Oilfield jobs are exceptionally dangerous. In fact, they can be among the most hazardous careers there are, right up there with construction work. When a worker gets hurt in an oilfield accident, workers’ compensation should kick in to cover their injuries and lost wages. Sometimes, however, the industry tries to cover up accidents and doesn’t step up to take responsibility for the harm they cause.
When this happens, those injured have little recourse but to file a lawsuit to get compensated for the harm they’ve suffered. Recently, just such a scenario occurred when an accident on a Houston site caused a major injury, leaving a worker out in the cold. The good news is that the situation has been resolved, and the hurt worker emerged victorious. Let’s look at how one Houston man has overcome a powerful oil company and received compensation for serious injuries on the job, and how an oilfield accident lawyer can help you.
Veteran’s Fight for Compensation
Recently, a veteran of the oil industry won a long-standing court case to prove the company for which he worked—Nabors Industries, Inc.—tried to get out of paying his accident claim following an on-the-job fall. The claim took seven years to resolve, but the Alaska Workers’ Compensation Board finally awarded him $80,000 in expenses, including back pay, with his attorney awarded $120,000 in fees and insurers recouping some medical costs.
It’s a landmark victory for a situation that is, sadly, all too common among oil drilling companies. The board handed down the decision in January of this year, and when the company failed to appeal within the 30-day window, the ruling held.
Mitch McNamee worked on the oil fields for decades before, at the age of 62, he slipped and hit his head on an oily platform during a midnight shift. He then slid towards a chute that traveled down a four-story tower. He suffered serious and life-threatening brain injuries, which required nine months to address. The results saved his life but left him unable to work.
Unfortunately, Nabors failed to report the accident. They then cut off his insurance and sent him home on a plane with no other actions. He was denied any help from human resources and was laid off, according to his case. It took him years to gather the evidence to prove the company’s attempts to avoid a payout.
This created a records discrepancy—the company claimed that they weren’t informed until months after the surgery. The initial injury reports from the company, however, show that it was notified immediately. This discrepancy formed one of the core elements of the case.
Nabors, of course, claims that it always reports accidents in a timely fashion. There have, however, been a string of fatalities over the past 11 years on company rigs. At least 18 fatal worksite deaths or fatal accidents have been recorded by OSHA in the company and its subsidiaries during that time.
Just last year, a man died when equipment used to stir drilling mud was activated while he was cleaning it. OSHA fined the company for severe violations in that case. In several of these deaths, records show that company employees reported varying and inconsistent stories.
Battling a Culture of Silence
Part of the problem in the oil industry is that there is a culture of silence throughout. This has allowed drilling companies to operate with impunity, cover up evidence of accidents, avoid fees and leave injured workers out in the cold.
The sad thing is, it’s not even an effort to hide from litigation, though that often ends up happening. It’s really an effort to deny people the insurance coverage that they’re entitled to receive under the law. Continuing pressure to speed up production and pursue greater profits has led to lax safety policies and more injuries than ever before.
Working with an Oilfield Accident Lawyer
Oil companies are getting desperate to keep their profits up in the face of increasing pressure to decrease reliance on fossil fuels. That means they cut corners and put workers in danger, then try to deny them workers’ compensation coverage, sometimes in an effort to also avoid fines for lax safety.
When this happens to you, it’s not the end of the line. You don’t have to be left out in the cold and all alone. There is help to get you the compensation to which the law entitles you, but you’ll need help from an oilfield accident lawyer to get that compensation. Talk to attorney Robert White, and have an experienced West Texas personal injury attorney cover your case. Give us a call for a free consultation today.