The Texas oil industry plays a critical role in the state’s economy. Contributing 14% of the total state economy and 40% of total US crude, it’s safe to say that our way of life depends on Texas oil workers.
However, employers don’t always provide workers with safe working conditions. In fact, the oil and gas industry is one of the most dangerous places to work. Investigative reporters analyzed US Department of Labor Data to find some disturbing statistics:
- From 2008 through 2017, 1,566 workers were killed in oil field jobs;
- 552 accidents killed oil workers during this time;
- The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) fines for an oil accident that killed a worker averaged $16,813;
- From 2008 to 2018, OSHA cited companies in the extraction industry for 10,873 violations; and
- 64% of OSHA citations were for serious violations, meaning hazards likely to result in death or serious physical harm.
While the number of oil field fatalities may seem shocking, these statistics don’t even account for injured workers. In 2011, there were 1,400 nonfatal injuries and illnesses in oil and gas extraction, with 8,500 more injuries and illnesses from supporting activities.
After the media attention given to the Deepwater Horizon disaster in 2010, people assumed that the oil industry would clean up their act. As these statistics show, that safety overhaul didn’t happen. The meager OSHA fines prove that government action is not likely to prompt safer working conditions.
Instead, victims of oil industry negligence must speak up and take legal action. In exposing the oil industry’s bad actions and holding them accountable through a lawsuit, you can create safer working conditions for other workers.
Types of Oilfield Injuries
Since the oil field is such a dangerous place to work, workplace accidents often lead to life-changing or fatal injuries. Accidents can happen for a variety of reasons—from human error to equipment malfunction—causing severe oilfield injuries before a worker has time to react.
So what types of injuries do these accidents cause?
Slip and Fall Injuries
When working on high platforms among oil and chemicals, workers encounter the potential for serious slip and fall accidents. A slip and fall can lead to these injuries:
- Broken bones,
- Strained muscles,
- Neck or spinal cord injuries, and
Sadly, a fall from a high platform or around moving machinery can result in death.
Equipment Malfunction Injuries
The heavy equipment that is powerful enough to extract oil from deep beneath the earth can cause severe injuries if it malfunctions. Either a manufacturing defect or human error can lead to catastrophic equipment accidents, causing any of these injuries:
- Crushed limbs,
- Severed limbs,
- Broken bones,
- Neck and back injuries, and
- Traumatic brain injuries.
Workers injured by equipment malfunction may lose the ability to work and provide for their families.
Rig Collapse Injuries
Oil rigs weighing thousands of tons balance power and stability. Sometimes, quick construction using sloppy methods produces an unstable rig. When a rig collapses, these oil field injuries might result:
- Broken bones,
- Traumatic brain injuries,
- Severed limbs, and
- Back injuries.
Workers who are high up on a collapsing rig or trapped beneath it may not survive the accident.
Fire and Explosion Injuries
The high heat and volatile chemicals used in the oil industry create the potential for fires and explosions. These horrific accidents have cost many oil workers their lives. Workers who survive oil fires and explosions can suffer these injuries:
- Head injuries, and
- Nerve damage.
Oil fires and explosions receive much media coverage, but the oil industry has not improved safety standards to prevent these terrible disasters.
Poisonous Gas Injuries
The oil extraction process can release poisonous gases, such as hydrogen sulfide, which poses a lethal hazard to unprotected workers. The colorless gas collects in enclosed spaces where it awaits unsuspecting workers. This Center for Public Integrity article discusses the lax inspections and regulations that leave workers vulnerable to gas injuries, such as these:
- Nausea and vomiting,
- Headache, and
Sadly, workers exposed to poisonous gases are often provided no respiratory protection, resulting in them being killed instantly.
The electricity required to power oil equipment poses a hazard to oilfield workers. Also, workers in the vast Texas desert, surrounded by towering metal equipment, are vulnerable to lightning strikes. Electrocution can injure workers in these ways:
- Shock, and
An oil worker who suffers electric shock may not receive prompt emergency response due to the remote location of oil fields. Thus, many electrical accidents kill workers.
Types of Compensation Available
If you were injured or a loved one was killed in an oilfield accident, you may be able to sue. Texas workers who experience oilfield injuries have access to several potential forms of compensation.
Texas employers are not required to cover workers’ compensation insurance. If your employer does carry this insurance, you can file for workers’ comp, but you can’t sue your employer.
Workers’ compensation will pay your medical bills and provide you with a portion of your salary for a limited time, depending on the extent of your injuries. This insurance program may also pay for job retraining if you cannot work at your oil field job due to your injuries.
Personal Injury or Wrongful Death Lawsuit
However, if your employer does not subscribe to workers’ compensation insurance, you can sue for a personal injury, survival claim, or wrongful death. An injured worker brings a personal injury lawsuit. The family or estate of a worker who was killed may be able to file a survival claim for the workers’ oil field injuries or a wrongful death claim for the family’s harm.
Also, if your oil field injury was caused by a third party—not your employer or a coworker—you may be able to sue that company or individual. For instance, if the oil field equipment malfunctioned and caused your injury, you may be able to sue the manufacturer.
How an Oil Field Lawyer Can Help You
Navigating the best path to injury compensation can be confusing and difficult to handle on your own. An experienced attorney can help you in determining your best course.
At The Zimmerman Law Firm, our attorneys have helped injured oil workers for decades. We can review your case and inform you of all legal options available, from workers’ compensation to a lawsuit against your employer or a third party.
If you have experienced the death of a loved one in an oil accident, our compassionate attorneys can guide your family through the path to justice.
We don’t pretend that money can replace the person you lost, but we work to secure your family’s financial future so that you can focus on healing. Personal injury and wrongful death settlement agreements also allow us to request changes in oil industry practices that can protect other workers.
The challenge of fighting big oil companies that have hurt you and your family should not fall to just any attorney. This legal battle demands experience, boldness, and passionate advocacy for workers who were placed in harm’s way. At Zimmerman Law Firm, we fight for families every day. Our lawyers aren’t intimidated by big oil companies, and we won’t back down.
Learn how our law firm can help you by contacting us for a free consultation. If you hire us, you owe nothing until we win your case.
Working on contingency, we fund the entire investigation, negotiation, and (if needed) trial to get you the compensation you deserve. Contact us today to start the legal process toward recovering just compensation.