Oilfield accident lawyers who specialize in oilfield injuries
We are experienced oilfield accident lawyers who can help you if you have been injured while working in the oilfield, on a drilling rig, or at a well site. The Stilwell Law Firm’s oilfield accident lawyers have been to onshore and offshore drilling rigs following explosions, fires, blowouts, loss of control, equipment failures and spills. Our personal injury lawyers know the chain of command at the oil well sites, understand the power of the company men and know the short-cuts that occur when the consequence of a delay in operations results in thousands of dollars of lost profit.
What are the common causes of oil field injuries?
Working at a well site involves the coordination of a lot of companies and contractors who are operating machinery and equipment aimed at getting a well drilled, completed, or producing. Many times, the exploration and production company hire an on-site representative called a company man to coordinate all of the activities, tasks, and jobs that occur at the well site each day. Poor oversight by the company man and supervisors is one of the leading causes of oilfield accidents and injuries.
When the oilfield accident lawyers at the Stilwell Law Firm investigate an accident, we often find that
- The company man was rushing the contractors and workers on site to work faster;
- The companies in charge did not properly coordinate the jobs at the well site to avoid creating hazards to the workers;
- The companies in charge did not stop to evaluate and alleviate all safety concerns raised by the oilfield workers;
- The workers for one or more contractors at the well site were not properly trained for the conditions presented or the jobs being performed at the well site;
- The equipment being used at the well site had not been properly maintained, refurbished, or repaired between jobs;
- The companies in charge failed to discontinue the use of malfunctioning or damaged equipment and machinery;
- The companies in charge failed to comply with safety regulations and OSHA job site regulations;
- Poor communication existed between the companies and contractors on site;
- Safety equipment and personal protective gear was not provided and used;
- Flammable, explosive, and dangerous fluids and chemicals were not properly stored and handled; and
- The company man and supervisors in charge of the well site failed to properly evaluate and monitor the downhole reservoir conditions.
Can an injured oilfield worker receive compensation?
An oilfield worker who is injured at a well site may be entitled to compensation from the companies who own the well, the companies who are operating the well, and the companies who are working at the well. To be entitled to compensation for an oilfield accident, the oilfield worker must show that the company man or the hands working for another contractor at the well site were at least partially at fault. A company man or contractor is at fault when the person’s negligence – either his or her actions or his or her failure to act – is a cause of the accident.
Even if the injured oilfield worker receives help from worker’s compensation insurance, the person injured in an oilfield accident can pursue compensation from the parties responsible for the accident.
Who is responsible for an oilfield worker’s injuries?
Each and every party who causes or contributes to the cause of an oilfield worker’s accident and injuries may be held responsible.
Company men and contractors are negligent when they disobey safety rules, violate OSHA, don’t exercise caution in their operations, and fail to look out for the oilfield workers around them. The companies that these negligent company men and contractors work for are responsible both for their workers’ actions and for their failure to act in a reasonable and prudent manner under the circumstances.
If an oilfield worker is injured because equipment failed or broke or malfunctioned at a well site, then the companies who owned, operated, manufactured, sold, supplied and maintained that equipment may be responsible for the injuries that it caused.
Many times, injuries are caused because the companies and contractors who are using equipment do not use it properly or do not follow the safety instructions or do not heed the warnings that come with the equipment. In such instances, a company’s misuse or mishandling of equipment that causes an injury constitutes negligence and will support an oilfield worker’s claim for compensation.
Sometimes pressure, gasses, oil, or reservoir conditions cause emergency situations at a well site and lead to injuries. The companies in charge of planning the well, drilling the well, completing (or fracking) the well, and producing the well are responsible for these events. These companies know that downhole reservoir conditions present hazardous situations, and they have the responsibility to prepare for, predict, and protect workers at the well site. If an exploration and production company, driller, fracking company, or production company fails to act in a reasonable and prudent manner, and a loss of control of the well occurs, the companies in charge of the well and conducting operations at the well at the time are responsible for any injuries that occur to the oilfield workers who are on site.
Sometimes incidents at well sites expose workers to the toxic chemicals and substances used in fracking, completing, and producing a well. If the chemicals, mud, additives, and fluids at the well are not handled properly and cause an injury to an oilfield worker, then the companies using those chemicals and substances, and the companies who manufactured those chemicals and substances, may be responsible for the oilfield worker’s diseases, health conditions, and medical problems.
What if I am partially at fault for the accident?
Texas law, evaluates the responsibility of everyone involved in the accident and a judge or jury apportions percentages of fault to each person – if deserved. This is called “Comparative Negligence.” If an oilfield worker is injured, the oilfield accident victim who is injured can recover if they are 50% or less at fault. This means that even if the injured oilfield worker could have done something different, they can still recover.
