Texas leads the nation in oilfield production, an industry that employs more than 480,000 workers a year. It’s a financially lucrative profession, with workers earning an average annual salary of $124,000.
But these six-figure salaries can come at a price.
Oilfield sites are notoriously dangerous and even deadly. In fact, Texas leads the nation with the most oilfield deaths – a distinction that no state wants to hold. Oftentimes, oil companies put profit over safety, leading to negligent accidents that result in serious injuries or fatalities.
If you have been injured or a loved one killed while working at an oil site in Texas, it’s important to contact an experienced Texas oilfield accident lawyer as soon as possible. You may be entitled to substantial compensation for your injuries or losses.
In this article, the personal injury lawyers at Varghese Summersett explain common causes of oilfield accidents, the process of recovering compensation, and how we can help you.
Leading Causes of Oilfield Accidents & Deaths
In 2023, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released a first-of-its-kind study that tracked the leading causes of oil and gas site fatalities nationwide. The study, which relied on federal workplace data from 2014 through 2019, tracked a total of 470 deaths among industry workers across the country and found that vehicle crashes and being hit by an object while on the job were the leading contributors, followed by explosions, falls, and exposures to harmful substances.
Texas, the nation’s largest oil producer, had the most deaths at 219 during this time period, followed by 48 in Oklahoma and 39 in North Dakota. In this section, we will discuss the common causes of oilfield accidents and fatalities in Texas.
Motor Vehicle Accidents
Motor vehicle accidents are the leading cause of oilfield deaths – accounting for 29 percent of the oilfield fatalities nationwide. Oilfields are known for their extensive use of heavy machinery and large vehicles, including semi-trucks, haul trucks, and tanker trucks. These vehicles are needed to transport sand, water, and other materials used in the drilling process. Long working hours, inexperience, fatigue, distracted driving, and hazardous road conditions can all contribute to an increased risk of accidents.
Being Hit by an Object
One of the most common causes of injuries and deaths in oilfields is workers being struck by heavy equipment or flying debris. The nature of oil extraction involves the use of large machinery, tools, and components under high pressure, which can become projectiles if they malfunction or are mishandled. This risk is exacerbated by the often cramped and cluttered conditions of drilling sites, where high-speed operations mean that even a small error can lead to catastrophic outcomes.
Oilfields are fraught with the risk of explosions due to the highly flammable nature of hydrocarbons being extracted and processed. These incidents can be triggered by a spark, equipment failure, or during the transportation and storage of oil and gas. Explosions not only pose an immediate threat to life but also lead to fires that can cause further destruction and loss of life, making it one of the most feared hazards in the industry.
The oil extraction process often requires workers to operate at significant heights, whether on drilling platforms, derricks, or other elevated structures. Falls from such heights can lead to fatal injuries or severe, long-term disabilities. The risk is compounded by slippery surfaces, unstable structures, and the need to maneuver around or through complex machinery, making falls a prevalent concern for oilfield safety.
Exposure to Harmful Substances
Workers in oilfields are regularly exposed to a variety of hazardous chemicals and substances, including volatile organic compounds, hydrogen sulfide, and silica dust. Prolonged or intense exposure to these substances can lead to serious health issues, including respiratory problems, chemical burns, and long-term illnesses such as cancer. The insidious nature of such exposure means that the full impact on a worker’s health may not become apparent until years after the initial exposure, making it a silent but deadly risk in oilfield operations.
Together, these factors create a dangerous working environment that requires strict safety protocols, rigorous training, and a commitment to health and safety practices to mitigate the risks and protect the lives of those working in the oilfields. If you have been injured or a loved one killed due to an oilfield accident, it’s important to seek legal representation from a Texas oilfield accident lawyer who has experience handling these types of cases.
