Those that work in the oil and gas industry are subjected to some of the most hazardous industrial conditions in the United States. As a result, oil and gas workers suffer far greater work related injuries and wrongful death than other fields.
Growth of Employment in Oil & Gas Despite Risks
Due to the enormous growth in the oil and gas industry of late and the associated high pay of its workers, employment in the oil and gas industry has been growing steadily despite the risks. For instance, as of 2006, more than a half million workers were employed in the oil and gas industry alone, and the gas extraction industry employed another 400,000 workers.
Due to the hazards of the industry, this growth correlates with the increasing number of serious occupational injuries and fatalities that occur among these workers.
Fatality Rates Many Times Higher than Other Industries
In the United States there are nearly 500,000 miles of oil and gas pipelines. Statistics report that from 2000-2009, pipeline accidents alone accounted for 161 fatalities, and 576 injuries in the United States, with accidents occurring in more than half of the 50 States. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, comparing the oil and gas industry to other occupations the fatality rate among oil and gas extraction workers is nearly eight times that for all other U.S. Workers from 2003-2007.
Studies conducted by the Department of Labor have found that one of the most common causes of death for an oil and gas worker is what they have classified as “struck by” accidents. Death caused by a “struck by” occurs when a worker is struck by a piece of equipment or other heavy object that is sent flying when something goes wrong. Gas explosion injuries, fires, chemical burns and dangerous falls or falling objects or equipment are just a few of the dangers occurring on a regular basis in the oil and gas industry.
New Mexico Ranks High for Oil & Gas Related Fatalities
New Mexico, unfortunately, ranks very poorly for oil and gas pipeline safety with the the 10th worst pipeline safety record in the nation. In terms of fatalities, New Mexico fares even worse tying Texas for first place. This is remarkable due to t the much larger size and scope of the oil and gas industry in Texas
New Mexico Leads in Pipeline Related Deaths
That said, New Mexico and Texas have both seen more workers killed by oil and gas pipeline accidents since 2000 than any other states. Both Texas and New Mexico have had 15 pipeline accident-related wrongful deaths in that period. Notably, Texas’s 15 deaths resulted from 523 significant pipeline accidents while the same number of deaths occurred in only 58 pipeline accidents in New Mexico.
These numbers suggest that New Mexico’s pipeline accidents are, on average, more lethal than those anywhere else in the U.S.
Worker’s Compensation v. Third Party Liability
The oil and gas industry in New Mexico can obviously be a very dangerous place to work. Unfortunately, in many cases of serious injury or even wrongful death, the worker will have little recourse other than Workers Compensation benefits.
Under New Mexico law, employers are protected in the great majority of cases from personal injury lawsuits under the exclusivity provisions of the Workers Compensation Act. However, there are exceptions.
Specifically, there are often many contractors and subcontractors on a job. If a contractor, subcontractor or other third party causes injury or wrongful death of an oil and gas worker, they enjoy no such protection under the Workers Compensation Act. These are referred to as third party liability claims and they are not bound by the limitations of the New Mexico Worker’s Compensation Act.
Construction Accident Claims Can be Complex: Seek Legal Guidance ASAP!
If you or a loved one has been injured working in the oil and gas industry, it is important to seek the guidance of a New Mexico personal injury attorney experienced in work related injuries and third party liability claims. These claims can be fairly complex and confusing.
The first task is to determine if there is the possibility of a third party claim. If not, there may be the possibility of avoiding Worker’s Compensation exclusive remedy provisions in cases of reckless or wanton conduct on the part of the employer under the Delgado doctrine.
The attorneys at Collins & Collins, P.C. can review your case to determine how best to proceed with your claim.