Oil Rig Accident Attorneys
Over $20 Billion Won for Clients Nationwide
An oil rig accident is the worst event in a survivor's life. For far too many rig workers, it's the event that ends their lives. Oil rig deaths and injuries leave a wake of enormous financial strain, emotional anguish, and grief in their wake. We know because we spend most of our days talking with oil rig accident survivors—men and women who committed their lives and careers to companies that didn't take care of them when they needed it most.
Our oil rig accident attorneys have represented workers from Houston, Galveston, Baton Rouge, and all over the Gulf Coast, as well as nationwide. Every time we hear a case, we see the same pattern: cost-cutting that leads to untrained (or too few) staff, which leads to more mistakes, creating terrible accidents. In some cases, we see companies forgoing maintenance in the name of profit, putting hundreds of workers at risk on a daily basis.
Arnold & Itkin has helped hundreds of these same workers get the money they need to replace their lost wages, put food on the table, and pay for the medical care they need to get better. We do it because it's what oil rig workers deserve for the risks they take on behalf of their country's most vital needs. More importantly, we do it because it's the right thing to do—because companies only do the right thing when you force them to.
Table of Contents
History's Worst Offshore Oil Rig Disasters
Equipment failure, safety protocol failure, communication failure—these are the sort of mistakes that injure, traumatize, and kill oil rig workers. These accidents are preventable. They can be stopped if companies start choosing safety over production speed and valuing lives over profit.
The Deepwater Horizon Explosion (2010)
The explosion on the Deepwater Horizon rig, operated by BP, occurred on April 20, 2010. It was caused by a blowout that ignited and resulted in a massive fire. 11 workers were killed, and 17 were injured. The blowout preventer failed and the rig eventually sank, leading to an unprecedented oil spill that lasted for 87 days, severely impacting marine and wildlife habitats and the Gulf's fishing and tourism industries.
The Piper Alpha Explosion (1988)
Unfinished maintenance and bad communication during a shift change resulted in the single worst offshore disaster in history and the death of 167 crew members. During routine maintenance, a pressure safety valve was removed from a condensate-injection pump during the day, but the job was not finished by the time the other crew came in. No one told the night crew not to use the pump, so a leak was created that triggered a series of explosions.
The Alexander L. Kielland Disaster (1980)
This semi-submersible platform was housing workers from the Edda oil rig in the North Sea when a fatigue crack in one of its six legs caused the rig to capsize during a storm. The rapid capsize left little time for escape, and only 89 of the 212 people on board survived. An investigation revealed that an inadequate weld in a support brace on one of the rig’s legs was the underlying cause of the capsize.
The DS Seacrest Disaster (1989)
This drillship was located in the South China Sea, where it was operating while Typhoon Gay devastated the region. It presumably remained in place during the storm. Investigators aren't sure about the sequence of events of this disaster because the ship capsized so quickly that the crew sent no distress signal and was unable to respond to the emergency. Of the 97 crew members, 91 died.
The Ocean Ranger Accident (1982)
The Ocean Ranger, owned by Mobil Oil of Canada, capsized in a severe storm that was creating 65-foot waves. One of the porthole windows in the ballast control room broke, allowing the room to flood. As a result, the ballast control panel malfunctioned and contributed to the rig's capsizing. The crew took to the lifeboats to abandon the rig, but only one of the lifeboats could launch. As a result, all 84 crew members drowned.
The Mumbai High North Explosion (2005)
On July 27, 2005, the 330-foot multi-purpose support vessel (MSV) Samudra Suraksha collided with the Mumbai High North platform during a monsoon. The impact caused a massive fire, which engulfed the Samudra Suraksha and then the entire production platform. Within just two hours, the Mumbai High North collapsed into the sea. 22 people died, and the disaster significantly affected India's oil production.
The Usumacinta Jack-up Rig & Kab-101 Platform Collision (2007)
On October 23, 2007, rough seas caused the Usumacinta jack-up rig to collide with the Kab-101 platform. This resulted in a gas leak and fire, and the 73-person crew moved to evacuate in 2 lifeboats. One lifeboat began filling with water and capsized, and a large wave overturned the other lifeboat. 22 people lost their lives.
