How to handle complex oilfield accident cases

May 2, 2014 | 10:06 am


On Feb. 15, 2010, an oilfield explosion in Kern County resulted in the injuries to several local men, one of whom was represented by Chain | Cohn | Stiles. The client suffered a multitude of injuries, including an ankle fracture, and was hospitalized for 16 days at Kern Medical Center. 

The explosion occurred where a work-over rig was preparing to install a blowout preventer on the well-head.  At the time of the incident, the crew were in the process of testing the lockscrews that secured a tubing hanger into the well-head.  This needed to be done prior to the installation of the blowout preventer. 

Moments before the explosion, the crew handed over one of the lockscrews that secured the tubing hanger. The lockscrew appeared to be faulty. The engineer on scene was holding the lock screw at the time of the explosion, while knowing that the well was under pressure. The injured plaintiffs contended that the engineer either knew, or should have known, that the well-head presented a danger to all personnel on scene, once the lock screw was removed.  The engineer was in the process of showing the lockscrew to an employee of the firm that designed the well-head, in the moments preceding the explosion.  That employee also should have known about the danger, and should have exercised his stop work authority, and thus avoided the explosion.

Eventually, our oilfield accident attorneys settled the case against both the engineer and the company that manufactured the well-head for a confidential amount.

As you can see, oilfield accident cases involve a variety of complex legal issues that are often difficult to understand for clients. Our lawyers have extensive experience handling oilfield accident cases across the state of California. In fact, no other law firm in the state of California has more experience handling oilfield accident cases than our law firm. We have obtained more multi-million dollar results on behalf of oilfield accident victims than any other law firm in the state of California.

To better accommodate the needs of those who have been injured in an oilfield accident, our California oilfield accident attorneys have compiled a list of the most frequently asked questions for oilfield accident cases. If after reviewing the information here you still have questions, please feel free to call the firm at 661-323-4000.

——

I was injured in the oilfields. Do I have a workers’ compensation* case?
In nearly every oilfield injury case, the injured worker has a workers’ compensation* claim.  In California, if you are injured on the job, while you are on the clock, you have a workers’ compensation* claim, and you are entitled to workers’ compensation* benefits.  Workers’ compensation* will cover your medical expenses, temporary disability, and in many cases, compensation for permanent disability.  Chain | Cohn | Stiles has a workers’ compensation* practice to assist you in obtaining these benefits.

If I am injured on the job in the oilfields, do I have a personal injury case against someone other than my employer? 
In many cases, the answer is yes. Often times, injuries occur in the oilfields due to the negligence of someone other than your employer.  In other words, if you were injured in an oilfield because of the actions of another contractor on the job, someone other than your employer, you may have an independent personal injury case against that contractor.  We call this a “third party case.”  In making a third party personal injury claim against a contractor other than your employer, you can claim more in damages than you may recover in your workers’ compensation* case.  For example, unlike workers’ compensation, your third party case against a contractor other than your employer may result in you recovering damages for pain and suffering, as well as all of your economic losses, such as loss of earnings and loss of future earning capacity.  If you have been injured in the oilfields, and you think someone other than your employer was at fault, please call Chain | Cohn | Stiles so we may evaluate your case.

I live outside Kern County.  Will you take my case?
Yes.  Chain | Cohn | Stiles regularly takes cases outside of Kern County, California.  Given our expertise in handling oilfield cases, we are often contacted by injured rig hands, contractors, roustabouts, welders and tool pushers throughout California.  In addition, we regularly employ experts from all over the State of California and the United States.  If you have been injured in the oilfields anywhere in California, contact Chain | Cohn | Stiles and tell us about your case.

Do you take offshore oil rig cases?
Yes.  Chain | Cohn | Stiles can help you if you have been injured on an offshore drilling platform.

If I get hurt on a drilling, workover, or oil well service rig do I have a case against someone other than my employer?
In many cases, the answer is yes.  Rarely is work in the oilfields performed by only one contractor.  For example, there are often third party contractors working in conjunction with the drilling rig crew on a drilling operation, or production rig crew on a maintenance or workover operation.  If you are injured in part because of an action or failure by one of these third party contractors, you may have a case against someone other than your employer.  In our experience, it is more likely that an injury in the oilfields involves, at least in part, the negligence of a third party contractor, other than your employer.  These cases can be quite complicated.  In light of this, please give us a call so we can discuss the facts of your case.

How many oilfield injury cases has your firm handled?
Chain | Cohn | Stiles has been serving oilfield workers in Bakersfield, Kern County, and California for the last 80 years.  During this time our lawyers have handled hundreds of oilfield injury cases.  Remember, your oilfield injury case may involve both workers’ compensation* and a third party (someone other than your employer) claim.  Chain | Cohn | Stiles has attorneys that can handle both the workers’ compensation* and third party claim, and our attorneys will work together to make certain that your rights are fully protected.

