Because construction sites are dangerous places in which various people may be injured, construction companies often create a system to provide compensation to victims of injuries sustained at the construction site.
The amount of recovery generally depends on whether the injured party is an employee, as well as the nature and severity of the injury. Most construction accident matters are addressed by lawyers who are experienced in dealing with construction companies and their insurance companies. This is because the specific subject matter is considered to be especially complex.
Construction accidents involving bystanders or non-employees are treated as normal personal injury matters. What this means is that the injured person files a lawsuit against:
- The general contractor in charge of the construction site;
- Their insurance company; and
- Any other responsible parties, such as subcontractors or negligent employees.
Elements that must be proven in order to recover as a bystander or non-employee include:
- The person or business was negligent, or was acting intentionally;
- The negligence or intentional act is what caused the accident; and
- The accident caused the injuries being claimed.
If you are an employee who is injured at the construction site while you are working, workers’ compensation laws will generally apply to you. As such, your claim for damages may be handled differently. An example of this would be avoiding an actual lawsuit by your employer immediately providing you with compensation payments instead.
What Is Pipeline Construction?
Because crude oil production in the U.S. has risen in the past several years, pipeline construction has become a booming industry. The pipelines themselves can present a danger, and constructing them poses specific dangers to the workers who are in close contact with the construction project.
The tasks required to complete a pipeline construction project generally include:
- Surveying the project site and staking boundaries;
- Clearing the site and installing erosion control methods;
- Trenching the soil to fit pipelines;
- Stringing pipes alongside the trenches;
- Welding pipes together;
- Lowering the pipe in the ground;
- Filling in the trench;
- Testing the pipes; and
- Connecting the pipes to the refinery plant and pumps.
What Are Some Examples Of The Most Common Types Of Oil And Gas Pipeline Accidents?
These highly involved construction projects are performed by a large group of skilled construction workers. This is a highly risky job because heavy and dangerous equipment is used, and because the pipes are pumping extremely flammable oil.
Because of these dangers that are inherent in pipeline construction, construction accidents resulting in both injuries and fatalities are especially common. Injuries and fatalities frequently result from:
- Oil and gas explosions and fires;
- Faulty equipment;
- Lack of safe working conditions;
- Soil collapse around the trenches;
- Scaffolding collapses; and/or
- Falling equipment.
While pipelines are considered to be safer for transportation of oil and gas compared to other methods of transport, such as trucks and tankers, injuries associated with pipelines are especially serious. Gas explosions, and oil and gas fire are a primary cause of injury and death to construction workers, as well as to citizens who are living and working in proximity to a pipeline. This does not include environmental damage and harm.
The Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (or, PHMSA) collects and reports data on all pipeline incidents, of which there have been more than 3,000 in the last three decades. They report on incidents that are considered to be “significant,” meaning they involved:
- Fatality or injury requiring hospitalization;
- $50,000 or more of damage;
- 5 or more barrels of liquid was released; and/or
- The liquid release created fire or explosion.
What Are Some Legal Issues And Concerns Associated With Oil And Gas Pipeline Construction?
Pipelines are subject to both the Natural Gas Pipeline Safety Act and the Hazardous Liquid Pipeline Safety Act. Environmental laws governing clean air and water are also related to pipelines and the hazardous materials that they carry. Additionally, there is an Office of Pipeline Safety (“OPS”) within the United States federal government.
As the pipelines age, regulation is needed in order to maintain them, as well as keep them in safe operating condition. Explosions and leaks are significant concerns for general population safety, as well as for those involved in the construction of the pipelines.
If you suffered an injury while working at a pipeline construction site, there are a number of different parties that may be responsible for your injury. The company that employs the construction worker is directly responsible for injuries and fatalities, and may be either the company that owns the oil pipeline or a construction company. You can pursue:
- Personal injury;
- Wrongful death;
- Negligence; and/or
- Workers compensation claims against these organizations.
If a piece of defective equipment or machinery is what caused the injury, you may also sue a third party equipment manufacturer, generally through a class action lawsuit. A class action lawsuit is filed by a representative plaintiff on behalf of a larger group of people, who have the same or similar legal claims. Class action lawsuits are intended to reduce the costs of litigation, and increase judicial efficiency.
A defective products class action is a lawsuit based on a claim for a defective product that has harmed multiple people in the same or in a very similar manner. An example of this would be if a large awards show was being held in a particular city and throughout the show, thousands of attendees would be served a specific type of alcohol.
If it can be proven that every attendee who drank that specific type of alcohol suffered adverse effects because it contained poison, all of those attendees may be able to certify themselves as a class in order to bring a defective products class action lawsuit against the manufacturer or distributor.
If a fellow construction worker caused your injury, such as by dropping a piece of pipeline on your foot, you could have a claim for negligence against this contractor. An injured plaintiff who proves that the defendant committed intentional or negligent injury is entitled to compensatory damages. There are two different types of damages: damages for an injury, and damages for the consequences of the injury. Additionally, there are two types of compensatory damages, which are known as general damages and specific damages.
General damages are awarded for the injury itself. These damages include:
- Pain and suffering;
- Mental anguish; and
General damages cannot be readily assigned a monetary value. In order to recover such damages, the testimony of an expert witness such as a physician or psychiatrist, is generally necessary to assign a monetary value.
Special damages compensate the victim for a specific consequence of an injury. Specific consequences include medical expenses and loss of wages, as these items can be assigned a precise monetary value. An example of this would be how a doctor’s bill lists payment due, while a pay stub or a record of a plaintiff’s earnings can be used in order to determine the amount of wages lost due to injury.
It is important to note that special damages will be awarded in order to compensate the plaintiff for costs which their insurance or medicare and medicaid did not cover.
Do I Need A Lawyer For Help With Oil And Gas Pipeline Accidents?
Determining which organization is responsible, and which claim is the best to pursue as the victim of an oil and gas pipeline accident, should be done by an experienced personal injury lawyer. A workplace injury lawyer will help you understand your legal rights and options, and will also be able to represent you in court, as needed. Additionally, an attorney will likely be aware of any class action lawsuits that you can join.