Determining fault is not always easy. For instance, at an oilfield well site, the company man often blames the field hands and contractors for their actions. Often the exploration company argues that the injured oilfield worker could have done something different to avoid the accident. But a good personal injury lawyer will ask the company man and the contractors on site whether they followed their own safety regulations, stopped work to assess the hazards at regular junctures, and staged work to avoid having a hand work in a zone of danger created by another contractor’s work. Many times, the accident could have been avoided if the company man had exercised his authority to enforce safety regulations, used common sense in staging work, and worked at a slower pace. Ultimately, the company man in charge of the well site seldom does this and is negligent in causing or contributing to the cause of the accident.
Under the comparative negligence law in Texas, the judge will reduce any damage award by the percentage of fault attributed to the injured oilfield accident victim. For instance, if the jury determines that the exploration and drilling company was 80% at fault and the injured oilfield worker was 20% at fault, the judge will allow the hurt worker to recover 80% of his or her damages. In this example, if the oilfield accident victim is awarded $500,000, the judge would award the injured oilfield accident victim $400,000 or 80% of the total damages.
Do I have a claim for compensation if my employer has worker’s compensation Insurance?
If an oilfield worker is injured on the job, his or her employer should have worker’s compensation coverage. Worker’s compensation insurance will help pay medical bills and weekly benefits while the injured oilfield worker is unable to work. If an oilfield worker sustains a permanent injury and is released from work, then the injured oilfield worker may be entitled to additional benefits.
A person injured on the job is entitled to worker’s compensation even if no one else was at fault.
But, if an oilfield worker is injured due to the fault of a company or worker other than his or her employer, then the injured oilfield worker can pursue a separate and additional claim for recovery on top of worker’s compensation. In the oilfield, there are usually several companies and several contractors present at every site. Many times, more than one of these companies and contractors will have some responsibility for causing the accident or failing to prevent the accident. In such circumstances, the injured oilfield worker can pursue a recovery from the companies and contractors that were at fault in causing or contributing to the accident, even if the injured oilfield worker is entitled to and is collecting worker’s compensation benefits.
What do I do if I have been injured in an oilfield accident, or if someone in my family has been injured in an oilfield accident?
If you, or someone in your family, has been injured in an oilfield accident, here are a list of things to do?
- Get Medical Help. Your health, your life, and your recovery are of primary importance. Immediately after any oilfield accident or injury, you should seek medical attention and help – even if you are not sure of the extent of your injury.
- Notify Your Employer and File a Worker’s Compensation Claim. After you are injured when working at a well site, you should promptly notify your supervisor or employer and file a worker’s compensation claim. Filing this claim serves several purposes. First, it gives notice of your injury. Second, it will start an investigation of your injury and a determination of the parties who might be responsible. Third, it will help you start receiving benefits promptly which can help with your medical bills and living expenses while you are out of work.
- Prepare a Complete Statement or Incident Report. Your employer will likely ask you to prepare a written statement of the incident or a report of the accident. Even if you don’t like to write, it is important to include as many facts and details as you can remember. It is just as important to name as many workers, contractors, and companies around you who may have caused the accident or contributed to your injuries.
- Identify the Company Man on Site – Both Day Shift and Night Shift. The company man is the representative of the exploration and production company who is responsible for the safe operations at the well site. The company man in charge of both the day shift and night shift at the well will know the sequencing of the jobs, the supervision of the contractors, and the conditions of the well that may all play a role in your oilfield accident and injury. These company men travel from well site to well site and sometimes are hard to find. Your oilfield accident lawyer will need to know the name, address, phone number, employer(s) and identifying information for each company man working at the well site.
- Make a List of your Co-Workers. In the oilfield, the people you work with change and rotate on a daily basis. In the weeks or months following an oilfield accident or injury, it may be hard for you to remember exactly who was working with you at the time of the oilfield accident. Writing down all of the persons you were working with at the well site (and their phone numbers) will be important to assisting your oilfield accident lawyer to investigate and pursue your claim.
- Make A List of All Companies and Contractors on Site. Knowing who was working or performing jobs at the well site is important to identifying the companies who might be responsible for your accident. If a lawsuit is filed and does not include one of the companies or contractors who were present and responsible for the incident, then you may not be able to ever pursue a claim against that company. Listing all of the companies who were performing jobs, providing equipment or conducting tasks at the well site will be an important aid that assists your oilfield accident lawyer to investigate and pursue your claim.
