The Dangers of Working on an Oil Rig
Oil rig workers face dangerous job conditions—from rough seas to dangerous equipment—as they labor to provide a critical portion of America’s energy supply. The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health reports data on fatalities in the oil and gas industry.
The most recent report, from 2017, counted 69 fatalities in the oil and gas industry that year. Texas leads the nation with 44 of those fatalities. In addition to these tragic outcomes, many other oil rig workers are injured in accidents each year.
The American Petroleum Institute developed new safety measures after tragic accidents made headlines.
API advises oil companies to keep workers protected by using safe drilling margins, real-time data transmission and monitoring, and regularly testing blowout preventer systems. Despite these safety advances, the oil industry still endangers many Houston area workers each year.
If you were injured on an oil rig, you deserve compensation. At Armstrong, Lee & Baker LLP, our offshore accident attorneys fight for injured oil workers. We work to get you maximum compensation for the injuries and loss of income you have suffered.
To learn more about what we can do for you, contact us for a free consultation.
Here, we will provide an overview of maritime injury law and share steps you can take to potentially recover maximum compensation.
How Are Oil Workers Injured?
Oil workers working offshore face inherently dangerous rig conditions, including the following hazards:
- Slip and falls;
- Machinery malfunctions;
- Chemical leaks;
- Falling tools; and
- Rough seas.
It is an employer’s duty to provide a safe work environment for employees. When an oil company fails to keep the workplace safe, such hazards on oil rigs can cause a number of life-altering injuries, including the following:
- Broken bones;
- Strained muscles;
- Nerve damage;
- Crushed or severed limbs;
- Head injuries; and
- Spinal cord damage.
In the most tragic cases, an oil accident can kill the worker. In that case, our law firm helps grieving family members recover compensation for their loved one’s death.
What Occupation Will Be Covered Under a Maritime Injury?
What laws apply will often depend on whether the injured person is a:
Additionally, what law applies may depend on whether the accident occurs:
- On navigable waters
- While the vessel is docked
- On a semi-submersible
- On the docks
- On an offshore rig
Once it is determined what law applies, injured maritime workers may be entitled to maintenance and cure benefits or benefits under state worker’s compensation laws.
In addition, a lawsuit can often be brought against vessel owners and operators or other responsible parties for the injured worker’s past and future medical bills, past and future lost wages, pain, and suffering, and other damages.
What Is the Jones Act?
The Jones Act is a federal law designed to protect injured maritime workers. It allows injured workers to bring a personal injury claim against their employers. This differs from land-based workers’ compensation law, which does not allow injured workers to sue their employers.
Thus, with a Jones Act claim, you have the potential to recover much more compensation than you could if you sustained a workplace injury on land.
Who Qualifies for the Jones Act?
To be covered by the Jones Act, you must be classified as a “seaman.” The Act defines a seaman as someone who spends at least 30 percent of their time in the service of a vessel on navigable waters.
Navigable waters refer to water that is used in interstate or foreign commerce, such as a river traversing two or more states or an ocean.
To be in navigation, the vessel must be afloat, in operation, and capable of moving on navigable waters. This means that workers on a boat in drydock are not covered by the Jones Act.
What Compensation Can I Recover?
The compensation you can recover when injured on an offshore oil rig depends on if you are eligible to file under the Jones Act. As we mentioned, this Act restricts suits to injured workers who are classified as seamen.
If you do not qualify to file a claim under the Jones Act, you can file a claim under general maritime law.
Filing Under the Jones Act
When you file a personal injury claim under the Jones Act, you can recover compensation for the following harm:
You can recover reimbursement for medical bills including doctor’s appointments, hospital stays, and physical therapy, among almost any other type of physician-recommended treatment.
Transportation costs to get to treatment may also be reimbursed. When you get medical treatment after your oil rig accident, save bills and medical reports. This evidence can help prove your claim.
You can recover past, present, and future lost wages. Lost wages include retirement accounts, health insurance, vacation days, and any other employment benefits.
