Being injured in an oilfield explosion can be a traumatic and overwhelming experience. Beyond dealing with your injuries and emotional trauma, you also have to navigate the confusing legal aftermath. As an oil and gas worker, knowing what to do–and what not to do–is crucial for getting the compensation you deserve.
This comprehensive checklist covers the 10 most important legal steps to take after an oilfield accident. Follow this advice, and you’ll be in the best position possible when meeting with your oil and gas personal injury lawyer.
Step 1: Seek Medical Attention Immediately
This first step is arguably the most important. Even if you don’t think you’re seriously injured, you need to get checked out by a doctor or visit the emergency room as soon as possible. Never downplay or ignore symptoms just because you want to get back to work. Certain injuries like concussions, internal bleeding, and soft tissue damage can take hours or days to fully manifest. The sooner a doctor documents your condition after the explosion, the better for your legal case down the road.
Be sure to give the doctor details on how the accident occurred, what parts of your body were impacted, and all physical complaints you’re experiencing – no matter how minor they may seem. Things like headaches, nausea, ringing in the ears, and confusion could point to a traumatic brain injury. Mention every ache, pain, cut, or discomfort. Your medical records will serve as crucial evidence later on when determining causation and the full extent of your injuries.
Save any medical bracelets, treatment instructions, prescription slips, or discharge papers you receive too. Keep them together in a safe place or give them to your attorney for document storage. Don’t rely on just your memory of doctor visits and discharge orders. Having the actual written treatment recommendations and medications prescribed will help verify the severity of your condition and the need for ongoing care.
Step 2: Report the Incident to Your Employer
You’ll also want to alert your employer about the explosion and resulting injuries right away. The report should be made in writing via email or company letterhead to your direct supervisor or the head safety manager. Details to include:
- Date, time, and precise location of the incident
- What happened leading up to the explosion – where were you standing, what were you doing, did any equipment fail?
- All visible property damage and unsafe conditions at the scene
- Nature of your injuries – what parts of your body were affected, what symptoms did you experience?
- Names and contact information of any witnesses
- Any other relevant details you recall from the chaotic event
Keeping your employer promptly informed prevents potential problems that could affect your workers’ compensation lawsuit or claim later. Failing to report safety issues like an oilfield explosion right away could allow your company (and its insurance provider) to dispute your claim down the road. They may accuse you of negligence or claim you failed to follow protocol if an incident isn’t documented soon after it happens.
So make sure your employer is immediately notified about the explosion, no matter how routine these dangerous accidents feel at a job site. Having a documented, dated paper trail showing you took reasonable steps to inform them aids your legal position.
Step 3: Document the Scene Thoroughly
Try to photograph or take a video of the accident site as soon as possible. Focus on capturing images of property damage, debris, smoke, visible injuries to others, and any dangerous conditions that may have caused the blast. Look for failed equipment, warning signs that were ignored, leaks, structural damage, fires, and anything else relevant. The more visual evidence you have, the better.
You’ll also want to get contact information for any coworkers or other workers who witnessed the explosion. Having other eyewitnesses corroborate your account of what happened is extremely helpful when determining fault and negligence later on. Their perspectives could provide details you missed or forgot due to your stressed mental state. Eyewitnesses will be key to reconstructing how the explosion occurred and who or what may be at fault.
If allowed, return to the scene once it has been secured and see if you notice anything that wasn’t apparent right after the chaotic blast. Take additional pictures and video capturing the site from multiple angles at different times throughout the investigation. Try to get images that clearly show the scale of damage, how far projectiles and debris flew, and just how intense the explosion was. These will help your attorney demonstrate the severity of the accident to push for maximum compensation.
Step 4: Don’t Post Anything Related to the Explosion on Social Media
It can be tempting to vent about your accident online, share updates on your recovery, or post pictures of your injuries. But hold off on posting anything at all related to the explosion on social media platforms like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, TikTok, etc. Defense attorneys routinely monitor the profiles of injury victims for damaging posts they can use against you. Even sympathetic comments taken out of context could negatively impact your claim.
Stick to only talking about the facts with your lawyer, doctors, and closest family members. Never speculate online about what caused the accident or who you think was responsible. Anything you share publicly can and will be used against you. Don’t give the defense any ammo to undermine your injury claims. Resist venting your frustrations digitally no matter how unfair this feels.
Also refrain from posting any pictures of your injuries, explosion aftermath, or recovery progress on social media. While you may want to share updates with friends and family, it’s best to provide that content privately through direct messages or texting. Nothing related to your accident should be publicly visible online until your case is resolved.
Step 5: Call an Experienced Oil and Gas Injury Lawyer Immediately
One of your very first calls after seeking emergency medical care should be to an experienced oil and gas accident attorney. Oilfield injury laws are highly complex, and strict deadlines come up faster than you may think. Having legal guidance and representation right away is critical to avoiding common mistakes that could completely sink your case.
When looking to hire an attorney, go for one with a proven track record specifically handling oil and gas accident lawsuits. They’ll know all the regulations, responsible corporate parties, insurance complexities, and nuances that could impact your claim. A lawyer unfamiliar with the intricacies of oil and gas worksites could miss key evidence or fail to bring all liable parties into a settlement.
Be sure to ask the attorney about their trial experience as well. The insurance company will likely try to lowball you in settlement negotiations prior to trial. You need a lawyer with a willingness to take your case to court in front of a jury if a fair settlement isn’t offered. Don’t let big corporations intimidate your legal team away from the courtroom – that’s how they get away with paying minimal damages to injured workers like yourself.
