Learn what causes offshore explosions and how injured employees can be compensated
On April 20, 2010, the Deepwater Horizon offshore drilling rig suffered a well blowout followed by a series of explosions that killed 11 people. The rig sank to the ocean floor and continued to leak oil into the Gulf of Mexico for 3 months, resulting in the largest oil spill in the history of the United States.
Although the Deepwater Horizon explosion received national attention and inspired a major Hollywood movie, explosions in the oil industry aren’t uncommon and no state has a larger oil industry than Texas.
If you’re injured in an oil explosion in Texas, you may be able to receive compensation for your injuries. What kind of compensation you receive, how much, and what steps are available to you depends on a number of factors.
Let’s take a closer look.
Common causes of offshore explosions
When an offshore explosion happens, several different entities may participate in a long and thorough investigation, including oil companies, bipartisan governmental commissions, forensic scientists, attorneys, and other professionals.
Generally, these entities find that the explosion was caused by human error or equipment failure (or both).
As a good example of this, let’s look at what investigators believe were the 8 causes of the Deepwater Horizon explosion:
- Poor cement
- Valve failure (equipment failure)
- Pressure test misinterpretation (human error)
- Leak not spotted soon enough (human error)
- Second valve failure (equipment failure)
- Overwhelmed mud-gas separator (human and equipment failure)
- No gas alarm (equipment failure)
- No battery for blowout preventer (human and equipment failure)
Of course, any human errors or equipment failures are going to be serious when considering that oil rigs are full of highly-combustible and highly-flammable materials.
What if you believe your employer is failing to provide you with a safe work environment?
The law requires employers to provide employees with safe workplaces. The Occupational Health and Safety Administration (OSHA) also prohibits employers from retaliating against employees for exercising their rights under the law. For more information see www.whistleblowers.gov.
If you have questions or concerns about your worksite, find your regional OSHA office through the OSHA Offices by State webpage or call 1-800-321-OSHA (6742).
Injuries resulting from offshore explosions
When you combine an explosion with the fact that workers are operating the oil rig in the middle of the ocean, it’s not surprising that the resulting injuries are often catastrophic. Common injuries include:
- Loss of vision or hearing
The United States Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reports that 663 workers were killed in oil field jobs between 2007 and 2012. The Houston Chronicle analyzed this data and found that Texas alone accounted for approximately 40% of these fatalities.
Legal options for injured oil workers
If you’ve been injured in an offshore explosion, you may be able to receive compensation for your injuries.
Due to the nature of offshore accidents, there are a number of state and federal laws that might apply to your case. For this reason, it’s important to hire an experienced attorney.
However, in most cases, 1 of 3 causes of action will be appropriate:
- Workers’ compensation claim. A state or federal workers’ compensation claim is appropriate when the injured person was an employee of an employer that carries workers’ compensation insurance and the employee was injured while performing a work task.
- Personal injury lawsuit. A personal injury lawsuit is appropriate when an individual acted negligently (i.e., carelessly), and that negligence was the cause of the injured person’s injuries.
- Product liability lawsuit. A product liability lawsuit is appropriate when a product (such as a valve) was either manufactured defectively, designed defectively, or didn’t contain the proper warnings or instructions, resulting in an accident or explosion.