The Glomar Java Sea Drillship Disaster (1983)
The entire 81-person crew of the Glomar Java Sea lost their lives when the drillship capsized in a severe storm in the South China Sea on October 25, 1983. The incident occurred when Tropical Storm Lex approached the region. Operations on the Glomar Java Sea ceased, but contact was lost abruptly, and the drillship was found floating upside-down about 1,600 feet from the drill site.
If you have been injured in a drilling rig accident, you owe it to yourself and your family to understand your legal rights. You have legal rights to compensation if your injury was caused by the negligence of others, including shipowners and employers. Talk to an experienced oil rig accident lawyer at Arnold & Itkin. We are aggressive advocates and skilled negotiators for injured seamen and maritime workers.
Representing Rig Workers: The Deepwater Horizon Crew
On April 20, 2010, a blowout on BP's Deepwater Horizon oil rig led to one of the worst oil rig accidents in US history. 11 workers were killed in an explosion that could be seen for 40 miles and a fire that emergency responders were unable to extinguish. The rig sank, and 134 million gallons of oil were spilled into the Gulf of Mexico.
Injured crew members were taken to shore...where an even worse surprise was awaiting them. Many were put up in hotel rooms (not a hospital) and were asked to sign a piece of paper in order to receive care. A few of the crew recognized what was going on: BP was going into cover-up mode.
For those who did get care, treatment didn't seem adequate and the doctors (chosen by the company) seemed dismissive of their injuries. Some of them wanted to see their own doctors but had a hard time doing so. 27 crew members called Arnold & Itkin because they knew they had a fight on their hands—they knew that BP wasn't going to let them get the care that they needed. Our oil rig accident lawyers helped these crew members not only get the care they needed, but we helped them get the wages they lost from being unable to work. In the end, both the rig workers and their families were able to get justice while providing for their basic needs.
Hear from oil rig accident survivors we've helped:
"Jason assured me that...he was going to be there to help me. He always asked if we needed anything...he always offered to help." James & Cheryl Kiger
"I was very happy [with my result]—that's another step in the healing process. I feel like I got what was just due to me, and I can move on." Donovan Calvin
"They don't back down. They stand up for what's right...This firm has impacted every aspect of my life: past, present, future. They pulled off some miracles." Chris Devall
If you have been injured while employed on a drilling rig, it is vitally important that no time is wasted in getting the legal counsel that you deserve. With years of experience, our oil rig injury lawyers at Arnold & Itkin have been successful in recovering more than $20 billion in verdicts and settlements.
For example, we helped represent a Louisiana seaman who seriously injured his hand while working on a drilling rig in the Gulf of Mexico. Our firm took on the case and filed in Texas, where our client's employee was based. We went to work seeking just compensation for medical expenses and lost wages, as well as pain and suffering. After months of negotiations, we secured a settlement of $3 million on our client's behalf.
To see more victories like this, browse through our case results! You can also request a free consultation to discuss your rights and options.
Types of Drilling Rig Accidents
Offshore drilling rigs are colossal structures designed to bore into the Earth's seabed to extract oil and gas. While similar setups are used on land, marine-based rigs, commonly known as offshore oil rigs or platforms, have additional functionalities. Not all offshore platforms are equipped with drilling rigs; some serve primarily as storage facilities, holding oil and natural gas until they can be transported to the mainland. These versatile installations play a critical role in the energy sector by enabling the extraction and temporary storage of fossil fuels from beneath the ocean floor.
Common types of offshore drilling rigs include the following:
- Fixed platforms
- Compliant towers
- Semi-submersible platforms
- Jack-up rigs
- Drill ships
- Spar platforms
With the presence of heavy machinery, volatile substances, manual labor, and rough weather and seas to contend with, working on an offshore rig can be dangerous. The risk of injury is significant when proper safety measures are not taken to protect crew members, from training to providing personal protective equipment (PPE).
Some of the types of oil rig accidents include:
- Explosions and Fires: Fires and explosions on oil rigs are often caused by the ignition of flammable gases or liquids such as methane or hydrogen sulfide. They can lead to massive destruction, severe burns, and fatalities.
