understanding the Problem’s Scope
The following statistics can help illustrate the hazards of oil rig work and their prevalence.
According to the Bureau of Safety and Environment Enforcement (BSEE), nearly 2,100 injuries occurred in offshore incidents between 2012 and 2020. While explosions are relatively uncommon, when they do occur, they tend to have disastrous and lethal consequences.
Per OSHA (The Occupational Safety and Health Administration), from 2013-2017, there were nearly 500 work-related deaths among oil and gas extraction workers. As the Texas Tribune reported, about as many oil extraction workers (1,566) lost their lives from 2008-2017 as U.S. troops who died fighting in Afghanistan during the same period.
The Texas Tribune also reported that the oil extraction industry death rate was almost five times that of all other U.S. industries combined in 2014. And finally, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, just over 600 worker deaths occurred in Texas in 2019. Of those, 49 (8.1%) involved quarrying, mining, and oil and gas extraction workers.
Offshore drilling rig workers encounter dangers daily while on duty. Therefore, the oil companies that employ them are responsible for ensuring their safety. But unfortunately, serious accidents involving oil rigs are relatively common, even with federal safety regulations in place.
Common Causes of Oil Rig Accident-Related Severe Injuries and Fatalities (please move this up to after the section above before jones act, etc…)
Oil and gas industry accidents can occur in various places and involve many different causes. Accidents can happen at oil rigs or field extraction sites and sometimes during the transportation of these highly combustible substances.
According to a New York Times 2012 report, the most significant risk to oil industry workers is not accidents involving a rig itself, but those related to transportation. Oil truck accidents can lead to catastrophic consequences for both the driver and other nearby motorists unfortunate enough to become involved in an oil truck explosion.
Equipment Mismanagement or Malfunction
Equipment that isn’t properly stored, used, or operated can strike and severely injure or kill workers. Oil rigs include many potentially dangerous objects, such as sharp tools, heavy machinery, pipes, cables, etc. For example, if a large piece of equipment is poorly secured, it may fall over and crush one or more workers beneath it.
Also, as oil and gas companies are in the business of making money and maximizing profits, they may use old, outdated, defective, or inadequately maintained equipment. If any of the many parts needed for an oil rig to function is faulty or in poor working order, employees can be placed in grave danger.
Many problems can affect drilling equipment, including:
- Equipment design and manufacturing defects
- Malfunctioning of drills or related equipment
- Lack of equipment maintenance
- Corroded, rusty, or damaged equipment and structural components
OSHA and Safety Violations
Some of the most tragic oil rig industry accidents involve safety violations. Per OSHA, some of these include:
- Lack of safety rails or guards
- Lack of water safety equipment such as life jackets and rafts
- Lack of fire safety equipment, such as fire extinguishers
- Insufficient number of crew members
Oil rigs and fields are often littered with potentially dangerous equipment and tools and rife with slick or dirty walking surfaces. When such hazards exist and appropriate warning signs are not posted, these conditions can lead to severe and potentially life-threatening slip, trip, and fall accidents.
Oil workers are commonly tasked with operating complex machinery without receiving proper training. Training omissions may involve basic tasks such as learning how to use the equipment and preventing and reporting incidents. Unfortunately, this can result in severe injuries and fatal accidents. In these cases, the employer is often held liable for failing to ensure workers can perform their job competently.
Fatigued workers compelled to work longer hours than federal laws allow may cause oil rig accidents. Sleep-deprived oil and gas workers have a diminished capacity to concentrate and respond to situations that could lead to an accident.
Employers are also commonly liable for injuries and deaths that occur when they push their employees to extend their work time to the point of exhaustion.
Occasionally, the fracking process leads to well blowouts. A blowout can occur when workers tap into a high-pressure oil or gas pocket that gushes out uncontrollably. If blowout pressure control equipment fails, it can result in fires or explosions.
Sparks That Lead to Fires
Certain unsafe work practices, such as using poorly maintained equipment, can produce sparks that cause oil or gas to ignite. Also, welding or drilling in the wrong location or using the incorrect tools for a job can lead to wayward sparks, exposed electrical currents, and fires.
Working with highly volatile substances is extremely dangerous, and workers should take maximum precaution during the oil extraction and shipping process. Unfortunately, safety violations, faulty equipment, worker error, and employer negligence still occur on oil rigs and worksites. If ignited substances or fires lead to an explosion, workers in the vicinity may tragically sustain severe or fatal injuries.
Other Options for Compensation for Oil Rig Accidents
Aside from filing a lawsuit, there are other benefits and forms of financial assistance you may be able to receive.
For example, if you’ve been injured in a job where your duties were frequently related to maritime activity, you may be able to pursue compensation under one of the following:
The Longshore and Harbor Workers’ Compensation Act (LHWC)
This federal program provides medical care, compensation, and vocational rehabilitation services to oil rig workers (not seamen) disabled in work-related accidents occurring in U.S. navigable waters and “adjoining areas… customarily used in the loading, unloading, repairing, or building of vessels.”
The Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act (OCSLA)
This law provides coverage for oil rig workers similar to workers’ compensation. These include workers who are not qualified as longshore workers or seamen and are therefore ineligible for benefits under LHWC.
The Jones Act
Another option might be pursuing benefits under the Jones Act, which applies to seamen working on offshore drilling rigs. The law permits injured seamen to pursue civil action against employers for ship owner negligence or unseaworthiness, including acts or omissions of a captain or fellow crew members.
Even if you are covered under state workers’ compensation, please do not agree to any settlement offered by your employer or insurer without first consulting with an Odessa oil rig injury attorney.
