Unfortunately, when companies put profits over safety oilfield injuries are common. From 2008 through 2017, 1,566 workers were killed while trying to extract oil and gas in the United States. Some companies do not follow basic safety standards for the protection of their workers and contractors. Most companies do not take responsibility when workers are injured or killed. When they do take responsibility, it is often in “root cause” reports that the company will refuse to provide to the injured worker or their family. Workers are asked to make written statements, but then the company refuses to provide the injured worker with a copy of their own statement or that of anyone else.
Taking care of oilfield workers and their families
If you are asking yourself, “do I need to talk with a lawyer?” the answer is almost certainly yes. The oilfield companies who might be responsible for your accident are not likely to wait to talk to their lawyers. The company lawyers will start building their defense from the day they learn about a worker’s injury, with the goal of doing everything possible to avoid responsibility and limit your ability to recover damages. You need your own team of lawyers to investigate your claims and do everything possible to prove who was at fault and recover the full extent of your damages. At Armstrong & Lee LLP, initial consultations are free for any oilfield accident victim. If we represent you, there is no out of pocket cost. We are only paid if we make a recovery on your behalf.
What to do when injured in an oilfield accident:
- Report your injury immediately
- Stop working if you are hurt
- Take photos of the accident scene, any equipment involved in your accident, and your injuries
- Gather the full names and telephone numbers of any witnesses
- Demand immediate medical treatment at a doctor of your choice
- Do not give a formal statement, sign paperwork, or accept money from the company other than your normal paycheck without first speaking with an experienced oilfield injury attorney
- Contact an experienced attorney
Common causes of oilfield injuries
- Poorly trained and inexperienced workers
- Poor supervision and enforcement of safety standards
- Lack of information given to employees
- Poorly maintained equipment
- Tired and fatigued workers
- Putting cost cutting ahead of worker safety
- “Passing the buck” mentality among certain operators and management
- Pressure to rush the work and companies who want to make as much money as they can as quickly as possible
- Toxic exposure to petrochemicals and hydrogen sulfide (H2S)
- Unsafe work in confined spaces
Different types of oil field accidents
Heavy equipment failures
Oilfield injuries involving heavy equipment require a thorough investigation of possible causes and responsibility. Whether due to falling pipe on the drilling platform, a malfunctioning kelly drive, mud pump, racking board, backhoe, or other piece of machinery, the stakes for the injured worker could not be higher whenever a heavy equipment injury happens at the worksite.
Maintenance companies, operators, company men, welders, subcontractors, and product manufacturers may share in the responsibility for causing oilfield accidents involving heavy equipment. At Armstrong & Lee LLP, we take the burden of investigating possible causes and determining fault off the shoulders of injured workers and their families. We take this job seriously and devote the resources necessary to determine who may be at fault and why.
Fires and explosions
Fires and explosions at oilfield worksites can be due to improper mixing of petrochemicals, uncontrolled pressure, failure to follow lock out and tag out procedures, and many other reasons. When a fire or explosion happens at a wellsite, riggers, roughnecks, and other members of the rig crew can be severely injured. Injures can be made if there are insufficient safety policies in place, whether they be inadequate evacuation plans, poor fire control measures, or outdated and under inspected safety equipment.
Burn injuries are particularly devastating. Burns can cause almost immeasurable pain and suffering, cause lifelong scarring, necessitate extensive procedures, and sometimes prevent a worker from ever being able to earn a living again. At Armstrong & Lee LLP, we have experience handling catastrophic burn injuries. Although the road to recovery can be long, we want to help the injured worker and their family every step of the way. Our case evaluation starts with a telephone conversation: 832-743-2471.
Although rare, well blowouts can cause devastating injuries to the rig crew. Well blowouts are almost always the result of lax safety standards, poorly maintained and inspected equipment, and a failure to properly supervise the drilling operations. When a well blowout happens, workers can be injured from the initial event, while trying to evacuate the area, and from exposure to dangerous well products. Most well blowouts involve failures at numerous levels, by many people, and many companies.
Even if a well is safely completed, there is still significant risk of injury during the fracking process itself. Workers can be hurt by the numerous rigs that operate day-and-night during the injection process. Sometimes workers inhale dangerous material such as silica sand that have been associated with increased rates of lung cancer and mortality. The fracking process can also expose workers to dangerous levels of hydrogen sulfide, which can cause severe illness and death.
Truck and vehicle accidents
Vehicle-on-vehicle and vehicle-on-pedestrian injures are a preventable reality at the wellsite. Whether due to improper training, the 24/7 work environment, or simply from poor driving, oilfield workers involved in motor-vehicle accidents at the worksite should promptly seek treatment for their injures and contact a law firm that has experience handling commercial motor vehicle accidents. There are specific state and federal regulations governing the operation of commercial motor vehicles that can be important in showing who is at fault for causing an accident.
