Montana produced 23,178,000 barrels of crude oil in 2016. Fallon County and Carbon County were among the top producers in 2017, but many other communities throughout Montana rely on the oil industry.
An oil field is an area with oil wells from which workers can extract petroleum (crude oil) from underground. One of the larger oil production fields in Montana is the Bakken Shale, which also extends into North Dakota (as well as Saskatchewan and Manitoba in Canada). The Bakken field alone produced up to 56,000 barrels per day in East Montana.
Oil and gas extraction companies operate and develop oil and gas field properties. This includes:
Oil and gas production is a highly regulated industry, and it's governed by Montana laws, federal law, administrative rules, the Montana Board of Oil and Gas Conservation, and the Montana Department of Environmental Quality. There are field inspectors who make routine visits to wells to ensure compliance and inspect for spills, leaks, fires, and other hazards.
Oil fields are ripe for accidents because of the heavy machinery, explosives, and other conditions that are inherently dangerous.
These are the most common injuries in Montana oil fields:
One thing that makes oil field and offshore drilling accidents unique is that they're often more extreme than other kinds of workplace accidents. A worker on any job site can experience a slip and fall, could hurt themselves by performing heavy lifting, or become injured by a variety of other accidents.
But explosions, toxins, and heavy equipment all raise the likelihood that an injury could be severe, or that an accident could result in a fatality.
Generally, Montana workers' compensation insurance is the legal remedy for a work-related injury.
Workers' compensation insurance provides an injured oil field worker with benefits for:
Workers' compensation is your first remedy for a workplace accident. In most circumstances, it's your only remedy.
The purpose of workers' compensation is twofold:
But what if your injury was caused by someone else's negligence?
For example, perhaps you fell at work because a harness broke. Or you suffered burns in an oil field because of faulty equipment.
In those situations, you might be able to file a lawsuit against the manufacturer of the equipment. Doing so wouldn't affect your workers' compensation, and it might provide additional relief that workers' comp can't.
In an oil field, there might be several contractors working together, operating oil rigs, or transporting and managing chemicals or substances. If another company's employee is negligent and causes your accident or injury, you might be able to file a lawsuit against that company.
Workers' compensation covers benefits up to a mandated maximum amount. Workers' compensation does not cover damages for pain and suffering. If the injury is especially long-lasting or painful, or if you've lost a loved one in an oil field accident, and if the injury was caused by a product defect or the negligence of a person or business other than your employer, a personal injury lawsuit might be your best option.
Any of these circumstances can involve factors that require you to prove fault, whether there was negligence, and what the damages could be. An oil field accident that involves one or more employers and equipment isn't always as straightforward as a regular car accident, for example.
That's why a Montana personal injury lawyer is your best bet to determine what you can recover. Your lawyer will review every aspect of your injury, including how it happened, who was at fault, and how much it will cost for your treatment and recovery. With your lawyer's advice and help, you can get the money you need to pay for recovery and life expenses.