How Companies May Attempt to Avoid Responsibility for Oil Rig Accidents
Oil companies and their insurers want to settle your case for the lowest possible amount. To avoid being held accountable for their negligence, a company may:
- Destroy vital evidence that proves fault and negligence
- Attempt to downplay your injuries’ severity
- Shift blame to you by arguing that you were unsafe and neglected to perform safety inspections
- Influence your co-workers to testify against you
- Withhold pay or continued employment unless you sign a waiver negating their liability
- Employ an investigator to follow you or your family and try to get evidence that could contradict your claim
- Record all social media posts regarding your accident made by you, your family, and your friends that could discredit your claims
- Use questionable expert witness testimony to counter your clais
Common Odessa Oil Rig Accident Injuries
Working aboard an oil rig is inherently risky. Hazards such as pressurized pipes, electricity, oil, and other heavy machinery and equipment constantly surround oil rig workers. Also, as noted, fires and explosions on oil rigs are incredibly dangerous. Workers caught in an explosion risk being burned, hit by flying debris, crushed by the shockwave, and breathing deadly fumes and smoke.
Furthermore, oil rig workers risk being hit by heavy moving parts designed to pulverize the earth. Injuries and damages that can occur in an Odessa oil rig accident may include the following:
- Neck and back injuries
- Blunt-force trauma
- Head and traumatic brain injuries (TBIs)
- Brain damage due to chemical exposure
- Broken arms, legs, hands, and feet
- Loss of limbs
- Partial or complete paralysis
- First, second, and third-degree burns
- Skin damage from chemical exposure
- Soft tissue injuries, cuts, and lacerations
- Internal bleeding and organ damage
- Scarring and disfigurement
- Severe sprains and strains
- Respiratory issues due to chemical exposure
- Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
- Wrongful death
If you were injured in an oil rig accident, you might be able to recover compensation for any of these injuries and others. An Odessa oil rig accident lawyer can help you seek the settlement you deserve.
When Odessa Oil Rig Accidents Are Lethal
Unfortunately, oil rig accidents can be deadly to those involved. Even with the best efforts and strict adherence to OSHA safety standards, oil and gas worker deaths can still occur. Per OSHA, hazards and dangerous conditions that can result in fatal injuries in an oil rig accident include:
- Slips and falls—e.g., slipping on oil and falling from a catwalk
- High-pressure pipe explosions—e.g., being struck by pressurized oil jets or flying debris
- Fires and thermal explosions—e.g., being burned or inhaling smoke
- Moving machine parts—e.g., being caught in or crushed by improperly guarded machinery
- Chemical exposure—e.g., breathing in or coming into contact with hazardous substances, such as hydrogen sulfide gas
- Suffocation—e.g., becoming stuck in a confined space between machinery and being unable to breathe
- Motor vehicle accidents—e.g., being struck by an on-site vehicle.
In certain cases, the surviving family of a fatally injured worker may be able to file a wrongful death claim against the decedent’s employer. Additionally, if the decedent’s death was due to an employer’s gross negligence, the family might be able to seek punitive damages (Texas Civil Practice and Remedies Code § 41.003).
The family may also pursue punitive or wrongful death damages if a third party’s negligence caused the worker’s death,
Other Causes of Death Related to Oil Rig Work
Not all fatally injured workers are killed instantly under catastrophic circumstances. Instead, some succumb to conditions secondary to an accident-related injury or illness they sustained as a long-term consequence of their job. Our Odessa oil rig accident attorneys can help you establish a link between the condition that led to your loved one’s death and their time working on an oil rig.
Oil rig workers may suffer from many life-threatening ailments, including:
- Traumatic brain injuries: Machinery strikes and explosions can result in serious head injuries. An oil worker may walk away from a blast seemingly unscathed, only to later learn they have suffered life-ending brain damage.
- Amputation: Oil rig workers operate heavy machinery, and on an oil rig there is always the risk of explosion. These types of accidents can result in the loss of one or more limbs or other injuries that later require amputation.
- Spinal cord injuries: Oil rig work is intensive, and workers’ can experience an unusual amount of stress to their spine. This type of work can often leave workers with disabling back pain that can be lifelong.
- Fractures: Oil rig workers can be involved in accidents that result in fractures that can leave them out of work and facing surgeries and a lengthy recovery. This can include fractures of the legs that can leave workers unable to walk.
- Heart attack: Oil rig workers are at an increased risk of heart attack and other cardiopulmonary diseases. Long-term exposure to toxic fumes and vapors can damage the heart and lungs. Because factors contributing to heart attacks are so subtle, a worker could be off work when they have a heart attack. In fact, it could even occur after they quit working for the oil company altogether. However, that doesn’t mean it is unrelated to their work on an oil rig.
When an oil rig workers’ injuries or condition are fatal, linking their death to the initial event may be challenging. For this reason, working with an Odessa oil rig accident lawyer who can identify a causal link can be invaluable to your claim.
Start Working With an Odessa Oil Rig Lawyer Today
Most oil workers may be well aware of the many hazards of their job. Still, when something tragic happens, it’s often unexpected and may have occurred under preventable circumstances. An Odessa oil rig accident lawyer can thoroughly investigate your claim, identify all contributing factors, and determine the parties liable for your injuries and losses.
If you’ve been injured in an Odessa oil rig accident, you should consider working with a personal injury attorney. At Domingo Garcia, we have over 35 years of experience and promise to fight for fair compensation in your oil rig injury case. Because we work on a contingency-fee basis, you won’t pay us anything upfront or out of pocket. Contact us today to learn about your rights and legal options.