How dangerous is working on an oil rig or platform?
Many people in the Biloxi/Gulf Coast area and throughout Mississippi work in the Maritime and oil and gas industries, including on drilling rigs and production platforms and on the vessels that service them. These are lucrative businesses that offer high-paying jobs to people with many different skill sets and levels of experience. It is understandable that Maritime and Offshore jobs are highly sought after, though the benefits of offshore/oil field work come with risks of serious and life-changing injuries.
While many injuries sustained in oil rig and offshore accidents require medical attention, some of these injuries are considered to be catastrophic. This means that the injury impacts your brain or spinal cord, or it deprives you of the use of one or more of your body parts or organs. Needless to say, such injuries can alter the rest of your life in an instant, and they can be costly in many different ways.
If you suffered a catastrophic injury, you should speak with a Biloxi, Mississippi oil rig accident attorney about your rights to compensation as soon as possible.
Common Maritime and Offshore Accidents
Risk factors of working on an Oil Rig
Working on an oil rig or in the industry that supplies and services them is challenging and risky work. The industry is fast-paced, and workers do not always have the time and support to follow all safety precautions in the moment. In addition, there are dangerous trends in the oil and gas industry of failing to provide adequate training to workers, as well as a lack of proper safeguards to protect workers. With insufficient training and an emphasis on productivity over safety, it should be no surprise that drill rig accidents happen regularly and sometimes result in catastrophic injuries.
Offshore accidents and oil rig injuries can involve the following:
- Accidents on barges, tugboats, supply vessels, oil rigs/platforms, and crew boats
- Transportation to and from offshore rigs and platforms
- Getting trapped between heavy objects or machinery
- Heavy machinery and equipment accidents
- Fires and oil rig explosions
- Toxic exposure to hazardous chemicals, such as hydrogen sulfide
- Falls from elevated areas
- Deck or rig collapses
- Getting hit by a falling object
Any of these accidents has the potential to cause severe injuries to workers, and you should always be aware of your rights following an injury.
Catastrophic Injuries to Maritime and Offshore Workers
Injuries can vary in nature and severity, and the following are some examples of catastrophic injuries that sometimes result from oil rig accidents:
Traumatic brain injury (TBI)
The brain controls our movement, sensation, organ function, thoughts, and behaviors, so it is not hard to imagine the devastating effects that traumatic brain injuries might have. Brain injuries, even “mild” brain injuries caused by concussions, can result in many different symptoms, including:
- Cognitive impairments
- Difficulty with information processing
- Memory loss
- Communication and speech problems
- Physical impairments, including reduced coordination and balance
- Mental and emotional conditions
- Lack of behavioral or emotional control
- Personality changes
- Long-term coma
All of the above can impact nearly every aspect of your life.
Spinal cord injury (SCI)
Trauma to the spinal cord is always a serious matter that usually requires lengthy hospitalization. If a spinal injury is “complete,” it means that it severs the spinal cord, cutting off communication between the body below the injury and the brain. This usually results in permanent paralysis and a lack of functioning in the affected parts of the body. Permanent paralysis can require lifelong rehabilitation and care, as well as costly equipment such as wheelchairs and adjustments to your home.
When part of your body gets caught in heavy equipment or between heavy objects or otherwise suffers serious trauma, it can sever that body part. Common amputations in oil rig accidents can involve the fingers, hands, arms, and more. Losing a body part will immediately change your life, as you will need extensive medical treatment to prevent infection and relieve pain, as well as rehabilitative therapy to relearn basic tasks without the amputated part.
Minor burns usually heal with treatment and time. However, third-degree burns can be catastrophic. Third-degree burns damage all of the layers of your skin, and they can also damage tissue below the skin, including muscle, tendons, or bone. Burned areas are highly prone to infection, and victims often spend weeks or months in burn units for treatment. Burns might require numerous painful surgeries, such as skin grafts, and can leave victims with permanent scarring and loss of function.
Hearing or vision loss
Constant exposure to loud noises, flying shrapnel or particles, and other dangerous conditions can result in the loss of your hearing or vision. This can impact your ability to work and can require lifelong assistance from medical equipment.
Some studies show the average fatality rate for offshore workers, which is 27.1 deaths per 100,000 employees, is more than seven times the fatality rate for other workers in the United States. A recent and infamous example of offshore accidents that result in death is the 2010 Deepwater Horizon catastrophe that caused the deaths of eleven workers and impacted thousands of people and businesses along the Gulf Coast.
Your Rights after a Catastrophic Maritime/Offshore Injury
When you are injured on the job, it is important to get the medical help you need right away, especially since catastrophic injuries require emergency medical attention. After your condition is stable, it is time to worry about how you will cover your medical expenses and other losses, which can be extensive. The good news is that The Jones Act holds the employer or the vessel owner liable for any injury that was caused or contributed to by the employer’s or vessel owner’s negligence. Unlike onshore worker’s comp claims, injured offshore and maritime employees can sue the owner or employer for damages. These claims and suits use different standards than ordinary State law negligence claims, so it is important to have an experienced Mississippi Jones Act lawyer to protect your rights.
Damages that can be recovered under the Jones Act include:
- Medical expenses –including past medical bills, and those you are reasonably likely to incur in the future.
- Wage replacement – including past lost wages and loss of future wage earning capacity.
- Physical Pain and Suffering – including compensation for physical pain and suffering, physical disability, impairment, and inconvenience.
- Mental Anguish and Emotional Distress – including humiliation, embarrassment, worry and concern, and feelings of economic insecurity.
- Wrongful Death Damages that are recoverable include damages for loss of financial support, loss of nurture and guidance to minor children, loss of service, and pre-death pain and suffering.
Additionally, injured workers can recover Maintenance and Cure – essentially a stipend to cover food and shelter and care while their claim is progressing. In some cases, where Maintenance and Cure is improperly denied, punitive damages may be recovered.
Learn How Our Biloxi, Mississippi Maritime/Offshore Injury Law Firm Can Help
Jones Act Claims are different from standard State Law personal injury or workers’ compensation claims, and can be complicated — especially when they involve catastrophic injuries. The Maritime/Offshore Injury Team at Van Cleave Law is ready to assist with every aspect of your claim from beginning to end. Call (228) 432-7826 or contact us online for a free case evaluation today.