Oil rigs are large platforms that allow companies to drill and mine for oil and natural gas offshore, usually in the middle of an ocean or sea. Extracting these resources is a dangerous job and accidents can often happen in this line of work. An oil rig accident can cause major or minor damages and can result in:
- Oil spills
- Chemical burn injuries
- Toxic exposure issues
- Drowning accidents
- Equipment accidents
- Various other types of accidents
Due to the mix of chemicals, deep-sea water locations, possible fires and explosions, and other elements, oil rig accidents can be particularly dangerous and catastrophic. Serious injuries and fatalities can be involved, which can affect entire crews at one time.
What are the Liabilities of an Oil Rig Operation?
Due to the nature of operating oil rigs, liability is high for a company because the damage can affect people both on and offshore. The United States government takes an active role when it comes to oil spills and requires oil companies to comply with the specific laws and regulations. These laws include the:
- Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA)
- Clean Water Act
- National Oil and Hazardous Substances Pollution Contingency Plan
- Oil Pollution Act
Oil companies and personnel may also be criminally charged if an accident resulted in the injury or death. Also, individuals and agencies can file civil lawsuits for damages. Such agencies include the:
- National Fish and Wildlife Foundation
- National Academy of Sciences
- Oil Spill Liability Trust Fund
- Environmental Protection Agency
- Common Oil Rig Injuries
Can I File a Lawsuit?
You may file an oil rig accident lawsuit and receive compensation under the Jones Act if you are an oil rig worker. The Jones Act is applied to crewmembers and falls under maritime and admiralty law. To file under the Jones Act, a person must qualify as a "seaman" as defined in the act.
What are Some Common Injuries Resulting from an Oil Rig Accident?
Oil rig injuries can involve a wide range of different injuries. The most common oil rig injuries for workers are:
- Wrongful Death;
- Burns from harmful chemicals or fires;
- Head and brain injuries; and/or
- Broken bones.
In addition to injuries resulting from a catastrophic incident such as a fire or explosion, more minor injuries can occur on a day-to-day basis while working on the oil rig. These can include:
- Slip and fall type injuries;
- Chemical exposure injuries; and/or
- Injuries resulting from falling objects.
Various industrial diseases can also develop from working on an oil rig over an extended period of time.
What Types of Legal Remedies are Available in an Oil Rig Accident Lawsuit?
Depending on the nature of the injury claim, there might be various legal remedies available to the injured party. In most cases, the remedy will be a damages award to compensate the injured person for their losses.
This might cover expenses and costs like hospital/medical costs, lost wages, loss of the ability to earn income in the future, pain and suffering, and various other costs. Other remedies may apply as well, such as an order from the court instructing the oil rig operation to perform certain actions (such as increasing safety measures onboard the oil rig).
Are there Any Defenses Available in an Oil Rig Accident Claim?
Assumption of Risk: Assumption of risk is where the person fully understands the risks involved with a certain activity, yet proceeds to take those actions anyway, fully knowing that they may be injured if they proceed.
An example of this is where an oil rig worker is instructed not to enter a certain area because there are certain slip and fall risks involved in doing so. If they understand this risk, yet continue to enter the area, they are said to have “assumed the risk” of getting injured. If they continue and then end up having a slip and fall injury, their ability to collect damages might be affected or diminished.
Contributory Negligence: This type of defense involves situations where the plaintiff’s own negligence contributes to their injury. For instance, if an oil rig worker is negligent by failing to follow proper safety instructions while on the oil rig, the contributory negligence defense may apply to their situation. The result of this is that the person may be prevented from collecting damages; alternatively, their damages award might also be reduced. The exact calculation of damages in a case involving contributory negligence may vary by state law.
Consent: It may be a defense if a person has consented to certain activities or risks involved on an oil rig. An example of this is where a person signs a waiver form saying that they consent to the risks involved in being on an oil rig. In most cases, such a waiver form might limits their ability to sue or collect damages. However, even with a waiver form in place, it might still be possible to file a claim (for instance, if the oil rig managers were particularly negligent).
Should I Get an Oil Rig Accident Attorney?
If you or a loved one has been injured in an oil rig accident, you should speak to a local personal injury lawyer or an admiralty lawyer immediately to learn more about preserving your rights and remedies. These types of cases can be complex, but a lawyer can be on hand to help provide you with guidance for your case.