Frequently Asked Questions About Oil Field Accidents

Frequently Asked Questions About Oil Field Accidents

Who is responsible for my damages?
If you are hurt on the job, your employer should have worker’s compensation coverage. That insurance will pay medical bills as well as weekly benefits while you are unable to work. When you are released to work, you will likely be entitled to additional benefits if you have any permanent impairment. If you were injured due to the fault of your employer or someone who works for your own company and no one else is at fault at all, you are limited to worker’s compsnsation. You are entitled to worker’s compensation if you were injured while on the job without regard to fault, i.e even if you were at fault or no one was to blame.

What state law applies to worker’s compensation benefits?
If you were hired in one state and only worked in that state, you probably will receive benefits under the law of that state. However, if you are injured in another state than where you were hired or where your yard or employer’s place of business is located, you will likely be able to elect which state law you want to apply. You should consult a lawyer concerning whether you have the right to make an election.

Which state provides better benefits?
As a general rule, New Mexico worker’s compensation benefits are better for the injured worker and usually New Mexico should be elected. Again, this is something you will need to consult a lawyer about.

When can a recovery of actual damages be made rather than being limited to worker’s compensaton?

If you are injured due to the fault of a third party, you can make a claim for your actual damages. A third pary is a company or person other than your employer or another employee who works for the same company as you do. For example, if you are a roughneck, the oil operator’s representative (the company man) and all the other contractors are third parties. If it is anyone’s fault other than your tool pusher, driller or one of the other roughnecks, there is a third party claim. If you are injured as a result of a defective product (defective equipment) you may have a third party claim against the seller, manufacturer or supplier of the product.

What damages are recoverable in a third party action?

Unlike worker’s compensation claims which are limited to medical expense, a percentage of your wages for a limited period of time and limited benefits for permanent impairment, all types of damages recognized under the law are recoverable in a third party case. These include pain and suffering, medical expense, lost earnings and loss of earning capacity, physical impairmemt, disfigurement, loss of household services and loss of consortium. Future damages as well as past damages are recoverable.

Can more than one company or person be responsible for an accident?

Yes. All parties whose fault caused the injury can be Defendants in the lawsuit except your employer and your co-employees. In a situation involving gross negligence or intentional injury, the employer may be sued in New Mexico under some circumstances and, in Texas, if the conduct results in death. In both states, the responsibility for the accident is detemined by the jury in their verdict with your conduct as well as your employer’s conduct being considered. The jury apportions a percent of fault as to each persion or party and amount of recovery is calculated by the Judge based on those findings. You will need an attorney to explain this as the law in Texas is different from that in New Mexico and this is a complicated issue. In general, your recovery is reduced by the percent of your fault and your employer’s fault and, in Texas, you make no recovery if you are more than 50% at fault.

What is the fee charged by your firm?

We handle cases on a contingency basis meaning there is no fee if there is no recovery. Typically, the fee is one-third after deduction of expenses, i.e. the fee is not one-third plus expenses as charged by some firms. On third party cases, we also do not charge a fee on amounts required to be paid back to worker’s compensation so the fee is typically 35% of the net recovery after paying back expenses and worker’s compensation. Negotiating a reduction of the worker’s compensation lien is part of the service we provide at no additional fee. There is no charge for an initial consultation concerning your case.

The facts of each case are different. Therefore, you should consult an attorney about your own particular situation. The above answers generally apply to most situations but may not apply to your case.