What to Do if Injured in a Texas Oilffield Accident
Oilfield work is among the most hazardous occupations in Texas, with the potential for serious accidents and injuries. If you or a loved one are injured in a Texas oilfield accident, taking the right steps immediately afterward is crucial for your health, safety, and potential legal rights. Here’s what you should do:
1. Seek Medical Attention Immediately
Your health is the top priority. Even if you believe your injuries are relatively minor, it’s essential to get a thorough medical examination. Some injuries, especially internal ones, may not be immediately apparent. Prompt medical attention ensures your injuries are documented from the start, which can be critical for any future compensation claims.
2. Report the Accident
Notify your supervisor or the person in charge at the site as soon as possible. Reporting the accident is a necessary step in initiating the workplace’s incident documentation process. Ensure that a written report is filed, and request a copy for your records. This documentation can be vital evidence if you need to pursue a legal claim.
3. Document Everything
If you are able, take photographs of the accident scene, your injuries, and any equipment or conditions that may have contributed to the accident. Gather names and contact information of witnesses who might have seen what happened. Keep detailed notes about the accident and your injuries, as well as any conversations with your employer, insurance representatives, or medical professionals regarding the incident.
4. Be Cautious with Insurance Companies
You may be contacted by insurance companies looking to settle quickly. It’s important to remember that their primary goal is to minimize the amount they pay out. Before accepting any settlement or signing any documents, consult with an experienced Texas oilfield accident lawyer.
5. Contact an Experienced Texas Oilfield Accident Lawyer
Oilfield injury cases can be complex due to the involvement of multiple parties and the specific regulations governing the oil and gas industry. An attorney with experience in this area can provide invaluable guidance on your rights, help you understand the compensation you may be entitled to, and navigate the legal process on your behalf.
6. Follow Up on Medical Treatment
Continue to follow up with any recommended medical treatment for your injuries. Ongoing medical records will document the extent of your injuries and your recovery process, which can be crucial in any legal proceedings.
7. Understand Your Rights
Texas laws and regulations offer protections to workers injured on the job, including those in the oil and gas industry. Familiarize yourself with your rights under Texas workers’ compensation laws and any other relevant statutes. An experienced attorney can help clarify your rights and the best course of action in your specific case.
Being injured in an oilfield accident can be a life-altering event. Taking the right steps immediately after the accident can protect your health, safety, and legal rights. Prioritizing medical attention, documenting the incident thoroughly, and seeking experienced legal representation are critical steps in ensuring you are fairly compensated for your injuries and losses.
Determining Liability for Texas Oilfield Accidents
Determining liability in Texas oilfield accidents is a complex process that involves thorough investigations and a deep understanding of the multifaceted operations within the oil and gas industry. Texas, being a hub for oil and gas extraction, has seen its fair share of workplace accidents, making the issue of liability particularly pertinent. The process of determining liability hinges on identifying negligence, breaches of statutory or regulatory duties, and the failure to uphold industry standards.
In many cases, the employer may be held liable for accidents that occur on oilfield sites. This can be due to a failure to provide a safe working environment, inadequate training for employees, insufficient maintenance of equipment, or failure to comply with safety regulations. Employers are obligated under both federal and Texas state laws to ensure that their operations do not put workers at undue risk.
Contractor and Subcontractor Roles
Oilfield operations often involve a network of contractors and subcontractors, each with specific roles and responsibilities. Determining liability can become complicated when multiple parties are involved. Contractors and subcontractors can be held liable if their actions or negligence contribute to an accident. This includes failing to adhere to safety protocols, providing defective equipment, or not properly managing their workforce.
Liability can also extend to the manufacturers of oilfield equipment and machinery. If an accident is caused by defective or inherently dangerous equipment, the manufacturer might be held responsible under product liability laws. This is particularly relevant in cases where equipment fails despite proper maintenance and correct operation by oilfield workers.
Adherence to regulations set forth by agencies such as the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) and the Texas Railroad Commission is crucial. Non-compliance with these regulations can be a significant factor in determining liability. Regulatory investigations following an accident often uncover violations that contribute to determining fault.
Texas follows a modified comparative fault rule, which means that an injured party can recover damages only if their degree of fault does not exceed 50 percent . In oilfield accidents, this rule requires a careful assessment of all parties’ actions leading up to the incident to determine the extent of liability shared among them.
