Offshore oil spills receive much media attention for the widespread damage caused to the environment. No less important is the human element in offshore oil rig accidents – all the injuries and fatalities that affect workers and their families. The 2010 Deepwater Horizon explosion that killed 11 people called attention to the dangers of offshore drilling.
The oil industry is a uniquely dangerous place to work. Catastrophic injuries result from explosions, equipment failures, falls, and other hazardous situations. Many of these tragic offshore oil accidents were preventable. Generous compensation set up by state and federal governments protect workers in this high-risk industry, but some workers can also file lawsuits to cover their financial losses, pain, and suffering – particularly when negligence is a factor.
It helps to have an experienced offshore oil rig accident lawyer like Bart Bernard on hand to help you figure out what really happened, navigate the confusing maze of benefits, and determine if you have grounds to file a legal claim.
According to the Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement (BSEE), 2016 saw:
These numbers have dropped significantly since 2009, when there were 260 injuries, including 148 fires/explosions, 26 collisions, and 243 lifting accidents. Even so, there are always ways to make the offshore drilling rig environment safer.
In the nearby Gulf of Mexico, the most recent oil rig accident injuries resulted in:
The Bureau of Labor Statistics says the median “time off work” needed by oil and gas drilling workers was 30 days, which is much higher than the median of 7 days for all industries. They add that 25 percent of all gas and oil rig injuries are fractures, which typically have a long recovery time. In a third of all accidents, workers are struck by heavy objects. In 21 percent of cases, workers are caught in equipment, which can cause severe crushing injuries. Slip and fall accidents account for 11 percent of all injuries.
A CDC study found that offshore oil workers were seven times more likely to die on the job than the average U.S. worker. From 2003 to 2010, 128 people died while working at offshore operations. The average fatality rate for U.S. workers is 3.8 deaths per 100,000 employees; for offshore oil workers, it’s 27.1 deaths per 100,000 workers.
According to their analysis:
In 2009, new helicopter safety measures have been implemented and there have been no helicopter-related crashes in the years to follow, says the National Aviation Safety Board.
Offshore drilling has become more dangerous over the years as locations become deeper and further from the coastline as shallow fossil fuel reserves become exhausted. The complex equipment required to drill to such depths is not immune to malfunction and has many potential weak points. Secondly, workers face harsh offshore environments with severe storms making it more difficult to maintain equipment and safety or promptly reach emergency personnel. Thirdly, the inexperience of oil companies at operating at great depths causes management to be unprepared for the hazardous conditions that may arise.
Oil rig accidents resulting in death or injury may include:
Offshore maritime injuries that may warrant a lawsuit include:
Workers suffer financial losses due to missed time from work, reduced capacity to work, and medical bills. They may become permanently disabled or suffer tremendous emotional pain and suffering as a result of the accident. Families who lose a loved one suffer loss of financial support, guidance, and companionship, in addition to incurring unexpected funeral and burial costs. All of these losses are eligible for compensation when an offshore accident is someone else’s fault.
A European Commission report identified the following human causes of offshore drilling accidents:
Of the equipment failures, they found:
Whether it’s the lack of proper training, improper operation of equipment, improper pressurization, failure to maintain equipment, violations of safety procedures, insufficient safeguards put in place, poor communication between workers, or shortcomings of working in a fast-paced environment, a worker can be injured or killed through no fault of his or her own.
There are many different ways to seek compensation when an injury has occurred. Any contractor who provides services offshore is considered to be a “Longshoreman,” eligible for coverage under the Longshoreman and Harbor Workers’ Compensation Act (LHWCA). Individuals who are stationed on a ship or fleet during their time at sea may be able to seek compensation under the Jones Act. Knowing how and when to file is crucial for obtaining benefits.
There are several differences between the two pieces of legislation. The LHWCA provides payments under an administrative system overseen by the U.S. Department of Labor, while the Jones Act allows an amount determined by a judge through the court system. The LHWCA may provide enough money to cover medical bills, lost wages and funeral costs, while filing a lawsuit and Jones Act proceedings generally entitle you to greater amounts for transportation, costly ongoing therapies, pain, suffering, loss of companionship, and punitive fees. Filing a claim under the LHWCA results in a payout regardless of fault. With the Jones Act, you will need to prove another party’s negligence.
Speaking with a compassionate and qualified attorney who specializes in maritime law can help you obtain the maximum compensation allowable by law.
Bart Bernard is an oil rig accident lawyer based in Lafayette and Baton Rouge, Louisiana. With his extensive personal injury and product liability background, he has helped clients obtain millions of dollars in compensation for their injuries. His compassion and vast research network benefits grieving family members who want to know what happened to their loved one and why. If you or a loved one has suffered a recent offshore accident, knowing your rights and protections under the law can help you recover your losses and take a step toward closure.
Last modified: June 30, 2017