A personal injury accident occurs when a person suffers some type of harm or injury, because of another person’s carelessness or disregard. A personal injury can damage the plaintiff’s emotional health, physical health, or both.
Mental health issues include emotional pain and anguish which is sustained by the accident. A physical injury can include an injury to the plaintiff’s organs, limbs, or other parts of their body. The injury which is sustained by the plaintiff does not need to manifest immediately, as some injuries develop over time.
Following an accident, the injured party can file a personal injury claim against the responsible party. They would use the civil court proceeding in order to collect compensatory damages for their injuries. It is important to note that personal injury law is distinctive from criminal law. When an injured person files a personal injury lawsuit, it is filed in civil court. However, criminal actions may be filed separately if the incident which resulted in the personal injury was also criminal in nature. An example of this would be assault and battery charges.
Personal injury actions may fall into one of three broad categories, each of which have separate sets of elements which must be shown by the plaintiff in order for them to be successful in their claim. These categories include:
Personal injuries can occur intentionally, including cases in which a defendant deliberately injures a plaintiff. This also includes when the defendant intends to commit an act resulting in injury to the plaintiff.
Personal injuries may also occur unintentionally. If an unintentional injury is the result of the defendant’s negligence, the plaintiff can file a civil lawsuit based on that negligent behavior. Examples of some of the most common negligence cases include:
- Automobile accidents;
- Slip and fall accidents; and
- Injuries from medical malpractice.
What Are Oil Rig Accidents?
Oil rigs are large platforms that allow companies to drill and mine for both oil and natural gas offshore, generally in the middle of an ocean or the sea. Extracting these resources is a dangerous job, and as such accidents frequently occur in this line of work. An oil rig accident can cause major or minor damages associated with:
- Oil Spills: Oil spills are most commonly caused by accidents involving tankers, barges, pipelines, refineries, drilling rigs, and storage facilities. However, they can also be caused by recreational boats. Their causes include equipment failure, natural disasters, and deliberate acts, among others;
- Chemical Burn Injuries: Chemical burns occur through contact with various types of chemical substances and compounds. These injuries can happen in many different types of settings, including research facilities, home settings, work environments, and other places. A chemical burn can occur because of irresponsible storage, which results in a chemical exposure injury, improper clean up, or an unauthorized use of chemicals; and/or
- Toxic Exposure Issues: A toxic substance is something considered to be harmful to the human body, especially in specific quantities. As such, toxic exposure occurs when the human body comes into contact with a toxic substance. Some common examples of toxic exposure include exposure to toxic chemicals in the workplace, as well as environmental contamination.
In addition to injuries resulting from a catastrophic incident such as a fire or explosion, minor injuries can occur on a day-to-day basis while working on the oil rig:
- Slip and fall type injuries;
- Chemical exposure injuries; and/or
- Injuries resulting from falling objects.
Additionally, various industrial diseases can develop from working on an oil rig over an extended amount of time.
Because of the presence of chemicals, deep-sea water locations, possible fires and explosions, oil rig accidents can be especially dangerous and catastrophic. The most common oil rig injuries for workers include:
- Wrongful Death;
- Burns from harmful chemicals or fires;
- Head and brain injuries; and/or
- Broken bones.
Can Oil Rig Operations Be Held Liable?
Because of the nature of operating oil rigs, liability is considerably high for a company, because the damage can affect people both on and offshore. The United States government has stated that they take an active role in terms of oil spills, and requires oil companies to comply with specific laws and regulations. These laws include the:
- Occupational Safety and Health Administration (“OSHA”);
- Clean Water Act;
- National Oil and Hazardous Substances Pollution Contingency Plan; and
- Oil Pollution Act.
Additionally, oil companies and personnel may be criminally charged if an accident resulted in the injury or death. People and agencies can file civil lawsuits for damages, and such agencies include the:
- National Fish and Wildlife Foundation;
- National Academy of Sciences;
- Oil Spill Liability Trust Fund; and
- Environmental Protection Agency.
If you are an injured oil rig worker, you may be able to file an oil rig accident lawsuit and receive compensation under the Jones Act. The Jones Act is applied to crewmembers under maritime and admiralty law. However, in order to file under the Jones Act, a person must qualify as a “seaman” as defined in the Act.
Depending on the specific nature of the injury claim, the remedy will generally be a damages award intended to compensate the injured person for their losses. This award will cover expenses and costs such as:
- Hospital and medical costs;
- Lost wages;
- Loss of the ability to earn income in the future; and
- Pain and suffering. Other remedies may apply as well, such as an order from the court instructing the oil rig operation to perform certain actions. An example of this would be increasing safety measures onboard the oil rig.
Are There Any Legal Defenses For Oil Rig Accidents?
Depending on various laws and the circumstances of each specific case, there may be some defenses available to the defendant in an oil rig accident case, including but not limited to:
- Assumption of Risk: Assumption of risk applies when the person fully understands the risks that are associated with a certain activity. They proceed to take those actions anyway, fully knowing that they may be injured if they proceed. An example of this would be when an oil rig worker is prohibited from a certain area because there are slip and fall risks involved in doing so. If they understand this risk, yet continue to enter the area, they are said to have “assumed the risk” of getting injured. If they continue and have a slip and fall injury, their ability to collect damages could be affected or diminished;
- Contributory Negligence: This type of defense involves situations in which the plaintiff’s own negligence contributes to their injury. An example of this would be how if an oil rig worker is negligent by failing to follow proper safety instructions while on the oil rig, the contributory negligence defense may apply to their situation. The worker may be prevented from collecting damages, or their damages award might be reduced; and
- Consent: It may be a defense if a person has consented to certain activities or risks that are associated with an oil rig. An example of this would be when a person signs a waiver form saying that they consent to the risks associated with being on an oil rig. In most cases, such a waiver form limits their ability to sue or collect damages; however, even with a waiver form in place, it could still be possible to file a claim. An example of this would be if the court finds that the oil rig managers were particularly negligent.
Do I Need A Lawyer For Oil Rig Accidents?
If you have been injured in an oil rig accident, you should speak to a local personal injury lawyer or an admiralty lawyer immediately. An experienced personal injury attorney can help you understand your legal rights and options under your state’s specific laws. Additionally, an attorney will also be able to represent you in court, as needed.