Determining liability in Texas oilfield accidents requires a meticulous examination of all these factors. Legal proceedings often involve expert testimonies, accident reconstructions, and an in-depth analysis of work practices and safety measures in place at the time of the accident. Due to the complexities involved, individuals seeking to establish liability and pursue compensation should consult with an experienced Texas oilfield accident lawyer. An adept lawyer, like those at Varghese Summersett, can identify each party’s roles and responsibilities, build a strong case, and fight for the compensation you deserve. By holding all of those responsible accountable, we can work towards preventing similar accidents from occurring in the future and promoting a safer work environment for all oilfield workers.
Types of Compensation for a Texas Oilfield Accident
Victims of oilfield accidents in Texas and their families may be entitled to various types of compensation, reflecting the broad impact such incidents can have on their lives. Compensation typically falls into three main categories: economic damages, non-economic damages, and, in some cases, punitive damages. Here’s an overview of each tye of damge.
Economic Damages: Economic or compensatory damages are intended to cover the quantifiable financial losses that result from the accident. These can include:
- Medical Expenses: This can cover both immediate and ongoing medical treatment, rehabilitation, and any specialized care required due to injuries sustained in the accident.
- Lost Wages: Compensation for lost wages includes the earnings the victim lost due to time away from work during recovery. If the victim is unable to return to work or must take a lower-paying job due to their injuries, they may also be compensated for lost earning capacity.
- Property Damage: If personal property was damaged as a result of the accident, compensation could include the cost of repair or replacement.
- Other Financial Losses: This can encompass a range of other out-of-pocket expenses directly related to the accident, such as travel costs for medical treatment or modifications needed at home to accommodate a disability.
Non-Economic Damages: These damages compensate for the non-monetary aspects of harm suffered by the victim, which are not easily quantifiable but significantly impact the victim’s quality of life, including:
- Pain and Suffering: Compensation for the physical pain and emotional distress experienced as a result of the accident.
- Emotional Distress: This includes anxiety, depression, and other psychological effects stemming from the accident.
- Loss of Consortium: Compensation awarded to the spouse or family members for the loss of companionship, affection, and support due to the victim’s injuries.
- Disfigurement and Physical Impairment: Compensation for permanent changes to the victim’s appearance or bodily functions that affect their quality of life.
Punitive Damages: Unlike economic and non-economic damages, which aim to compensate the victim, punitive damages are intended to punish the defendant for particularly reckless or egregious behavior and to deter similar conduct in the future. In Texas, punitive damages are subject to certain limitations and are only awarded in cases where the defendant’s actions are proven to be grossly negligent, fraudulent, or malicious.
The compensation awarded in Texas oilfield accident cases is highly dependent on the specifics of each case, including the severity of the injuries, the impact on the victim’s life and livelihood, and the circumstances leading to the accident. Navigating these claims requires a thorough understanding of personal injury law in Texas and the intricacies of the oil and gas industry, making it advisable for victims and their families to seek experienced legal representation to ensure they receive the full range of compensation to which they are entitled.
What Must Be Proven to Win a Texas Oilfield Claim or Lawsuit
Winning a claim or lawsuit related to an oilfield accident in Texas involves proving certain key elements that establish liability and the right to compensation. These elements typically revolve around the legal principles of negligence, product liability, or workplace safety violations. Here’s what must be generally proven:
1. Duty of Care
The first step is to establish that the defendant (the party being sued) owed a duty of care to the plaintiff (the injured party). In the context of an oilfield, this could mean an employer’s obligation to provide a safe working environment, a contractor’s duty to perform work safely, or a manufacturer’s duty to produce safe equipment.
2. Breach of Duty
Once a duty of care is established, it must be shown that the defendant breached this duty. This could involve failing to adhere to safety protocols, not providing adequate training to employees, neglecting to maintain equipment properly, or manufacturing defective products. Evidence of violations of industry standards, OSHA regulations, or company policies can support this.