- Write Down Any Irregularities or Problems at The Well. Many oilfield accidents and injuries occur because irregularities and difficulties at a well are overlooked or ignored. Just as often, the company men and contractors at the site fail to document, write down, or report well site irregularities and problems – even after an oilfield accident occurs. If you know of anything out of the ordinary, problematic, or concerning to you in the operations at the well site, you should write them down. If you don’t document these factors in causing your accident, it is likely that no one will.
- Write Down Any Safety Complaints or Safety Violations That You Know of Or Have Heard of At the Well Site. Every company at a well site claims to empower its supervisors, workers, and contractors with “stop work authority.” This means that the operations at the well site are supposed to stop if someone raises a safety concern. It is the rare exception to the rule when a company man or supervisor of a contractor actually stops work at a well site. Stopping work costs the companies thousands of dollars in “down time” or “non-productive time,” so it doesn’t regularly happen. Instead, safety complaints or safety concerns raised by the oilfield workers are generally minimized and ignored. If you know of safety complaints or safety violations at the well site, you should write them down. If you don’t document these factors in causing your accident, it is likely that no one will.
- Keep Your Protective Gear, Boots, Hard Hat, and Clothing. We know your oilfield clothing, boots, and gear are probably caked with mud, sweat, grime, and possibly blood. We know that after you recover from your injuries, you may want to use your gear again at a future job. Don’t. Keep it in the same condition as the day of your oilfield accident. If a picture is worth a thousand words, showing the culpable defendant and a concerned jury your torn, burned, melted, ripped, punctured, broken, and blood-stained clothing is worth a million words.
- Take Pictures and Collect the Pictures Taken by Your Co-Workers. If you can take pictures following an oilfield accident, try to take pictures of the accident scene, the equipment present, the contractors (including the logos from their vehicles), and the individuals who were around you at the time of the accident. Take as many pictures as possible with the goal of documenting the accident and all persons and companies involved from every angle and view point possible. If you cannot take pictures, then after the accident call your co-workers and ask for their pictures of the well site and the accident.
- Ask Your Supervisor or Employer for the Job Safety Analysis (JSA) Form. In the oilfield, most companies and contractors use a Job Safety Analysis (JSA) or Job Hazard Analysis (JHA) process at the start of each day. The JSA or JHA form identifies the job to be performed, the potential hazards of the job, and the recommended safety procedures for the job. The JSA or JHA is a primary piece of evidence in evaluating what the tasks being accomplished and the hazards known to exist at the time of the oilfield accident.
What Does compensation for an oilfield accident include?
In Texas, an oilfield accident victim can recover personal injury damages. Personal injury damages include things such as:
- Physical pain and mental anguish. This includes not only the physical pain that you have endured as a result of your injuries, but also emotional damages such as distress, anxiety, fright, depression, trauma, anger, and grief.
- Lost wages. Lost wages cover the income and benefits that you lose from time from your injury to the time you are able to return to work, even if you are still trying to recover from your injuries.
- Lost earning capacity. If your injury permanently impacts your ability to work, decreases the amount of time that you can work, or limits the jobs that you can perform, then you may recover for this injury. Lost earning capacity generally refers to a decrease in a person’s ability to earn income.
- Disfigurement. If your injuries cause a permanent change to your body, such as visible scars from the injury or from your medical treatment that affects your appearance, you can recover damages for this injury.
- Physical impairment. A physical impairment is an injury that limits a person’s physical capacity to move, coordinate actions, or perform physical activities. A physical impairment may also be accompanied by difficulties in performing physical tasks such as walking, bending, or lifting; difficulties with motor coordination; difficulties in independent movement; and difficulties in performing daily living functions.
- Medical Expenses. These are the expenses for your medical treatment charged by your doctors, hospitals, pharmacies, physical therapists, and rehabilitation clinics. These bills and expenses are for medically necessary items associated with your injuries, your treatment, and your recovery.
If the injuries are serious, the spouse of the injured oilfield accident victim may be entitled to recover things such as loss of household services and loss of consortium.
If the oilfield accident resulted in a death, Texas allows the family of the deceased oilfield accident victim to recover damages such as:
- Loss of pecuniary support which includes loss of the care, maintenance, support, services, advice, counsel, and reasonable contributions of monetary value by the deceased cyclist.
- Loss of companionship and society which includes the loss of the love, comfort, companionship that the family would have received from the deceased cyclist.
- Mental anguish including the emotional pain, torment, and suffering experienced by the family because of the death of the bicycle rider.
- Loss of inheritance.
The insurance company wants a statement, what do I do?
The exploration and production company and the various contractors on-site should alert their insurance companies following the accident. The insurance company will then assign a claims adjuster whose job is to evaluate the oilfield accident and your injuries.
