If you have been injured while working on an oil rig, there are several important considerations unique to your situation. Most of the time, you will be facing a well-organized, large corporation that will defend against your claim from the minute you get hurt. Your company will likely have resources and opportunities to hurt your claim that smaller boat companies may not have. You also need to know how to get what you need if and when you end up in court.
As maritime and oil rig accident lawyers practicing for almost 20 years, we’ve handled dozens of serious oil rig injury cases which resulted from dangerous conditions. As a maritime worker, you need to be aware of the common causes of serious injury, and what to do if you find yourself in any of these situations.
One of the most simple yet common ways that individuals are injured on drilling rig floors is due to slippery oil-based drilling mud accumulating on the rig floor. Even non-oil-based drilling mud can become slippery on a hard metal rig floor.
Past clients have injured their knees, backs, and other parts of their bodies after slipping on drilling mud that was allowed to accumulate on a drilling rig floor. Routine safety practices and policies should be in place to continuously clean the rig floor and make sure that no slippery substances are allowed to accumulate. We have successfully handled many claims by proving that the company failed to provide a slip-free rig floor to our clients. While this may seem impossible during the oil drilling process offshore, safety precautions such as coco mats, non-skid paint, and designated walkways can all help eliminate slip hazards.
Another major cause of injuries is the handling of the drilling slips. Our office has handled many cases involving serious lower back injuries caused when too few individuals were required to pull the drilling slips. Injuries with drilling slips also occur when the driller improperly operates the drill pipe or the rig is tilted or “listed,” which causes the slips to hang up or get caught while the employees are pulling these slips. These types of conditions can easily cause serious back injuries.
A final way that maritime employees are often injured working on an offshore oil rig relates to work being performed in the derrick. The derrick hand is typically required to pull the pipe in or out of the fingers on the drilling rig. If these fingers are bent or otherwise improperly maintained, this can cause the derrick hand to struggle with the pipes. Also, the speed at which the pipe is being racked in or out of the fingers can often cause stress on the derrick hand.
The above situations are mere examples of how serious injuries can occur on a drilling rig floor. The driller and assistant driller are responsible for supervising the drilling floor. Many modern-day drilling rigs have cameras in use, which can greatly assist in trying to prove the cause of an accident. Also, most modern drilling companies are required to keep detailed safety records and reports.
The major drilling companies such as Diamond, Transocean, Rowan, Hercules, and others are all enormous corporations. These large corporations think differently than small companies. These companies will either hire a sophisticated third-party claims company like Shuman Consulting (Transocean) or have their own very experienced claims department (Diamond, Rowan, and others).
Claims departments exist to minimize the amount of money you may be entitled to. They will tell you that their job is to help you with your medical treatment and help you get back to work but in reality, they will try to choose your medical treatment for you. While they want to get you back to work, it’s only to ensure you will not have any type of wage loss claim after you suffer a serious injury.
Another challenge you’ll face after your injury is that your drilling company will make you feel guilty. They do this by building a family culture and giving out lots of gifts, hats, shirts, and other forms of swag. Many injured rig workers feel like filing an accident report or a claim is a betrayal to their fellow workers.
Your company completely understands this pressure on you, and they will usually play to it by saying things like, “We will take care of you” and “You are valuable to us.” Your company may even overtly call the crew a family. It’s important to recognize the difference between a family and a large corporation, especially when your future is on the line.
In our experience, we have found that any well-run business is more like a professional sports team than a family. Each person plays an important role and is expected to perform for the team. As long as you can perform and produce, the team loves you and pays you well.
But if you get hurt, then you are traded or cut. Getting your head around this is honestly one of the hardest things about your situation. Many good, hardworking rig workers have waited to hire an oil rig injury attorney. By the time we got involved, serious damage was done to their case, as they kept trying to keep their company happy, not realizing they were ruining their claim.
You have some advantages that can help you get what you deserve in your claim. First, you have a much larger hierarchy on your rig than there is on a small vessel or tug. You typically have several people working above you and also people working below you. This means you can count on those people to do their job, and often your accident may have been caused by one of those above or below you not doing what they should have done. This sometimes makes it harder for your company to blame you for your accident, which they will try to do.
Drilling companies typically have enormous safety manuals which spell out how each job should be done. This doesn’t mean that you read the manual regularly, but these manuals and documents often help in winning your case.
The same applies to the job descriptions that exist for all the various positions. Have you ever read the written job descriptions for your OIM, toolpusher, or driller? These professionals are required to supervise work and actively monitor the rig and all its equipment. Additionally, the JSA records often help your case. These responsibilities are often neglected and may be forged, but having these documents can often provide evidence to win your claim.
Oftentimes, a potential client has said that he didn’t think anything was done wrong to cause his accident; it was just “one of those things.” They often say, “That’s the way we’ve always done the job on our rig.” Once we get involved, we often learn that standard day-to-day operations aboard an oil rig do not follow safety protocols..
We routinely hire drilling experts, crane operation experts, naval architects, and others to review our cases and let us know if something should have been done differently in your situation. You may be surprised to learn that federal juries in offshore injury cases just like yours are actually told:
“You must determine if the operation in question was reasonably safe under the circumstances. The fact that a certain practice has been continued for a long period of time does not necessarily mean that it is reasonably safe under all circumstances. A long-accepted practice may be an unsafe practice.
This means it doesn’t matter how you all typically performed the job on the rig—what matters to the jury is how it should have been done (in the safest available way).
Experiencing an injury aboard an oil rig can be extremely difficult. . We have free resources on our site that can give you guidance and support. Read how workers just like you ended up doing fine after their injuries. It always helps to see how other people came out of your same situation, and things got better for them.
At The Young Firm, we focus on Jones Act and maritime injury law cases. We understand claims like yours because we have handled so many of them. We know the specific needs that victims of a maritime accident have, and we can help you recover your lost benefits and get you compensation for damages.
Schedule your free consultation today. If you have questions about maritime injuries and how to receive fair compensation, contact an oil rig injury attorney from The Young Firm or call us at 504-680-4100.