Schweigert, Klemin & McBride, P.C.

What should I do when I have been involved in an oilfield accident

Oilfield companies are no strangers to accidents. Most of the large companies have safety departments or risk managers whose primary responsibility includes investigating an oilfield accident within sometimes minutes or hours after an accident has occurred. Unfortunately, these investigations are not usually done for the benefit of the worker. Instead, the investigations are conducted to determine how to avoid responsibility for the incident.

Oilfield companies are no strangers to accidents. Most of the large companies have safety departments or risk managers whose primary responsibility includes investigating an oilfield accident within sometimes minutes or hours after an accident has occurred. Unfortunately, these investigations are not usually done for the benefit of the worker. Instead, the investigations are conducted to determine how to avoid responsibility for the incident.

Schweigert, Klemin & McBride's attorneys have reviewed numerous company investigations. Many of these investigations were only obtained after the records were required to be produced because of discovery rules in a lawsuit or in response to a subpoena. In the hundreds of internal investigations that have been reviewed, but for three or four occasion, the company who conducted the investigation did not find fault in its own company's actions or procedures. Also, because of master service agreements between the various companies in the oilfield there is a reluctance to blame certain others who have fault. These master service agreements or MSA typically provide for one company to assume the financial responsibility for another who may be at fault through the indemnification language in the MSA. Thus, these company investigations are typically not beneficial to the injured worker. Commonly, the injured worker is blamed and others at fault are omitted.

For the injured worker unfortunately there is no voice. There is no one present at the scene to protect the injured worker. The injured worker needs representation in this crucial stage of the incident. It costs money to keep operations stopped and so the investigations are usually done quickly and, although some of the evidence may be preserved, the scene released back to the operator or owner and work resumes. The best advise that can truly be given is to contact a lawyer as soon as possible. SK&M prides itself in having available to it experts who can be on scene quickly and become the eyes and ears of the injured worker. Its experts who are usually engineers or individuals with years of experience in the industry can fairly evaluate the evidence and usually have more knowledge and experience than the investigator on scene for the oil field companies. In fact, in some cases our investigators provided explanations for questions raised by the evidence that the other investigators did not understand, and almost always collect evidence that was either missed or conveniently ignored.

If it is too late to investigate the scene in the state it was in at the time of the incident, SK&M still encourages those injured in an oilfield accident to be proactive by doing a few simple procedures. This should be done even if at the time of the incident you are not thinking a lawsuit will be necessary. Our suggested list is as follows:

  1. Write down the name of every person on the scene. In many instances there will be numerous different companies present and you may not know the names of the individuals. You may only know there nicknames, first names or the company that was there. Write down what you do know about those individuals. If you have a good friend or trusted co-worker ask them who they remember as well.
  2. Write down what you recall as detailed as possible describing what you were doing, what others were doing, any orders that were given, the location of each individual on scene when the incident occurred, if there was anything strange that happened in the minutes before the incident, the location of items on the site. As time goes by you will forget. It doesn't hurt if you ask your coworkers to do the same as well. Chances are after the accident they will have been interviewed, so to make sure their story was reported correctly it is always nice to get something from them.
  3. Try to get as much as possible from your employer regarding the incident. It seems that there is less reluctance to give the investigative materials to the injured worker near the time of the incident then there is later.
  4. If you get a chance take pictures, or have a co-worker take pictures of the scene.

Please contact us if you have any questions regarding this blog.

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Schweigert, Klemin & McBride, P.C.
116 North 2nd Street
Bismarck, ND 58501

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