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5 Ways to Know Whether You Will Need a Personal Injury Lawyer After a Refinery Accident

5 Ways to Know Whether You Will Need a Personal Injury Lawyer After a Refinery Accident

5 Ways to Know Whether You Will Need a Personal Injury Lawyer After a Refinery Accident 150 150 CMZ Law Lufkin/Houston

Workers in the oil field industry, refineries and chemical plants never know when they kiss their spouses and kids goodbye before leaving for their shift if that will be the last memory of them their family will ever have. It is a well-known fact that jobs in the oil field, refineries and chemical plants pay higher than average wages (even for unskilled workers!) because of the inherent dangers of the jobs.

The Numbers Don’t Lie

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, Texas led the nation from 2007 to 20011 in the number of on-the-job fatalities in the gas and oil field industries. During that five year period, 199 workers lost their lives trying to earn a living. Rounding out the top three were the neighboring states of Oklahoma in second place with 64 deaths, and Louisiana, with 62 fatalities, a close third.

Of course, there is a logical reason why the Texas death rate is so much higher than even its neighbors to the north and east that also have a heavy presence in the same industries. The sheer size of Texas means that, of necessity, there will be more jobs and more workers eager to fill them. These factors combine to produce a higher number of deaths than those in smaller states with fewer employees working in these same high risk industries.

The BLS report profiled the nationwide deaths of gas and oil field workers in 2011. Below are their findings.

  • 70 percent of the fatalities occurred to non-Hispanic white workers.
  • 100 percent of those who died on the job that year were male.
  • Nearly half of all deaths were attributable to some type of transportation accidents.
  • In 26 of the deaths, workers died after contact was made with equipment or objects, usually when the workers were hit by the objects or equipment.
  • Explosions and fires on the job killed a dozen workers in 2011.
  • Of the total of 112 fatalities in that calendar year, 19.4 percent were multiple fatalities where two or more employees died in the same industrial accident.

It doesn’t have to be a fatal accident to derail a life

Certainly, fatal accidents take a terrible toll on the survivors, but plenty of workers suffer serious injuries that cause a greatly reduced quality of life. In addition, many are left unable to work again, or to work in the capacity at which they formerly did, thus significantly reducing their take-home pay and family’s lifestyle.

There are typically more injuries than deaths when an accident or explosion occurs in the gas extraction and oil field industries. Citing statistics from 2011, the BLS estimates that there were 1,400 illnesses and injuries that occurred from accidents or on-the-job hazardous exposures. If those supportive industries that feed the petrochemical industry are included in the statistics, there were approximately 8,500 more illness and injuries. The drilling industry contributed another 2,600 more non-fatal illnesses and industries.

As you can see by the statistics, any given workday for those in the petrochemical and oil and gas industries can be fraught with danger. Just recently in the state of Louisiana, three died and two more suffered serious injuries after an explosion rocked an out of service natural gas plant located about an hour’s drive from New Orleans in Gibson. One contractor had to be treated in the burn unit of a hospital in Baton Rouge.

In the immediate aftermath of a horrific injury, it can be difficult to ascertain whether it will be necessary for the injured parties to retain a personal injury attorney to represent their interests. Below are some criteria that can help you determine whether this will be in your best interests.

5 ways to know whether to hire a personal injury attorney after your at-work accident or injury

  • Was this a major explosion or accident where many were killed or injured? 

It is a journalistic cliche that “if it bleeds, it leads,” but is a truism all the same. The media races to scenes of accidents at refineries and plants when there are mass casualties, broadcasting these human tragedies far and wide in the days and weeks that follow. In these type of cases, the companies that bear the brunt of the responsibility for the incident are thrust into the spotlight, making it harder for them to deny responsibility. In some cases, this is an incentive for them to tender fair settlement offers. But a personal injury lawyer can be helpful in high profile cases as well, as they tend to be complex, often with multiple defendants with differing degrees of liability.

  • Is there class action litigation filed regarding the injured workers? 

?You may qualify to join an already-filed class action lawsuit, or you may find that your interests are best represented separately by retaining your own attorney.

  • Are your injuries serious enough that you will be convalescing for an extended period of time in which you are unable to work and earn money? 

If so, Worker’s Compensation payments may be woefully inadequate to meet your living expenses.

  • What is your own physician’s (not the company doctor’s) prognosis of your recovery, and will you need long-term or ongoing rehabilitative services? 

?If such is the case, any settlement offer must be enough to compensate you for future medical expenses you will otherwise have to pay out of pocket.

  • Are you getting the runaround from insurance adjusters, or are the at-fault parties attempting to deny responsibility? 

This is perhaps the biggest red flag of all. Any signs of corporate “passing the buck” is a sign that companies are trying to downplay their role in the accident that left you with serious and potentially disabling injuries. While all of these factors can point toward a need for you to obtain qualified representation from an experienced personal injury attorney, if you sense that company execs or insurance adjusters are shirking their responsibility to compensate you fairly for your injuries, don’t delay.

At Chandler, Mathis & Zivley, our attorneys have been representing injured Texans for more than 40 years. We use our skills and expertise to hold corporations accountable for their injured workers. Call today for a free, confidential case assessment.