- Blowouts: A blowout is an uncontrolled release of crude oil and/or natural gas from a well. Blowouts can result in fires, explosions, and massive oil spills, posing significant risks to workers and the environment.
- Falls: Workers on oil rigs are often required to work at great heights, on slippery surfaces, or under unstable conditions. Falls can occur from platforms, drilling masts, or ladders, leading to serious injuries or even death.
- Equipment Failures: The malfunction or breakdown of complex drilling equipment, cranes, winches, and other heavy machinery can lead to accidents. These failures may be due to design flaws, improper use, or lack of maintenance.
- Structural Failures: Oil rigs are massive structures subjected to extreme conditions. Design flaws, poor maintenance, or extreme weather conditions can lead to the collapse or failure of parts of the rig, endangering workers’ lives.
- Helicopter and Transportation Accidents: Transporting personnel to and from offshore rigs often involves helicopters and vessels. Adverse weather conditions or mechanical failures can lead to crashes or accidents.
- Diving Accidents: Commercial diving is integral to the maintenance and repair of underwater rig components. Divers face risks such as drowning, equipment failure, or decompression sickness, which can be fatal.
- Chemical Exposures: Workers on oil rigs may be exposed to a variety of hazardous chemicals. Acute exposure can lead to chemical burns or poisoning, while long-term exposure can result in chronic health issues.
- Falling Objects: The nature of work on oil rigs often requires heavy equipment and tools to be used at heights. If these objects fall, they can cause severe injuries to workers below.
Crews on oil rigs may also be at risk of work-related illnesses. Long-term exposure to certain working conditions, such as loud noises, vibration, or toxic substances, can lead to occupational diseases. These may include hearing loss, musculoskeletal disorders, or respiratory illnesses.
Rigging Accidents & Injuries
Many maritime accidents aboard ships, offshore rigs, and vessels involve cranes or derricks and the loading or unloading of cargo or pipes. Rig workers or ship crew members may be seriously hurt or fatally injured by swinging cargo or a dropped load. According to OSHA, rigging hazards are everywhere for employees in this profession. One of the most common dangers in rigging is the risk of a serious fall, often related to wet and slippery work surfaces.
Many of these accidents are preventable—caused by a lack of attention to safety procedures by maritime employers, including oil and gas companies.
Falling can result in all sorts of injuries, including:
Other common threats to employee safety include:
- Uneven surfaces
- Unprotected holes
- Bulkhead openings
- Unprotected sides
Other times, individuals are injured on a rig when they are struck by swinging cables or crushed by heavy items. When gear and equipment for rigging aren't properly inspected or are defective, these serious accidents can occur. Also, if the equipment is allowed to move freely, or if loads are not safely rigged before being hoisted, this can present the danger of a struck-by or crushing injury. Sometimes, on rigging vessels, the tag line will allow hoisting materials to swing out of control, or loads that are suspended overhead will swing to one side or fall. Workers need to be properly trained to stay away from any swinging rigging or hoisted equipment that could cause injury.
Rigging also presents electrical hazards. Often, workers need to hoist equipment by energized lines when tools and equipment may not be grounded properly. Electrical cables can become worn because of salt water and weather, which creates a shock risk. Electrocuted employees often suffer serious burn wounds or neurological conditions.
Rigging Accidents Bring New Rules
Hooking and unhooking a load or working in the fall zone of a crane is a dangerous duty. Every load presents its own challenges. Some loads are unstable or unusually heavy. The designated rigger must have the experience to rig the load for a particular job and guide the load. Employers must make sure that riggers have the qualifications and skills to handle the rigging work for a particular job.
According to the U.S. Department of Labor's current statistics, approximately 100 people a year die in crane and derrick accidents. To reduce fatalities, OSHA updated safety rules for cranes and derricks in November 2010. The rules apply to cranes on barges, floating cranes, tower cranes, and mobile cranes. The rule changes require that operators of cranes with a lifting capacity of more than 2,000 pounds be certified for the equipment which they are operating.