Proving causation involves demonstrating that the defendant’s breach of duty directly caused the accident and the plaintiff’s injuries. This means showing a clear link between the defendant’s actions or inactions and the incident that occurred. It must be evident that but for the defendant’s breach of duty, the injury would not have happened.
Finally, the plaintiff must prove that they suffered actual damages as a result of the accident. Damages can be physical, emotional, and financial. Physical injuries need to be documented through medical records. Financial losses can include medical bills, lost wages, and the potential for future lost earnings. Emotional distress, pain, and suffering are also considered, though these can be more challenging to quantify.
Winning an oilfield lawsuit in Texas requires a comprehensive understanding of the law, meticulous gathering of evidence, and strategic legal argumentation. Proving duty of care, breach of that duty, causation, and damages are the pillars of building a successful case. Given the complexities involved, individuals seeking to pursue such a lawsuit are strongly advised to consult with an experienced Texas oilfield accident attorney who can guide them through the legal process and advocate on their behalf.
How a Texas Oilfield Accident Lawyer Can Help You
If you’ve been involved in an oilfield accident in Texas, securing the services of a knowledgeable and experienced lawyer can be a crucial step in ensuring your rights are protected and you receive the compensation you deserve. Here’s how a Texas oilfield accident lawyer can assist you:
1. Expertise in Oilfield Regulations and Laws
Texas oilfield accident lawyers specialize in the laws and regulations that govern the oil and gas industry in the state. They are well-versed in both federal and state workplace safety standards, including those set by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) and the Texas Railroad Commission. Their expertise allows them to identify any violations or negligence that may have contributed to your accident.
2. Investigation and Evidence Gathering
A thorough investigation is critical in building a strong case. An experienced lawyer will conduct a comprehensive investigation into your accident, which includes gathering crucial evidence such as eyewitness testimonies, accident reports, company safety records, and maintenance logs of the equipment involved. They may also work with accident reconstruction experts to strengthen your case.
3. Determining Liability
Oilfield accidents can involve multiple parties, making the determination of liability complex. Your lawyer can identify all potential liable parties, which might include employers, equipment manufacturers, contractors, and subcontractors, ensuring that all avenues for compensation are explored.
4. Handling Insurance Companies
Dealing with insurance companies can be daunting and complicated. A seasoned oilfield accident lawyer will negotiate with insurance companies on your behalf to ensure you are not pressured into accepting a settlement that is less than what you deserve. They understand the tactics insurance companies might use to minimize payouts and will advocate for your best interests.
5. Maximizing Your Compensation
An adept lawyer will evaluate all aspects of your case to determine the full extent of damages you are owed. This includes not only medical expenses and lost wages but also compensation for pain and suffering, emotional distress, and, in some cases, punitive damages. They will fight to secure the maximum compensation possible for your injuries and other losses.
6. Legal Representation in Court
While many oilfield accident claims are settled out of court, some cases do go to trial. If this happens, having a lawyer with trial experience is invaluable. Your lawyer will represent you in court, presenting your case and arguing on your behalf to achieve a favorable verdict.
7. Providing Peace of Mind
Navigating the aftermath of an oilfield accident can be overwhelming, especially when dealing with injuries, medical bills, and the potential loss of income. Having a dedicated lawyer can provide peace of mind, allowing you to focus on your recovery while they handle the legal complexities of your case.
In the wake of an oilfield accident, the support and guidance of a Texas oilfield accident lawyer can be instrumental in navigating the legal landscape, holding the responsible parties accountable, and securing the compensation you need to recover and move forward with your life. Their specialized knowledge, skills, and dedication can make a significant difference in the outcome of your case.
Speak to a Texas Oilfield Accident Lawyer Today.
If you have been injured or a loved one killed in an oilfield accident in Texas, call Varghese Sumersett today to discuss your case and explore your legal options. Our team can provide the guidance and support you need to pursue the justice and compensation you deserve. We offer a free consultation for potential clients and also work on contingency, which means you don’t pay anything until we recover compensation on your behalf. Call 817-207-4878 (HURT).