Step 6: Save and Organize All Paperwork Related to the Incident
Going forward after the explosion, you should compile a thorough file or binder to store every document related to your accident, injuries, and financial losses. This includes:
- Medical records from ER visits, doctor appointments, specialists, physical therapy, chiropractic, massage therapy, counseling, etc. Also request copies of all imaging like x-rays, MRIs, and CT scans.
- Receipts for medical equipment, prescriptions, transportation to appointments, medical braces, crutches, wheelchairs, etc.
- Any invoices or documents related to property damage, like a destroyed vehicle.
- Pay stubs showing missed hours or reduced wages due to recovery time away from work.
- Employer paperwork, incident forms, workplace injury reports, etc.
- Workers’ comp claim paperwork and communication with the carrier.
- Police reports, fire department records, safety inspection reports, or other accident records from local authorities.
- Photographs, videos, diagrams, maps, and any other evidence collected at the scene.
- Names and contact information for witnesses to the explosion.
Staying meticulously organized from the start makes the claims process much smoother when your Zehl & Associates oil and gas personal injury lawyer requests evidence and documentation. Keeping thorough records also demonstrates that you’re committed to actively participating in your legal case.
Step 7: Only Discuss Case Details with Your Lawyer
Once you’ve hired an attorney, they’ll instruct you not to sign any authorizations to release your personal health information to other parties. This includes your employer, their insurance company, coworkers, news reporters, or anyone else.
Insurance carriers may try to lean on you directly to gather valuable information about the strength of your claim. But you are under no obligation to disclose private details surrounding your injuries or abilities to them. They commonly use even innocent statements made under stress against victims later. Let your oil and gas accident attorney be the sole point person for all communications related to your case. Their legal training prepares them for questioning and interactions with insurance adjusters and defense lawyers.
Politely refer any inquiries to your lawyer’s office with a simple “My attorney handles all matters related to my injury claim.” Then promptly report the contact to your lawyer. Never provide written or verbal statements to any party without your attorney’s guidance. Even conversations with close friends about your case should be kept vague – you never know what might get repeated.
Step 8: Follow Your Doctor’s Treatment Plan Closely
Make sure to show up on time to all follow-up medical appointments and complete the full course of treatment prescribed by your doctors. You need to demonstrate that you’re taking all reasonable steps to maximize your recovery per medical advice. Optimal healing will result in the best possible injury claim value.
Missing appointments or therapy sessions allows the insurance company to argue your condition from the explosion isn’t that serious. They may accuse you of exaggerating your injuries if you lack consistent medical documentation. Skipping recommended treatment also risks aggravating your injuries further.
Always consult your doctors before stopping any prescribed therapy, discontinuing medications, or receiving alternative treatments as well. You don’t want to jeopardize your progress medically or legally. Keep your personal injury lawyer updated on all major developments with your health too.
Step 9: Avoid Recorded or Written Statements Until Your Lawyer Approves
Shortly after your accident claim is filed, insurance carriers will probably contact you directly requesting a recorded interview or written statement to get “your side of the story”. They may claim it’s just part of a routine procedure. But don’t comply with any questioning until your own attorney reviews the request and prepares you accordingly.
Anything you say in a formal statement can be selectively interpreted and used against you later. Skilled insurance defense lawyers know how to poke holes by asking probing questions designed to minimize injuries and your need for damages. It’s a strictly legal interrogation – not just a friendly chat.
Your attorney knows how to properly prepare you for fielding any questions or trick inquiries that arise. They will also insist on getting transcripts of any interviews to review for potential issues. Don’t let your words get twisted. Politely decline to provide a statement until your lawyer can be involved.
Step 10: Don’t Rush Into Accepting Settlement Offers
Insurance companies will commonly make relatively quick lowball settlement offers soon after an incident hoping injured victims will take whatever is presented just to be done with the case. But accepting an inadequate settlement means forfeiting your right to full fair compensation determined by a jury.
Your experienced oilfield injury lawyer can accurately calculate the true projected value of your claim based on projected medical costs, lost wages, and pain and suffering damages. This settlement analysis takes time based on your ongoing recovery efforts and prognosis over the long term. Rushing to accept an insurer’s first dollar amount often leaves victims vastly under-compensated.
Be extremely wary of settlement offers made before you reach “maximum medical improvement” – when your doctor declares your condition has stabilized with no further treatment options available. It may take months or years to reach this point depending on your injuries. Insurers pressuring you to settle early are not acting in your best interests. They’re protecting their own bottom line.
Consult your attorney on any proposed settlement offers, Never agree to anything without your lawyer’s guidance. They can advise if the amount seems fair or recommend rejecting it to fight for fully justified compensation. Patience and trusting your knowledgeable attorney’s judgment pay off in the long run.
Don’t Go It Alone
Maneuvering the claims process after an oilfield catastrophe is hard enough while coping with emotional and physical trauma. Don’t let oil corporations take advantage of you during an already difficult time. Their army of lawyers will look for every angle possible to minimize their liability and what you receive.
With an aggressive and compassionate personal injury attorney guiding you, you can focus on your recovery while they handle battling the complex legal system. Their expertise levels the playing field against even the most powerful corporate interests looking to keep their costs down at your expense. Don’t wait or delay exploring your legal options. Time limits apply, and oil companies will pounce on any technicality they can to have your case thrown out if you miss deadlines.