Industrial plants and oil refineries are the backbone of the Gulf Coast economy. Almost everyone living in Texas and Louisiana knows at least one person who works in these vital industries. Unfortunately, most of us probably also know somebody who has been injured in an industrial accident or explosion.
Industrial plant and refinery explosions are terrifying and common across the country. In February, the nation was riveted by the controlled detonation of the chemical train derailment in Ohio. Fortunately, no lives were lost because of swift actions by the rail company, but the accident could have been devastating.
If you or a loved one have been injured in a plant or refinery explosion and need legal advice, look no further than Morris & Dewett Injury Lawyers. When you need help with a catastrophic personal injury claim, we are the attorneys who can help you get the compensation you deserve. Call us at Call 888-492-5532 for a free and confidential consultation.
Causes and Effects of Plant and Refinery Explosions
Most workplace explosions are due to faults within the workplace itself. Although very few incidents are due to criminal activity, most are caused by carelessness, poor maintenance, and lax safety practices. Some recent causes of refinery explosions and fires have included:
- Old, outdated, or obsolete equipment
- Faulty electrical wiring
- Rushed production schedules lead to corners being cut
- Poor maintenance leads to the buildup of dust and airborne particles
- Poor safety practices and miscommunication
- A company culture that encourages productivity over safety
Chemical plants and refineries are unforgiving workplaces. Although many safeguards and warning devices are in place, they are of little use if the humans using them ignore them. For example, in the lead-up to the deadly Texas City explosion, which killed 15 people, one warning siren had been disabled, and two others were malfunctioning.
Injuries and Occupational Illnesses
If you are caught in a refinery explosion, you may suffer devastating injuries. The blast itself can cause severe trauma, and flying debris and shrapnel can cause injuries miles from the center of the blast. Once the explosion has happened, the secondary effects will be fire and the release of toxic smoke and vapor.
Refinery and plant explosion injuries may include:
- Broken bones
- Head trauma and brain injuries
- Spinal cord injuries
- Crush injuries and traumatic amputation
- Thermal and chemical burns
- Sensory loss from the blast wave, such as vision and hearing loss
- Soft tissue damage
Chemical exposure may vary depending on location, but an explosion and
resulting fire can disperse toxins over a wide area. These toxins might include:
- Asbestos, which is still used inside many chemical plants and refineries
- Sulfur dioxide, which is a byproduct of gasoline refining and a lung and eye irritant
- Hydrogen sulfide, which is a component of acid rain, a mixture of chemicals that can occur in an explosion
Even individuals not directly affected by an explosion may suffer the effects during the aftermath. First responders, family members, and volunteers involved in rescue efforts can still be affected by chemical residue lingering on the debris and by the psychological effects of the scene.
Recovering Compensation After a Refinery Explosion
Texas is the only state that does not require private employers to carry workers’ compensation for its employees. Although many do, some may not. Even when an employer has workers’ compensation insurance, the insurance company may not cover your injuries. In cases of fire and explosion, oil and chemical companies are notorious for trying to push the blame onto employees they deem to have been "misbehaving."
In Texas, you have two years to file a personal injury claim. But before you do anything, you should contact the legal team at Morris & Dewett Injury Lawyers. We will review your case and explain your options and possible outcomes, so you’ll know the best course of action. You have a little time, so you should use it to the best effect.
If You Have Workers’ Compensation
If your employer has workers’ compensation coverage, you must show that your injury was suffered during your regular employment. That is, you cannot have been off the clock or engaged in horseplay or non-sanctioned activities when the incident happened.
Workers’ compensation will cover the following:
- Medical benefits for all treatment of work-related injury or illness
- Income benefits after the first week you cannot work — if you are out of work for more than seven days, you can recover your wages after 10 days
- Supplemental income benefits for certain catastrophic or full-body impairments based on your ability to return to work
- Death benefits, including funeral costs
Workers’ compensation is a type of no-fault insurance. That is, it pays you no matter who is responsible for the accident. In return, you waive your rights to sue your employer or any other responsible party for non-economic damages, such as pain and suffering. You may also be responsible for any medical costs that workers’ compensation does not cover. Before accepting workers’ compensation payments for your injuries, consult an attorney for other options.
Negligence and Third-Party Lawsuits
If the accident was due to extreme negligence or another party’s actions at the plant or refinery, you might want to sue your employer or the third party for damages. Other parties who may be involved can include:
- Owners and operators of delivery vehicles, tanker trucks, barges, and other entrants onto the refinery property
- Contractors or subcontractors who may be building or conducting repairs at the plant
- Independent contractors who are working on the property
Any of these individuals could cause an accident, and they and their employers could bear some fault for your injuries. If you need to sue your employer, you may need to include or “join” these parties in a lawsuit for a full recovery.
Sometimes, nobody at the plant is responsible. These cases are called “product liability” cases. For instance, during the Three Mile Island nuclear meltdown, the initial cause was a faulty relief valve. When a piece of machinery is involved, your attorney may recommend filing a product liability lawsuit. This holds the manufacturer, designer, or supplier liable for providing a faulty or defective product.
Product liability cases are often class action suits or mass tort suits. That is, they involve many people who were injured as a result of the same defective part. Your attorney can advise you if this has happened in your case.
Many oil and chemical industry workers are classified as “independent contractors.” They often work for outside agencies and travel from place to place as consultants or installers. And in some cases, they may be employees in everything but name. This is called "misclassification," but it is seldom an accident. Employers do this to avoid paying benefits to their employees.
If you have been misclassified as an independent contractor, you will not be covered by workers’ compensation unless you can establish that you have been required to act as an employee by clocking in and out at certain times, wearing a company uniform, and following company guidelines.
Contact Us Today
If you’ve been involved in an industrial plant or refinery explosion, you need the services of Morris & Dewett Injury Lawyers. You need someone at your side who will give you knowledgeable advice and fight for the compensation you deserve. We will do the legal work so you can focus on recovering from your injuries.
Call us today at 888-492-5532 or make an appointment for your free, confidential consultation. No matter your situation, we are here to review your case and answer your questions. We're here to listen, so call now.