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Investigating Fault in an Oil Field Injury Accident Case

August 4, 2023

Oil fields and rigs are notoriously dangerous places, especially when proper safety protocols are not followed, training is not thorough, or the job is rushed. The International Association of Oil and Gas Producers (IOGP) reported numerous workplace fatalities in 2021, many of which resulted from slips, trips, and struck-by incidents. Oil field workers can also become caught between machinery or suffer terrible burns from toxic chemicals, fires, and explosions. No matter how an injury happens, one thing is certain: you are likely to benefit from the help of an experienced oil field injury attorney to help you prove to the insurance company and jury who was responsible for your injuries. 

Proving Fault in Your Oil Field Injury Case

To prove fault, an attorney needs to establish these five elements:

  1. Duty: The defendant should have (or shouldn’t have) acted in a certain way.
  2. Breach of Duty: The defendant failed to do something considered their duty.
  3. Cause in Fact: The defendant’s breach of duty directly caused your injury.
  4. Proximate Cause: The defendant’s actions or lack of action must be sufficiently related to your injuries.
  5. Damages: Actual harm to you that the jury can compensate you for.

Comparative Negligence in Oil Field Accident Cases

It is also important to consider your state’s comparative negligence rules, something an experienced oil field injury attorney can assist with. Comparative negligence involves establishing how much fault each party has for the incident. This can even include the injured worker, as oil field companies often attempt to place blame on injured workers almost immediately after an incident occurs.  

Comparative negligence rules vary by state. New Mexico is just one of a few states that let you seek damages even if you’re 99% at fault. This is called “pure comparative negligence.”

Meanwhile, Texas follows a modified type of comparative negligence called “proportionate responsibility.” Under these rules, the court won’t award you anything if you’re more than 50% at fault. The court will also reduce your award based on how much of the blame you share. For instance, if the court finds you 30% at fault, it would reduce your award by that much.

Because the application of these rules can dramatically impact the value of your case, the help of an experienced oil field attorney can be important in maximizing your recovery. If you need help understanding comparative negligence, our oil field industry attorneys can tell you more.

Can You Sue Your Employer?

If your state requires your employer to offer you workers’ compensation, you cannot usually cannot sue them for a workplace accident. That’s because workers’ comp will pay for your medical bills and lost wages if you need time off from work to recover. However, there are critical exceptions to this rule, which can be complicated and often impact the most serious injury and death cases. If these exceptions apply, you might still be able to pursue a claim. 

New Mexico requires gas companies and other employers with three or more employees to carry workers’ comp insurance. The employees can be full-time, part-time, permanent, temporary, or transitory. Workers’ comp covers non-residents of New Mexico as well.

Texas, on the other hand, doesn’t require employers to have workers’ comp insurance. However, private employers that contract with government agencies must offer coverage to employees who work on their projects.

If your employer doesn’t offer workers’ comp, it’s possible to hold them liable for your accident. An experienced oil field injury attorney can be very helpful in this process.

Third Parties You May be Able to Hold Liable

Even if the law bars you from suing your employer, you might be able to hold a third party or multiple parties liable if they were responsible for your accident. These include:

  • Property owners who lease their land to oil companies (called oil or gas leases)
  • Contractors and subcontractors
  • Machinery or equipment manufacturers (if the equipment is found to be defective)
  • Shipping and trucking companies
  • Oil rig owners

It’s possible that both your employer and a third party had a hand in your accident. If this is the case, you can file a workers’ comp claim and seek damages from the third party in a separate claim.

Contact an Oil Field Industry Attorney Today

Looking for an oil field industry attorney who can help you prove fault in your case? At Fadduol, Cluff, Hardy & Conaway, P.C., our lawyers have extensive experience with handling workplace accidents, personal injury cases, and other legal issues.Contact us online or call 432-335-0399 to schedule your free consultation today.