Does your firm hire experts for my case?
Yes.  As part of almost every oilfield injury case, experts are an integral piece of the case.  Chain | Cohn | Stiles regularly employs experts from throughout the United States.  These experts, be it metallurgists, steam engineers, drilling and production engineers, and pipeline engineers, are all recognized as leading authorities in their fields.  We understand that retaining the right experts is often a key to our clients’ success.  In almost every instance, it is important to retain experts, and conduct inspections, as soon as possible.  With this in mind, please contact as to discuss your case as soon as practically possible after you have been injured.

If you take my oilfield injury case, does it cost me anything upfront?
No.  At Chain | Cohn | Stiles we handle your case on a contingent fee basis.  This means you pay us nothing out of your pocket.  We only get paid if we are able to resolve your case.

I was injured in the oilfields.  Can I get help with my medical expenses?
Often times, oilfield injuries will result in a workers’ compensation* claim.  In these circumstances, we can help you obtain benefits to cover your medical expenses and temporary disability benefits.  In addition, should your case result in a claim against a contractor other than your employer, you may be entitled to greater compensation, including pain and suffering.

If I am hurt in the oilfields do I have a case against the lease owner?
At times, oilfield injury cases can be filed against the lease owner.  In other words, if you were injured in the oilfields, and the lease owner did something to contribute to your injury, you may have the basis for a lawsuit against the lease owner.  This is an area of law that is constantly evolving in California.  Recent decisions like Seabright v. U.S. Airways, Inc., (2011) 52 Cal.4th 590, and Hooker v. Department of Transportation, (2002) 27 Cal.4th 198, have changed the way an injured oilfield worker can seek damages against the lease owner.  Chain | Cohn | Stiles has closely followed the changes in the law.  We have seen many successes over the years in seeking damages from lease owners, including recent successes.  If you have a potential claim against a lease owner, please contact us.

If I am injured on the job by someone other than my employer, do I have a case?
Yes.  Under these circumstances you may have both a workers’ compensation* case, because you were injured on the job, and a case against the other party who caused your injury.  The case against the other party, someone other than your employer, is called a “third party personal injury” case.  If you have been injured by a third party, please contact us to discuss the facts of your case.  A third party case often times allows you to obtain more compensation than you can recover in your workers’ compensation* claim.

I exercised my stop work authority on a job because I saw someone doing something dangerous.  Now, my employer has retaliated against me and fired me.  Do I have a case?
You may have a case for wrongful termination.  In addition to our personal injury practice, Chain | Cohn | Stiles has attorneys who can help you with your wrongful termination case.  If you feel like you have been wrongfully terminated from your employment, please contact us to discuss your case.

* Update: Chain | Cohn | Stiles is no longer accepting wrongful termination and sexual harassment cases *

I have a relative who died as a result of an oilfield injury.  Do you handle wrongful death cases?
Yes.  If you or your family have suffered the loss of a loved one due to an oilfield injury, please contact us so we can discuss the case with you.  Chain | Cohn | Stiles has 80 years of experience handling wrongful death claims.

I want an attorney who understands oilfield work.  Do you have attorneys who can understand what I do?
Yes.  We understand that oilfield work is unique, requires significant training, and, in some instances, can be dangerous.  We have attorneys who have prior experience working in the oilfields.  Additionally, we have over a hundred years of combined experience working on oilfield cases.  Our attorneys understand that oilfield work has a language unto itself, with numerous terms that are specific to oilfield work.  We know how important it is to understand these terms, so we can effectively communicate with our clients.

—–

Since California has become one of the top oil-producing states in the United States over the past century, the oil industry serves as a major source for employment opportunities in California. Even though safety is a concern of the oil industry, serious oilfield accidents still occur. Because oilfield accident cases often involve complex legal and factual issues, it is important that you hire an oilfield accident attorney that has both a strong grasp of the industry as well as the knowledge and resources to stand toe-to-toe with large and powerful oil companies.

The oilfield accident lawyers at Chain | Cohn | Stiles are amongst the most experienced in California when it comes to representing victims of oilfield accidents. Over the years, the law firm has successfully represented countless victims of oilfield accidents resulting from negligent drilling and maintenance operations, explosions, blow-ins, OSHA violations and defective equipment. If you or someone you know has been injured in an oilfield accident, please contact an attorney at Chain | Cohn | Stiles immediately.

*Notice:  Making a false or fraudulent worker’s compensation claim is a felony subject to up to five (5) years in a prison or a fine of up to $150,000.00 or double the value of the fraud, whichever is greater, or by both imprisonment and fine.