When oil and gas wells are no longer profitable or when they are played out, companies stop production and shut in the wells. Companies may be under financial stress at the time of the shut in. As a result they may cut corners and fail to make the safety of workers their top priority. Just because a well has been shut in or even if an operator has gone out of business does not mean that injured workers cannot make successful claims for their injuries. It is, however, important to act quickly to make sure important evidence is preserved and that the claim is made to the necessary companies and insurance carriers as soon as possible. At Armstrong & Lee LLP we have the infrastructure and resources to take quick action to preserve the rights of injured workers. The first step is to call us: 832-743-2471.
Slips, trips, and falls
Slips, trips, and falls at the wellsite can be caused by hidden dangers, poor design of the workspace, and improper training and supervision, among other reasons. When an oilfield worker suffers a trip or fall at the workplace, it is important that the incident be documented as soon as possible and that the injured worker obtain the medical care that they need. Unlike many other professions, oilfield workers with a slip, trip, or fall injury may not be able to pass necessary physicals in order to return to work, causing substantial loss of wages in addition to medical costs and physical pain and suffering. If you or a loved one have suffered a trip, slip, or fall injury while working at the wellsite or for an oilfield company, we are ready to help.
Confined space injuries
Oilfield workers are particularly at risk of injury due to the confined spaces where they often work. Although the land surrounding the wellsite can be vast, the space that workers have to perform their functions on the rig typically provide little room for error. When disaster strikes, workers sometimes do not have enough room to escape.
Specially trained crews are often brought on site to clean onsite tanks. This dangerous work requires specialized equipment, proper lighting, proper ventilation, and a hole watch. Our team of lawyers has encountered injuries in these conditions due to failures in equipment, a hole watch that wanders off, and a multitude of other reasons. We understand how the job should be done, and we stand ready to evaluate possible causes to your oilfield accident. Call us day or night at 832-743-2471 to start the process.
Oilfield workers frequently work overtime during rig operations, the well completion, and fracking operations. Even during slow times at the wellsite, some employers keep their employees working overtime to the point of fatigue. But, at the wellsite, heavy machinery must be constantly inspected, repaired, and maintained. When this work is not completed or not done safely, other workers can be seriously injured or killed.
Investigations into oilfield injuries require an understanding of what workers may have contributed to the accident and whether fatigue or overwork played a role in causing the accident.
Frequently Asked Questions
Q: What damages can I receive for an oilfield injury?
Answer: The damages available for an oilfield injury case include medical costs in the past necessary as a result of the accident and medical costs in the future that are likely to be required. Lost wages and lost earning capacity in the past and in the future are also recoverable. Injured workers can also seek payment for pain and suffering, physical impairment, disfigurement, and mental anguish.
Q: What if I am found at fault for the accident?
Answer: A company’s determination that you are at fault is not binding in the courtroom. If you are found at fault during a legal proceeding in Texas, then the rule of Comparative Fault will determine the outcome. Under the rule of Comparative Fault, each party who is found negligent is assigned a percentage of fault, and the injured person does not recover their percentage. For example, if the injured oilfield worker is found 10% at fault and other defendants are found 90% at fault, and the injured worker has $1,000,000 in damages, then the injured worker would be entitled to $900,000. In Texas, if you are found to be more than 50% at fault, then you cannot recover any damages. This rule is part of why it is important to hire an experienced attorney as soon as possible so that a prompt and thorough investigation can be completed.
Q: What if I am receiving workers’ compensation benefits?
Answer: Employers and certain other companies that provide workers’ compensation insurance coverage can be immune from suit under many circumstances. However, due to the nature of oilfield work, oftentimes there are other companies that played a role in causing the accident. Examples include maintenance companies for equipment failures, “company men” that are not true employees of the operator, and other contractors at the worksite. Even if you are receiving workers’ compensation benefits, you should not delay in consulting with an experienced oilfield injury attorney.
Q: How do you find out who is responsible for my accident?
Answer: Sometimes it is clear who is at fault for an accident. But oftentimes it takes investigation to determine who is at fault. An action or failure to act by another person or company can take weeks or months before it results in an injury. It is our job to investigate on behalf of our clients with the help of experts in the industry to determine who is at fault. Sometimes only one person or company is at fault, and other times multiple parties share responsibility.
Q: How long does it take to bring a claim?
Answer: It depends. Some cases are resolved quickly, within several months of an injury. However, most cases involving serious injuries require longer periods of time. This is because the injured worker needs to receive a course of treatment for there to be a clear picture of what the future medical costs, lost wages, and other damages look like. It also takes time in the legal system to bring a claim and for discovery to be conducted on the merits of the claim. Although defendants often try to delay final resolution, having an experienced attorney on your side can be instrumental in bringing a fair and expeditious conclusion to your claim.