If you are unable to work again, our offshore accident attorneys will calculate your work-life expectancy (that is, the remaining years you anticipated working) and how much you would have earned each year.
This requires complicated calculations but can result in a large settlement amount.
Pain and suffering
Compensation for pain and suffering can also be recovered. Pain and suffering include conditions such as mental anguish at your altered physical appearance, insomnia, physical pain, loss of enjoyment of life, humiliation, anxiety, and anger.
Maintenance and Cure
The compensation under the Jones Act is much more than the compensation allowed by general maritime law, which provides only “maintenance and cure.”
Maintenance and cure provide an injured worker with coverage for only meager daily living expenses and medical expenses. The Jones Act’s provisions for pain and suffering and lost wages can result in a much higher settlement.
What Should I Do After an Oil Rig Accident?
When you experience an oil rig accident, you may be in severe pain and facing extensive medical treatment. Meanwhile, you may wonder how to pay your bills if you are unable to work.
A lawsuit may be the last thing on your mind, but filing a Jones Act claim can help you recover the compensation you need to treat your injuries and provide for your family.
Take these steps after an oil rig accident to give yourself the best opportunity to recover compensation:
- Report your accident to a supervisor;
- Take photographs of the accident scene;
- Write down the names and contact numbers of witnesses;
- Seek immediate medical treatment; and
- Keep medical records and bills.
Your company will ask you to fill out an accident report, and you will need to give a statement to the insurance company. Take your time—and consult an attorney if you want—before writing a report or giving an official statement.
Accident victims who have experienced a traumatic event may feel confused about what happened, and giving a statement before you are thinking clearly could jeopardize your claim.
On your accident report, you must indicate that the company was at fault in order to recover maximum compensation. If you have questions about whether the company was at fault, share your story with a maritime attorney and get their opinion on the situation.
Will My Case Settle or Go to Trial?
The Jones Act allows for a jury trial for personal injury claims, which can offer significant benefits to a plaintiff. We can build a case designed to appeal to the jury’s emotions, so they may award you higher compensation.
Of course, oil company attorneys know that juries may award higher compensation than a judge, so they try to avoid jury trials.
When you hire maritime injury attorneys who make it clear that they will not hesitate to bring a case to trial, the oil company is more likely to offer a large settlement.
Trials are expensive and bring the negative press, so oil companies are highly motivated to settle. While we often negotiate significant settlements for our clients, you will have the final say in whether to accept a settlement offer.
When Should I Contact an Attorney?
You should contact an attorney soon after your oil rig accident because you have only a limited time to file a Jones Act claim. The Jones Act allows injured seamen to file a claim three years after the accident.
This means that if you wait more than three years to file a claim, your case could be thrown out.
To put together the best case for maximum recovery, your Houston maritime injury lawyer will need plenty of time to investigate and gather information. Therefore, you should contact an offshore injury attorney well before the three-year time limit.
How Can an Offshore Injury Attorney Help?
After you suffer an oil rig accident, you should prioritize seeking medical treatment. As soon as you are able, you should contact a maritime law attorney.
An experienced attorney can walk you through the process of a Jones Act or maintenance and cure claim, taking stress off your shoulders.
An attorney can also help you get proper medical treatment, gather critical evidence to support your claim, and make sure that your company fulfills all its legal obligations.
Contact a Skilled Houston Maritime Injury Lawyer
At Armstrong, Lee & Baker, our experienced maritime law attorneys help injured workers seek the compensation they deserve. We provide personalized legal representation, viewing each client as a unique individual instead of a number.
We work tirelessly to help clients recover from their injuries and obtain the compensation they need to move forward with their lives.
We do not believe that income should determine access to justice, so we make our services affordable to everyone. We offer a free consultation, and if you hire us, you pay us nothing unless we win you money.
Then, you pay us a percentage of your settlement or trial verdict. Our offshore injury lawyers are not afraid to go to trial, and we let the insurance company know that.
Hiring experienced trial lawyers gives you the best chance of recovering a maximum settlement or jury award. To get started on your maritime injury case and find out what compensation you might receive, contact us today.