Oil field accidents and insurance issues
In Texas, oil field drilling and production is widespread. It is a great source of economic stimulation in the State of Texas, leading to the employment of many workers and the generation of significant revenues. However, it also is an extremely dangerous industry due to the heavy equipment, high pressure, and toxic substances involved, even when all the safety procedures are in place and followed carefully.
Many oil field workers are injured in catastrophic accidents each year. The compassionate attorneys at DeHoyos & Connolly, PLLC are experienced in working through the complicated process in order to get our clients the compensation that they deserve. Our firm was founded on the philosophy that we are here to work hard for our clients, relying on commitment and positive outcomes to bring clients into our office, rather than using gimmicks. While we are ready to sit down and discuss your specific case and the legal options that you may have, we have compiled some of the more frequently asked questions about oil field accidents and insurance matters below.
There are many questions that a person who has been injured in an oil field accident may have. Here are a few of the issues that you may face:
- Do Texas oil companies have to carry workers' compensation for their employees?
Texas is the only state that does not mandate all employers participate in the Texas workers' compensation program for its employees. In fact, nearly half of Texas employers have chosen to be non-subscribers, which means that there are no automatic benefits for employees who are injured while working in the oil fields. For those employers who do subscribe to the workers' compensation program, this provides a straightforward payment to an injured employee without allowing for any litigation against the employer, even if there was a breach of the duty of ordinary care. However, if the accident was caused by the gross negligence of the employer, or by the negligence of a third-party, then then litigation may still be an option.
- If my employer does not participate in Texas' workers' compensation program, does this mean that I cannot recover any funds for my injury?
If a company has chosen to be a non-subscriber, an employer may be sued by injured employees under a common law theory of negligence. If a lawsuit is brought, the employers who have been designated as non-subscribers may not avail themselves of the defenses of assumption of risk or contributory negligence, which is a significant advantage for the employee. Bringing a non-subscriber claim against an employer is a complex matter, requiring skilled attorneys who understand the nuances of the litigation process.
An employer who does not subscribe to the Texas worker's compensation program may offer an injured employee another form of payment from non-subscriber insurance that has been approved by the Texas Department of Insurance. Although this is an acceptable type of insurance, an injured employee is not obligated to accept a payment in lieu of bringing a lawsuit based on negligence, despite the fact that your employer may attempt to convince you that this is the case your only option. It is important to not make any decisions about accepting a monetary payment and signing a waiver of any other legal rights without consulting an experienced oil field accident attorney.
The benefits that may be paid out under this type of alternative policy rarely are sufficient to cover medical expenses and lost wages, but there are situations where an employee may be desperate enough for funds to pay bills that this option may seem more favorable than waiting for the outcome of an uncertain litigation process.
If my employer does participate in Texas' workers' compensation program, can I still pursue a legal action against them for injuries sustained in the oil field?
If your employer subscribes to Texas' workers' compensation and you were injured in an oil field accident, you may not bring a lawsuit against your employer, even if you were injured as a result of your employer's failure to exercise ordinary care. Therefore, the only remedy under these circumstances is to file a claim with the Texas Department of Insurance, pursuing an administrative claim rather than a legal action. However, if a third-party was partially or wholly responsible for your injuries, you are not preempted from filing a lawsuit against the third-party wrong doer.
- Do I have to handle my own workers' compensation claim?
The process of filing a claim for a subscribing employer is very straightforward process. In fact, many employers will have their human resources department handle the filing and management of the claim. If you are in a position where you do not trust the employer to properly manage a claim, you may file directly with the Texas Department of Insurance.
- Are there any circumstances under which I can pursue litigation rather than a workers' compensation claim?
If the oil company is a non-subscribing employer that does not participate in Texas' workers' compensation program or if the actions that caused the injury were grossly negligent, as opposed to simply negligent, then you can pursue a traditional personal injury lawsuit. In addition, the circumstances of the accident may have been caused by a third-party who is not covered by the employer's workers' compensation. Independent contractors and sub-contractors may violate the duty of care and face liability for the injuries that you suffered.
- What should I do if I am injured in an oil field accident?
First, you should seek medical attention as soon as possible. Oil field accidents involve falls from great heights, serious burns, traumatic crush injuries, and other catastrophic harm. There are several things that you should make sure to do, or not do, including:
- It is important to get emergency medical care as soon after the accident as possible.
- Once the initial care has been rendered, you should notify your employer and OSHA about the specifics of the accident.
- It is important to identify any witnesses to the accident, including names, addresses, and telephone numbers.
- If you are not too injured, you should take pictures at the scene of the accident. In an oil field, the environment is in a constant state of high energy and transition, so if it is possible to document the conditions that exist at the time of the accident, it is critical to do so.
- Make a record of all of the injuries that you sustained, keeping track of all swelling, pain, and other conditions that are not readily visible.
- Contact an experienced oil field accident attorney before making any statements on the record.
- Do not sign any documents authorizing the release of medical records or other information until you have consulted a knowledgeable oil field accident attorney.
- Do not agree to any settlement, whether through an alternative injury coverage insurance program or a simple cash award, without consulting oil field accident attorneys, specifically the hardworking attorneys at DeHoyos & Connolly Law Firm, PLLC.
Oil field accident cases involve a complex strategic analysis to determine what happened, who was at fault, whether workers' compensation is a factor, and what third-parties may have a share of the liability. These types of accidents often involve catastrophic injuries that create a logistical and financial nightmare for the injured employee and his or her family. It may be tempting to settle quickly, but taking the time to discuss your legal options with the client-focused and dedicated attorneys at DeHoyos & ConnollyLaw Firm can make a tremendous difference to the outcome. Please contact us to schedule free and confidential consultation.