Demand for natural gas is on the rise. Oil is always in demand, and recently, the U.S. began exporting large amounts of natural gas to Europe, driving up demand for natural gas from West Virginia wells. Oil and gas companies are doing everything they can to fill the demand for their products. Unfortunately, that often means moving too fast and cutting corners, dodging workplace safety regulations along the way. The result has been a rise in injuries and deaths among oil and gas workers.
At Bailey, Javins & Carter, L.C., our attorneys have several decades of experience helping West Virginia oil and gas workers and their families recover compensation for medical expenses, lost wages, pain and suffering, emotional distress, and other costs. We have handled numerous injury and death cases that occurred while working on the Marcellus Shale, on fracking operations, on horizontal drilling operations and other similar operations. We have been at the forefront of ground-breaking litigation in this area of the law, and we have established a successful track record recovering damages for victims of injury and wrongful death on oil and gas rigs.
Common Types of Oil and Gas Rig Accidents in West Virginia
Energy is among the most hazarous industries to work in. There are many inherent dangers workers in the oil and gas drilling industry face on a daily basis. Some of the most common include:
- Fires and Explosions: Blowouts are among the leading causes of accidents in the drilling industry. Combustible gasses and materials are all around, and explosions and fires occur on a regular basis. The danger of this happening is vastly increased when workers are poorly trained and/or not properly aware of their surroundings.
- Slips and Falls: Oil and gas rig employees typically work on slippery surfaces and in high places. These types of accidents can cause severe injuries and in the worst cases, fatalities. Energy companies must take extra precautions to ensure that their workers are not operating on dangerous surfaces.
- Being Struck by Loose Objects: Rig workers are at serious risk of getting hit by dangerous objects, especially if those working around them are not careful. Tongs, pipes, spinning chains, and heavy machinery can cause serious injuries, especially when employees are struck while working in high elevations.
- Equipment Failures: When heavy machinery fails, it can be almost impossible to bring a multi-ton machine to a complete stop. This puts nearby workers at the mercy of whichever direction the machine decides to go. Machinery and equipment failures can result from faulty design, poor maintenance, poor training, or sheer negligence.
- Collapsed Rigs: If a rig is carrying more than it is designed to carry, there is a risk that it may collapse. When this occurs, it often results in multiple injuries and potential fatalities. To prevent this type of tragedy from happening, it is important to perform detailed rig assessments and ensure that rigs are regularly maintained.
- Becoming Caught in Tight Spaces: Oil and gas drilling is fast-paced work that involves a lot of moving around and often working in confined areas. If something goes wrong in the process, workers can find themselves caught in confined spaces for extended periods of time, which often results in serious physical harm.
- Exposure to Toxic Substances: The drilling process involves being exposed to toxic chemicals in the work area on a regular basis. In the short-term, ongoing exposure to toxic substances can cause nausea, headaches, fatigue, eye irritation, and even chemical burns. Long-term exposure can result in serious illnesses, such as irregular heartbeat, respiratory problems, brain injury, paralysis, and death.
- Trucking Accidents: The most dangerous job in the oil and gas industry is not on the rig, but driving the trucks leading to and from the rig. Hundreds of truck drivers in the energy industry have been killed in the past decade. This is often the result of drivers working long hours, poorly maintained vehicles, and other factors. Oil and gas workers are not subject to the same regulations as other truck drivers, and employees often feel pressured to work longer so they can please their employer and earn more money.
How Oil and Gas Companies Are Cutting Corners and Causing Accidents
There are a seemingly limitless number of corners that oil and gas companies will cut in order to increase output and profit. They will avoid the cost of equipment repair and replacement, instead working old machinery to the point at which it becomes hazardous. As mentioned earlier, they will also push workers to put in too many hours, leading to exhaustion that can result in accidents both on and off the rig. They will even hire inexperienced workers and provide them with insufficient training, then send them out on the job where their lack of training endangers themselves and those around them.
While workers’ compensation may be a source of recovery in these cases, there are other potential legal avenues injured workers can pursue. These include:
- Deliberate Intent Claim: If an employer is found to have intentionally placed an oil and gas worker into harm’s way, the injured worker may be eligible to file a personal injury claim against the employer above and beyond what they are receiving through workers’ compensation.
- Third-Party Personal Injury Claim: If the injury was caused by the negligence or recklessness of a third-party subcontractor or someone other than your employer, you may be able to file a personal injury claim against the third party.
- Product Liability Claim: Some oil and gas rig injuries are the result of faulty equipment. If this is the case, you may be able to file a product liability claim against the manufacturer, supplier, or distributor of the equipment.
Filing a personal injury claim can allow for substantially higher recovery than workers’ compensation, so it is in your best interests to enlist a lawyer with the ability to determine the appropriate type or types of claims to pursue. We have that ability.
We work on a contingent fee basis. We do not get paid unless you do.
Free Initial Consultation with an Experienced Oil and Gas Rig Injury Lawyer in Charleston
Drilling-related accidents can result in some of the most severe injuries, and sadly, many of these accidents result in workers losing their lives. At Bailey, Javins & Carter, L.C., we understand the pain and suffering injured workers and their families have to endure, and we work hard to make the legal process smooth and stress-free. We are skilled litigators and strong negotiators. Because of our proven track record, we are often able to negotiate a favorable settlement without the need for litigation. If necessary, however, we are ready and able to aggressively advocate for your rights and interests at trial.
Contact our firm today at 800-497-0234 to schedule a free initial consultation with our oil and gas rig injury and death lawyers in West Virginia.