The claims adjuster is not on your side. The claims adjuster’s sole job is to protect the rights of the company or insurance company who hired the claims adjuster. If the exploration and production company, or another contractor on site, was clearly at fault, then the claims adjuster’s job will be to get you to settle your claim and injuries for the least amount of money as possible.
The claims adjuster will want to take a recorded statement from you. You should not do this without a personal injury attorney present to protect your rights. Anything you say in the interview can and will be used against the injured oilfield worker in the future. Even if you believe that fault and liability for the oilfield accident is clear, how you describe the oilfield accident and your injuries will play a factor in whether you can receive compensation, and how much.
The insurance company wants to collect my medical records, what do I do?
Part of the job of the claims adjuster assigned to your oilfield accident is to determine whether you sustained any injuries. The claims adjuster will often ask you to sign a medical records authorization. You should not sign this authorization without having it reviewed by a personal injury lawyer specializing in oilfield accidents.
Most of the time an authorization provided by a claims adjuster is not limited to the injuries you sustained in the oilfield accident. Instead, the authorization will allow the claims adjuster and the insurance company to collect your full medical history.
Once they have your medical history, the claims adjuster and insurance company will identify each and every other event for which you sought medical treatment. Often, the claims adjuster and insurance company will argue that your injuries were caused by some other event or incident and therefore were “pre-existing.” If the claims adjuster or insurance company can identify another event that they can argue caused or created an injury other than the oilfield accident, then they will not compensate you for the oilfield accident.
Additionally, the claims adjuster and insurance company will evaluate your general health conditions. If they find that you take medications for routine conditions such as high cholesterol, high blood pressure, or diabetes, they may blame these medications as effecting or impairing your ability to pay attention. In other words, they will blame these routine health conditions and your medications as being the cause of the oilfield accident. If this happens, they will not compensate you for the injuries sustained in your oilfield accident.
An oilfield accident lawyer at the Stilwell Law Firm will help you collect the medical records that are relevant to your oilfield accident injuries and will provide those records for review and evaluation. Your whole medical history is not on trial. Just the medical records related to the injuries sustained in your oilfield accident.
The insurance company wants to settle, what do I do?
If the claims adjuster assigned to your oilfield accident decides to settle, they will try to offer you money and get you to sign a release before you consult with an oilfield accident lawyer. The claims adjuster knows you do not know all of your rights. The claims adjuster knows you do not know what fair compensation would be. The claims adjuster wants you to settle and release your claims before you know your rights and the value of your claim.
The claims adjuster wants to save money for the exploration and production company’s employer and the insurance company. To do so, they may offer to pay your medical bills, and they may offer some compensation for your time off work. Beyond this, they will probably offer little else.
Most of the time, claims are settled outside of court. But there is no need to rush to settle a claim. Settlements are final. If you accept a settlement and realize later that you have more injuries, or more impairments than you thought, you cannot go back to the insurance company and ask for more money. You should not settle your claim until you know the full extent of your rights and the full extent of your injuries – including whether those injuries will be permanent or will cause lasting impairments and impacts on your life.
To receive the compensation that you deserve for being injured in an oilfield accident, you should consult a lawyer who understands the oilfield like the lawyers at the Stilwell Law Firm. An experienced oilfield accident lawyer will evaluate your claims, collect your medical records, total your medical expenses and consult with your treating doctors. After knowing the full extent of your injuries, the oilfield accident lawyer will present a demand to the insurance company which will properly set the expectations for any ensuing settlement discussions.
How long does a lawsuit take?
Generally, a lawsuit involving an oilfield accident will take eighteen months (18 months) to settle or resolve from the time you hire your lawyer. If liability is clear and uncontested, this process may be quicker. Some cases may take longer because the nature of the incident is complex or because the client’s injuries are extensive.
The oilfield accident lawyers at the Stilwell Law Firm know you want to move as quickly as possible. However, it is important not rush the investigation and negotiation of your claim. When you seek recovery for injuries that you sustained in the oilfield, it will be your only opportunity to receive compensation. Consequently, it is important to understand what happened, who was at fault, and who is financially responsible. It is just as important to understand both the nature of your injuries and how those injuries will affect you down the road.
The oilfield accident lawyers at the Stilwell Law Firm will develop your case with determination and will take the time to get it right. Rushing to judgment results in less compensation for you, which is what the defendants want you to do.
Injured in an oilfield accident? Call us at for a free consultation today!
Our oilfield accident lawyers have years of experience in handling oilfield accidents and injuries and that experience is something you can lean on. We work on a contingency fee basis, which means that if we don’t recover, you owe us nothing. Call us today for a free consultation toll free at 844-931-3111 or at 713-931-1111.