Thousands of Texas workers are employed by the oil and gas industry. Extraction is dangerous work that puts rig workers at risk of suffering serious injuries and even fatal injuries. Oil rig fires and explosions are an ever-present danger. A significant percentage of the nation’s oil rig fires and explosions each year occur in Texas.
Many oil rig fires and explosions are preventable accidents caused by disregard for safety in the oil and gas industry. Many fires and explosions occur because companies are focused on profits rather than preventing accidents. When oilfield workers suffer serious or fatal burn or explosion injuries as a result of another party’s negligence, the injured worker and their family may have the right to take legal action and seek compensation for their medical bills and related losses.
At Herrman & Herrman, our Texas injury lawyers represent individuals and families who have suffered injuries and financial difficulties after oil rig fires and explosions caused by the negligence of others. Our dedicated team can help you hold negligent parties accountable and pursue a fair recovery.
Contact us today to learn more about your legal options in a free initial consultation.
Oil Rig Explosions Are Underreported
Workers in the oil and gas industry have risky jobs that involve heavy equipment, specialized production processes, and hazardous materials. Many oilfield workers may be reluctant to report unsafe conditions for fear of losing jobs. The following statistics illustrate the dangers of work on an oil rig, even though experts suggest the scope of the problem is underreported:
- According to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), between 2013 and 2017, there were 489 work-related fatalities among oil and gas extraction workers.
- Common causes of worker deaths in the oil and gas extraction industry include vehicle accidents, being struck-by equipment, explosions, fires, falls, and exposure to toxic chemicals.
- In 2017, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) reported 69 fatalities in the oil and gas extraction industry. Of these fatalities, 44 (63.8 percent) occurred in Texas.
- In 2018, the Texas Tribune reported the fatality rate in the oil and gas extraction industry was nearly five times as high as the rate of all other U.S. industries combined.
- The Tribune quoted a former OSHA director as saying the oil and gas industry often doesn’t report worker injuries. They are almost certainly higher than reported due to the high number of reported fatalities.
- An investigation conducted by Drilled News and Southerly concluded that almost half of all known offshore worker fatalities that occurred in the Gulf of Mexico between 2005 and 2019 did not meet government reporting requirements.
- Offshore oil production has increased in recent years despite an overall decline in the number of offshore extraction jobs, which suggests existing jobs are more dangerous than ever.
- According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, a total of 608 worker fatalities occurred throughout Texas in 2019. Of those fatalities, 49 (8.1 percent) involved workers in the mining, quarrying, and oil and gas extraction industries.
Causes of Oil Rig Explosions
The supply of combustible material on an oil rig makes fires and explosions a constant concern. If extraction equipment under pressure fails or flammable chemicals are not properly contained, a fire or explosion can occur. A spark can ignite flammable liquids or gasses and lead to a fire that can spread quickly. Fires and explosions pose huge risks to oil rig workers, who can sustain life-threatening injuries.
Some of the most common causes of oil rig explosions in Texas:
- Equipment failure – Oil rig platforms have a lot of heavy equipment that must be maintained properly and used safely. Poor maintenance and defective equipment can spark explosions.
- Well blowouts – A well blowout occurs when workers tap into highly-pressurized pockets of oil or gas that gush out uncontrollably. Modern oil rigs have special equipment to detect and prevent blowouts. If an equipment failure occurs, a blowout can occur and contribute to fires or explosions.
- Fracking accidents – Hydraulic fracturing involves injecting pressurized water into deep boreholes to extract underground deposits of natural gas or oil from shale. The fracking process can lead to blowouts, fires, and explosions.
- Unsafe work practices – Certain tasks, such as welding or drilling, create sparks that can ignite oil or natural gas if the work occurs in the wrong location. Other unsafe work practices, such as using the wrong tools for the job, can also lead to dangerous sparks, exposed electrical currents, and fires.
- Inclement weather – Employers who manage oil rigs are responsible for evacuating workers when extreme weather events are likely. Strong winds can make it difficult to work and prevent mishaps, while lightning strikes can directly ignite combustible materials and trigger explosions.
Common Oil Rig Burns and Explosion Injuries
Oil rig workers are susceptible to serious injuries when explosions occur. The shock wave from an explosion can knock workers down or even throw them into the air. Intense fires can result in severe burns and smoke inhalation.