The rule also creates an expectation that other workers assisting in hoisting loads, including riggers and signalers, be qualified for the jobs they're performing. The rule contains new inspection requirements and scheduling. All equipment, including synthetic slings, must be operated according to manufacturers' specifications and guidelines.
What Causes Oil Rig Accidents?
The Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement (BSEE), which was established after the Deepwater Horizon disaster to better regulate the offshore energy industry on the Outer Continental Shelf (OCS), tracks offshore incidents. This includes fires, explosions, injuries, losses of well control, spills, and deaths.
According to BSEE incident reports, from 2012 to 2021, there were:
- 25 fatalities
- 2,244 injuries
- 996 fires
- 24 explosions
- 348 gas releases
- 194 spills
These numbers are concerning, but they may not accurately represent the total number of offshore injuries and fatalities. Offshore worker fatalities are underreported, and there is no standard reporting and tracking system in place to determine the true number of oil rig accidents.
Offshore drilling rig accidents may be caused by:
- Design or manufacturing defects
- Failures to maintain, repair, or replace equipment
- Lack of proper guards on equipment
- Poor crew supervision
- Inadequate crew member training
- Improper lockout-tagout procedures
- Failures to heed weather warnings
- Emergency response failures
- Inadequate man-overboard procedures
- Improper personal protective equipment (PPE)
Some incidents can be traced to several contributing factors. At the root of these causes, however, is a common thread: the priority of profits and productivity over safety and workers’ lives. Offshore operators have a history of making decisions and pushing for production with extreme disregard for their crews and the environment.
If you've been injured or have lost someone you love, reach out to our oil rig injury attorneys today. With our experience in these cases, we know how to identify cause and hold at-fault parties accountable. We want to help you get the medical care you need while replacing your income, allowing you to provide for yourself or your loved ones. Every case we've won happened because someone like you was willing to trust us—we don't take that trust lightly.
Can I Receive Compensation for an Oil Rig Injury?
In most cases, oil rig injuries are caused by the negligence of another. Whether your employer didn’t offer you proper training or a manufacturer provided faulty parts, there are a number of different parties that may be accountable. You may be eligible for compensation under certain maritime laws, which were created specifically for offshore workers to ensure they get the treatment and support they need following a serious accident or injury. As one of the most dangerous industries, having these laws is important for maritime workers.
Some of the laws that may apply in your case include:
- Jones Act
- Longshore and Harbor Workers’ Compensation Act
- Death on the High Seas Act
- Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act
While each law or statute may be used for specific instances or apply to only certain workers and cases, they each overlap in some areas. One of the main things that almost all of these laws address is an offshore worker’s right to maintenance and cure. This refers to maritime workers’ compensation for daily living expenses, such as room and board, as well as their reasonable medical expenses. The medical benefits are paid until a doctor determines that a maritime worker has reached their “maximum medical cure” or potential for healing.
Compensation Beyond General Maritime Law
While these laws help offshore workers exercise their right to fair compensation from their employers, oil rig injuries can often exceed the amount of financial recovery available through maintenance and cure. When the negligence of ship owners, operators, or crewmembers caused your injuries, you may need to pursue a claim under the Jones Act. This law specifically allows for injured oil rig workers to pursue personal injury damages.
The Jones Act allows workers to file a claim for the following:
You have options when pursuing compensation for your oil rig injuries. Whether you have suffered burn injuries due to an oil rig fire caused by a blowout or a spinal cord injury in a slip and fall, you must seek the financial restitution you need.
Call Our Oil Rig Accident Attorneys at (888) 346-5024
Here's how it works: call (888) 346-5024 or use our simple online form to tell us what happened. Our firm will schedule a meeting where you and one of our oil rig accident lawyers will go over your options. If we can help you, we'll cover all the costs of your case from beginning to end—you never receive a bill or an invoice, and we don't accept any upfront pay. You'll need it to recover. Every penny spent on your case, from hiring investigators to our own fee, is advanced against your verdict or settlement. We shoulder the risk of your case, so even if you win nothing, you'll never pay us a thing.
Contact us today to get the help you need after a drilling rig accident.