What Should I Do After an Oilfield Accident?

Nov 4, 2020 | Oilfield Accidents, Work Accidents

Oilfield accidents are among the most serious workplace injury accidents. These incidents often involve raging fires, chemical exposure, falls from extreme height, and other such injuries. Most oilfield accidents are rather easy to prevent. But many employers take dangerous shortcuts when it comes to worker safety. Like many employers, they believe they will not get caught or that a serious accident will happen someplace else.

Making matters worse, these incidents often occur far from home or any immediate medical care. The resulting emotional injuries due to the lack of support are often almost as bad as the physical injuries. And, since emergency care is often far away, these physical wounds are often difficult to treat once victims arrive at hospitals.

All these facts and circumstances mean that substantial compensation is available to oilfield accident victims. Howe’ver, these cases are quite complex, and many victims are unsure of their rights. The oilfield injury lawyers at Williams Hart are here for victims like these. Our experience and tenacity helps us guide you through the complex claims process and ensure maximum compensation for your serious injuries.

Report the Accident Immediately

Promptly tell your immediate supervisor about the accident. It’s best to provide verbal or email notice straight away and then follow up with a certified mail notice. Failure to do so could result in termination or other disciplinary action for skipping work. More importantly in this context, lack of reporting is one of the leading causes for injury claim denial.

Many people are fully aware of these basic facts, yet they still do not immediately report their injuries. Frequently, they believe the incident was not too serious and the pain will go away. That attitude is especially common among head injury victims. These individuals usually do not know how badly they are hurt until they see doctors.

These reports usually trigger internal investigations, as well as an OSHA or state investigation. Never speak with these investigators without talking to an attorney first. Generally, these individuals know how to extract damaging information from victims without their knowing it.

Do Not Trust Your Employer

Most employers do not want government scrutiny. Frequently, a single oilfield accident is little more than the tip of an iceberg. There are often many safety shortcuts and other items that the employer does not want anyone else to know about.

To stop these investigations before they start, many employers offer to pay medical bills under the table if the victim agrees to withdraw the claim. These offers are tempting. As outlined below, the oilfield accident claims process is often complex. Quite understandably, many injured victims think it is a good idea to take the money and run.

But these promises are almost always false promises. By the time the employer reneges on the agreement, which usually happens, the aforementioned claims deadline has usually passed. As a result, the victim might lose important legal rights.

Gather Evidence

All successful injury claims are built on solid evidence. Frequently, the victim has the burden of proof in a court claim. Additionally, there is usually a direct relationship between the amount of evidence the victim/plaintiff presents and the amount of compensation awarded. Evidence in an oilfield accident claim includes:

  • Medical bills,
  • Witness statements,
  • Photographs of your injuries,
  • Pictures of the accident scene,
  • Prior safety investigation reports, and
  • First responder accident reports.

Do not rely on investigators or emergency responders to collect this evidence on your behalf. Many victims are too seriously injured to collect evidence themselves; when you reach out to Williams Hart, we collect evidence on your behalf. We normally partner with private investigators during this process. This approach usually produces stellar results for our clients.

Understand Your Options
Procedurally, many injury claims are rather straightforward. But oilfield accidents are much different. There are many possible paths, and starting down the wrong one could lead to a costly delay. So, always partner with a highly-experienced oilfield accident attorney in Houston.

Workers’ Compensation
Essentially, workers’ compensation is no-fault insurance which compensates job injury victims for their medical bills, lost wages, and other economic losses. Typically, workers’ compensation insurance companies pay medical expenses directly. And, injured victims are not financially responsible for any unpaid charges. As for wage replacement, most injured victims receive two-thirds of their average weekly wage for the duration of their temporary disabilities.

Some jurisdictions require employers to maintain workers’ compensation insurance. But workers’ compensation is discretionary in Texas. So, it is not available in all cases. The good news is that, if a Texas company does not subscribe to workers’ compensation, many negligence defenses, such as comparative fault, are unavailable.

Negligence
Basically, negligence is a lack of care. The standard of care is often important in these cases. If the oilfield owner failed to implement and maintain safety standards which were in line with the industry standard, the owner is presumptively negligent.

In addition to compensation for economic losses, successful negligence plaintiffs are eligible for additional compensation for their pain and suffering, emotional distress, and other non-economic losses.

As mentioned, owners cannot use some silver bullet defenses in many of these claims. Nevertheless, a number of partial defenses are available.

Jones Act/DOHSA/LHWCA
These federal laws often apply to oilfield accidents which occur offshore. Which law applies, if any, depends on the facts.

The Jones Act usually covers nonfatal injuries which occur on Mobile Offshore Drilling Units (MODUs). Injured victims must prove that a work-related hazard caused the injury. That’s an extremely low standard of proof.

The Death on the High Seas Act applies to some fatal offshore oilfield injuries. The incident must have occurred at least three nautical miles beyond the coastline of Texas or any other state.

Finally, the Longshoreman and Harbor Workers Compensation Act is essentially a federal workers’ compensation program that applies to many offshore oil workers.

Oilfield accidents are among the most complex kinds of personal injury claims. For a free consultation with an experienced oilfield accident lawyer in Houston, contact Williams Hart Boundas Easterby LLP. You have a limited amount of time to act.

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