Common injuries that occur as a result of oil rig fires and explosions include:
- First-, second-, and third-degree burns
- Skin trauma from chemical exposure
- Traumatic brain injuries
- Spinal cord injuries
- Blunt force trauma
- Amputation and dismemberment
- Fractures and dislocations
- Soft tissue injuries
- Post-traumatic stress disorder
- Wrongful death
What Are My Legal Options If I Was Injured in an Oil Rig Explosion?
Seeking compensation for injuries stemming from oil rig accidents is complicated because of the different laws that apply, depending on the type of oil rig involved and the nature of the accident. For example, if an oil rig accident occurred on an offshore oil platform, then specific maritime laws may apply, such as the Longshore & Harbor Workers’ Compensation Act or the Jones Act.
The Longshore & Harbor Workers’ Compensation Act is a federal that provides compensation and medical treatment to rig workers who suffer injuries in on-the-job accidents that occur on navigable waters of the United States or adjacent areas such as loading docks or harbors.
The Jones Act is a federal law that applies to certain accidents involving offshore oil rigs in the Gulf of Mexico. The Jones Act gives the crew of offshore oil rigs and vessels legal rights to bring legal claims against the owner of a platform or offshore vessel and seek compensation for injuries. You may have a Jones Act claim if you have been injured in a work-related accident on an offshore platform.
Filing a Workers’ Compensation Claim
If you were injured in a Texas oil rig explosion, you may be entitled to certain workers’ compensation benefits if your employer has workers’ compensation insurance. Workers’ compensation provides benefits such as medical care and wage replacement to eligible employees who sustain work-related injuries. Texas does not require businesses to have workers’ compensation insurance, but many do have it.
Workers’ comp benefits are generally no-fault benefits. That means that an injured oilfield worker may receive benefits without having to prove that anyone else was at fault.
Unfortunately, workers’ compensation is known as an exclusive remedy for work-related injuries. In exchange for receiving workers’ comp benefits, employees give up their right to sue their employers, even if the employer’s negligence directly contributed to their injuries.
Filing a Personal Injury Lawsuit
If you are injured on the job due to your employer’s negligence and your employer does not have workers’ compensation insurance, you may have a right to pursue a personal injury claim and seek compensation.
There are some circumstances under which you can sue your employer even if they do carry workers’ comp insurance. In addition, you may be able to sue your employer if certain maritime laws apply.
You may have a right to file a personal injury lawsuit against a third party if their negligence contributed to your injuries. Depending on the circumstances, any of the following parties may be liable after an oil rig explosion:
- Contractors, subcontractors, and their employers
- The oil and gas company managing the site
- The owner of the property
- The owner or manufacturer of the oil rig
- The driver, owner, or manufacturer of trucking or shipping equipment
In addition to money to cover your medical expenses, you may seek compensation for your lost wages and for the intangible costs of your pain and suffering in a personal injury lawsuit. An experienced oil rig fire injury attorney can help you determine whether you may have grounds for a personal injury lawsuit.
Filing a Wrongful Death Lawsuit
If your loved one was killed as a result of an oil rig explosion, you may have grounds for a wrongful death lawsuit. In a wrongful death lawsuit, surviving immediate family members of a fatally injured oil rig worker seek to hold negligent parties accountable for their loved one’s untimely death.
The types of compensation available in a wrongful death claim include loss of financial support, loss of household contributions, and loss of companionship. Only certain individuals, such as surviving spouses, children, and parents, have the legal right to file a wrongful death lawsuit in Texas.
Contact an Oil Rig Burn or Explosion Injury Lawyer
If you were injured in a Texas oil rig fire or explosion, contact the oil rig injury lawyers at Herrman & Herrman today. We can evaluate your situation and provide answers to your questions in an initial case review at no cost to you. Call 361-882-4357 to schedule a free consultation.
Our law firm has extensive experience in personal injury law, having handled more than 20,000 cases. We have office locations in Ft. Worth, Brownsville, McAllen, Corpus Christi, Corpus Christi South Side, San Antonio, and Houston. Herrman & Herrman has Spanish-speaking and English-speaking staff so you can discuss your legal matter in the language that you feel most comfortable speaking.