Understanding Your Rights
When a worker is fatally injured in an oilfield accident, it can leave a lasting impact on their entire family, especially if this individual was the sole financial contributor. Although a loved one is undoubtedly irreplaceable, families should understand their right to compensation after an oilfield tragedy and how to protect their rights.
What Damaged Can Be Recovered?
In many jurisdictions, a surviving spouse, child, or parent of the deceased has the ability to file a wrongful death claim for your own damages as a result of the loss of your loved one. While this varies from state to state, the damages that may be awarded in Texas for wrongful death include but are not limited to:
- Loss of financial support and other economic losses
- Mental Anguish
- Loss of consortium (companionship), support, counsel, care, etc.
- Loss of inheritance
Many states, including Texas, permit the estate of the deceased victim to file a claim for Survival. A Survival Action allows for the recovery of damages suffered by the decedent victim. Texas permits the recovery of the following damages for Survival:
- Reasonable and necessary medical expenses of the deceased;
- Pain and mental anguish of the deceased; and
- Reasonable funeral and burial expenses.
Worker's Compensation Claims
Many Oilfield companies have worker’s compensation insurance. More often than not worker’s compensation insurance is one of many available remedies for an injured worker or the family of a deceased victim to obtain. In most cases where there is a severe injury or death, worker’s compensation should be treated as a remedy of last resort. Potential defendants in wrongful death cases often times will use worker’s compensation to severely limit or bar certain claims for wrongful death regardless of whether the victim should actually receive comp benefits.
It is very important that before any worker or their family elects to receive benefits under workers compensation insurance they consult an attorney who is experienced in handling Oilfield wrongful death cases.
In many instances, the question of who had an “employer-employee” relationship with the deceased is a fact question for a jury to determine. Oilfield worksites are often multi-employer worksites under OSHA regulations, and it’s frequently unclear. The acceptance of worker’s compensation benefits or the acceptance that a particular Oilfield entity with worker’s comp insurance was a victim’s “employer” may severely limit any recovery or the ability to institute suit at all. Insurance carriers and their insureds know this and will oftentimes attempt to use worker’s comp as a shield by offering workers or their families benefits all the while knowing it may cut off more meaningful compensation through various other claims or causes of action.
Choosing to file a worker's compensation claim for death benefits may entitle a spouse or child to receive 75% of the deceased's weekly wages to be paid as a lump sum (with limitations); however, it may also cut off the ability to receive larger compensation where the "employer" may not be entitled to defenses asserted under worker's comp.
Oilfield tragedies are often the result of improper training, lack of supervision, failed safety policies, or defective equipment, leaving a question of who can be held responsible in these instances, as it may be multiple entities. Oilfield cases involve complexity both as to the investigation of the facts as well as the issues concerning liability. The application of the law under these circumstances requires experience and ingenuity.
You can learn more about our success with oilfield tragedies in the past by reading a recent lawsuit here.