Texas Offshore Accidents & Injuries

Guide to offshore accidents in Texas

Learn about accidents, injuries, and lawsuits involving the offshore oil and gas industry

An offshore accident is simply an accident that occurs on the open sea. Off the Texas coast, these accidents generally involve the oil and gas industry. Fortunately, there are several state and federal laws designed to help injured Texans receive compensation for their offshore accidents.

Each year, thousands of seamen, dockworkers, commercial fisherman, and oil rig employees are seriously injured or even fatally wounded off the coast of Texas.

These injuries, which generally occur on vessels (oil platforms, barges, etc.) in the open sea, are broadly referred to as “offshore accidents.”

Offshore accidents differ from most other types of accidents and often implicate little-known state and federal laws.

If you live in Texas, chances are you’ve read about an offshore accident involving an oil rig in the newspaper or even experienced one personally or through a loved one.

With a focus on offshore accidents involving oil rigs, let’s take a closer look.

Offshore accident statistics

When you think about offshore accidents, the first accident that probably comes to mind is the 2010 Deepwater Horizon explosion that occurred in the Gulf of Mexico and which was later featured in a film starring Mark Wahlberg.

Unfortunately, accidents like the Deepwater Horizon explosion are not as uncommon as you might think.

Employees working for offshore oil drilling and gas exploration companies are 7 times more likely to be killed on the job than the average American worker. The average fatality rate for US workers is 3.7 deaths for every 100,000 employees per year, while the fatality rate average for offshore crew members is 25 per 100,000 workers.

Texas employees working for offshore oil drilling and gas exploration companies are 7 times more likely to be killed on the job than the average Texas worker. Tweet this

The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) found there were 128 fatalities in activities related to offshore oil and gas operations from 2003-2010.

Causes of offshore accident injuries

Offshore oil and gas jobs are inherently dangerous. What’s more, one report found that oil and gas companies aren’t doing a sufficient job keeping their employees safe and are routinely being cited for workplace safety violations.

Common causes of offshore accidents include:

  • Transportation. The majority of fatal offshore oil and gas operation accidents are transportation-related. This can include anything from transport boats capsizing in choppy water to transport helicopters being struck by lightning.
  • Chemical exposure. Oil and gas workers often face prolonged exposure to dangerous chemicals and other substances. Such life-altering conditions as leukemia, cancer, paralysis, and chemical burns have been associated with continued exposure to dangerous chemicals on oil rig sites.
  • Hazardous machines. Oil and gas workers routinely operate dangerous equipment, including traveling derricks, heavy lifts, spinning chains, hoists, and drills. The machines could be utilized in unguarded areas, or safety measures might be skipped, increasing the potential risk for injury.
  • Falls. Falls are common in the oil and gas industries because employees work on elevated platforms. Some of the leading causes of such falls include harness failure or improper rigging methods, slipping over chemicals or tools, and being struck by equipment.
  • Explosions and fires. Federal labor statistics have found that the oil and gas industry accounts for more deaths caused by explosions and fires than in any other private industry. This is likely due to the highly combustible chemicals and gas that are present on oil and gas rigs.
  • Confined spaces. Confined spaces also create a dangerous situation for many gas and oil line workers, including offshore workers. Working in confined spaces subjects workers to the risks of flammable vapors, chemical hazards, and lack of oxygen.
Deaths Among American Offshore Oil and Gas Workers
(2003—2010)
Event Number of Fatalities Percentage
Transportation events
      Aircraft events
      Water vehicle events
65
49
16
50.8%
38.3%
12.5%
Contact with objects and equipment 21 16.4%
Fires and explosions 17 13.3%
Exposure to harmful substances 16 12.5%
Other event types 9 7%
Total 128 100%

 

Facing factsFuelFix, a news source on the energy industry, reports that 4 of 5 major offshore accidents are caused by human error, highlighting the need to make safety training and risk assessments an active part of maintaining offshore oil rigs.

Another FuelFix article notes that some oil companies are trying to ensure that workers get enough sleep by providing higher quality mattresses. The idea behind the move is that better-rested employees are less likely to make errors that can cause injury.

Types of offshore injuries

Offshore accident injuries—particularly those involving the oil and gas industry—are generally more severe than injuries resulting from other types of accidents. This is due, in part, to the fact that the accidents take place in the ocean where the possibility of drowning exists and help may be miles away.

Examples of offshore accident injuries include:

  • Burns
  • Paralysis and other catastrophic injuries
  • Death

Laws that impact offshore workers

If you’ve been injured in an offshore accident, 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—even more so than in most other personal injury cases—to hire an experienced attorney.

Enjuris Tip: Find an experienced Texas attorney using our free online directory.

In most cases (no matter what law applies), you’ll have to show that someone else’s negligence caused your accident in order to recover damages. The exception is federal and state workers' compensation statutes, under which it’s not necessary to prove that anyone was at fault for your injury.

Here’s a quick look at some of the laws that might apply to your case:

  • The Texas Water Safety Act addresses the duties of boat operators.
  • The Texas Workers' Compensation Act provides benefits to employees of covered entities injured while at work regardless of fault. The Texas Workers’ Compensation Act also provides compensation to certain family members of individuals killed while working regardless of fault.
  • Texas wrongful death laws provide compensation to certain surviving family members.
  • The Jones Act is a federal act that regulates maritime activities and provides medical compensation to the surviving spouse and/or children of a qualified deceased offshore worker.
  • The Longshore & Harbor Workers' Compensation Act is a federal law that provides for the payment of compensation, medical care, and vocational rehabilitation services to employees disabled from on-the-job injuries that occur on the navigable waters of the US.
  • The Death on the High Seas Act applies to workers who died more than 3 nautical miles outside of territorial waters and offers family members financial relief.
  • The Oil and Pollution Act governs the process of compensation for injuries sustained by a spill or other refinery or rig catastrophes.
  • The applicable law (and, believe it or not, there are others) depends on the nature and location of the accident. An experienced and knowledgeable offshore worker wrongful death attorney can help guide you through these legal options and determine which ones are best to pursue in your case.
Enjuris Tip: Download the Enjuris post-accident pain journal and the damages/expense worksheet to help you document your injuries and medical expenses.

Post-Accident Journal Form
Sample accident journal/diary to help you document the effect on your daily life
Download in PDF format

Damages/Expenses Worksheet
Damages worksheet to track expenses for your injury claim (medical treatment, property damage, lost wages, prescriptions)
Download in PDF format

Resources for offshore workers

OSHA offers injury prevention resources, such as the Oil and Gas Well Drilling and Servicing eTool, which identifies common hazards and possible solutions to reduce dangerous offshore incidents.

Companies within the oil and gas industry can also use the Job Safety Analysis Process to identify hazards and find solutions.

You may also want to read:

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