Oilfield Accidents

In Texas, the oil and gas industry is a source of great economic strength and job opportunity. The industry is extremely competitive throughout the United States and Texas is not an exception. This means that oil and gas companies strive to maximize productivity and increase profits - which often translates into taking shortcuts and cutting corners. Unfortunately, these executive choices have real-life consequences for the men and women who toil on the ground and in the field. And as is often the case, it can lead to employee injuries and fatalities.

The concerned attorneys at DeHoyos & Connolly PLLC are here to discuss your situation with you if you or a loved one has been injured while employed as an oil field worker. Although an oil company's worker's compensation will cover medical expenses, the money received through this system often is not sufficient to cover the actual damages and losses suffered in an oil field accident. Depending on the circumstances of the accident, third-parties may share in the liability for the accident and may be responsible for some of the compensation owed to the injured worker. Also, if the employer is a non-subscriber to Texas' workers' compensation program then it is possible to bring a lawsuit against the company to recover an award for damages. An oil company also may find itself facing litigation brought by an employee to recover for serious injuries if the company acted with gross negligence.

Working in an oil field involves inherent risk. As pressure to increase oil production mounts, safety regulations are sometimes minimized in the field or ignored completely. There are many parties involved in oil production who may be partially liable for any injury, including heavy equipment manufacturers, independent and sub-contractors, as well as those responsible for the maintenance of the equipment. Although there are numerous different conditions in the field that can lead to an injury, the most common types of accidents include:

  • Equipment
  • Frac tank failures or other mishaps
  • Worker falls from rigs and other equipment
  • Injuries from defective or poorly maintained equipment
  • Oil well blowouts
  • Toxic chemical spills
  • Toxic gas releases; and
  • Explosions or fires in the pipeline, wells, or other heavy equipment.

Oil field accidents often involve equipment weighing thousands of pounds, powerful explosions and releases, and the collapse of large structures. Unfortunately, this means that the injuries caused by these accidents are usually very severe. The most common injuries involve:

  • Severe head and brain injuries
  • back and neck injuries, including spinal cord damage;
  • Fractured or broken bones;
  • Internal organ injury;
  • Serious burns;
  • Toxic gas inhalation;
  • Chemical burns;
  • Limb amputation;
  • Disfigurement; and
  • Electrocution.

Drilling for oil or gas can be is an extremely dangerous occupation. Moreover, The injuries that result from accidents in this industry are often catastrophic. However, oil companies often force victims of accidents to rely on worker's compensation or other sources of minimal compensation based on the employer/employee relationship at the time of the accident and the inherent risks involved with working on an oil field. The litigation to recover adequate damages to cover all of the actual losses suffered by the victims of oil field accidents is complex and involves a comprehensive legal strategy and clear plan for recovery. Understanding when a lawsuit is a viable option will enable and injury victim to make an informed decision about what remedies to pursue. It is important to seek legal advice from experienced attorneys like those at DeHoyos PLLC. Even if your injuries are not cataclysmic, a chronic shoulder, neck, or back injury can prevent you from working in your chosen profession for the remainder of your working days.

In order to recover damages from an oil company through litigation, it is necessary to prove that an employer was classified as a non-subscriber in Texas' workers' compensation program and failed to exercise ordinary care for an oil field company operating in Texas. This is based on the general negligence standard under Texas law. Some of the most common negligence claims include:

  • Crush Injuries: The equipment used in oil field operations is extremely heavy and bulky. In addition to the equipment, there are extreme forces necessary to drill for oil and gas and to retrieve it from the ground. Due to the extreme risk of crush injuries, the State of Texas requires oil companies to provide adequate training to its employees on the use of heavy equipment and the implementation of applicable safety protocols to avoid such injuries. A failure to follow the proscribed regulations may result in employer liability for the resulting injuries.

  • Burn Injuries: In oil fields, the use of drilling wells generates great friction and heat. This equipment is necessary to pump the oil from the fields and move it to the storage facilities; however, it can creates a very dangerous situation for workers in the field. Due to the inherent danger in the operation of the equipment, oil companies are required to perform maintenance necessary to ensure that the equipment functions properly. In addition, oil companies are charged with the responsibility of hiring employees who are capable of performing up to the high standard required to operate the equipment. If an oil company is negligent in its hiring practices, especially if it re-hires an employee who has proved himself incapable of performing in such a manner as ensures the safety and wellbeing of all of its employees, then the employer may be held responsible for the harm caused by the negligent employee.

There are many facts that will show that an employer acted in a negligent manner. In order to bring a lawsuit against an employer who does subscribe to Texas' workers' compensation program, it is necessary to show that the employer acted in a grossly negligent manner, which is a much higher standard to satisfy.

If you have been involved in a serious accident, we will investigate your case, looking at the facts of the incident with fresh perspective to determine whether litigation is possible and in your best interest. Our client-focused philosophy means that we work hard to get you everything that you deserve to compensate you for your injuries and loss. In a legal action brought because of a serious injury, our attorneys will seek compensation for lost wages, medical expenses, and pain and suffering.

Victims of oil field accidents are already dealing with the consequences of the injuries, which likely are severe. Although it may be tempting to settle quickly in order to pay some bills and move forward, the fact is that this settlement probably will not cover ongoing medical treatment and lost wages as a result of a limited ability to work. Our attorneys are genuinely focused on getting you into the best circumstances possible. We are committed to the goals of our clients and will work hard to protect your rights. The oil company has experienced attorneys working for it - you need dedicated attorneys to represent your interests. The DeHoyos Law Firm DeHoyos & Connolly, PLLC is here to provide you with legal options and the answers to all of your questions. Please call us to discuss your accident and schedule a free initial consultation.

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.

  • Are there other types of insurance that cover injuries?

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.