According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), onshore and offshore oil and gas extraction industries have a collective fatality rate seven times higher than all other U.S. workers.
Texas, Oklahoma, and Louisiana are overrepresented by oil and gas extraction fatalities; however, the public rarely hears about these accidents unless a significant disaster occurs.
Below, the maritime injury lawyers at Cox, Cox, Filo, Camel & Wilson discuss how these devastating accidents impact families and our community.
Loved Ones Lost
In October 2017, an oil rig exploded in a Louisiana lake just west of New Orleans. Seven offshore workers were hospitalized for burns and serious injuries.
Twenty-four hours after the explosion, the coast guard called off the search for a missing 44-year-old contractor.
The missing man, Timothy Morrison, was found several days later. In a statement from his family, Morrison was a “beloved father, husband, brother, and friend.”
When maritime workers die, dependent family members may be eligible to receive certain benefits. For example, the Jones Act or the Death on the High Seas Act (DOHS) allows surviving family members to file a lawsuit against a negligent employer.
Maritime law and compensation can’t replace a loved one, but it can pay the bills and ensure children receive adequate care. An experienced offshore injury lawyer can help navigate maritime laws that offer financial support to families.
Over a five-year period from 2007 to 2011, there were 529 fatal injuries in oil and gas industries; 62 of these deaths occurred in Louisiana.
Scott Eustis of the Gulf Restoration Network, an environmental group said: “It’s always the workers who pay. And Gulf Coast workers will pay with their bodies, their lives, their children, who will grow up without fathers.”
Maritime Injuries Run Deep
Most people remember the Deepwater Horizon disaster, an explosion that took place approximately 40 miles off the coast of Louisiana. Eleven maritime workers died, and 17 were injured.
This offshore disaster made headlines around the world because of devastating oil spills—the most significant environmental disaster in U.S. history.
This April, on the eighth anniversary of the Deepwater Horizon explosion, thousands of BP-hired cleanup workers petitioned in New Orleans following exposure to oil and toxic chemicals.
Tiffany Odoms, a widow now, says her husband was exposed to toxic chemicals on a shrimp boat near Dulac and died of multiple myeloma, a type of cancer.
“It’s not right,” Odoms said, “…to hear my baby cry…and wonder why she can’t go to heaven and visit her dad.”
More than 22,000 claimants have been paid under the 2012 class-action settlement, but the average claim only paid out $2,940. Thousands more claimants are awaiting their day in court.
The BP oil spill dumped at least 134 million gallons of oil into the Gulf of Mexico, which spread across 1,300 miles of shoreline spanning five states. Environmental disasters impact tourism in coastal states like Texas, Louisianan, and Florida.
“It’s not consistent with our vibrant tourism, fishing and recreation,” said Frank Knapp, president of the Business Alliance for Protecting the Atlantic Coast. “…We all saw what happened to the Gulf Coast with Deepwater Horizon.”
Rolling Back Offshore Rules
In the wake of the Deepwater Horizon explosion, smaller oil and gas extraction companies suffered after new regulations were adopted to improve worker safety and environmental controls. According to The New York Times, many of these companies oppose the new rules.
President Trump is rolling back drilling restrictions in nearly all coastal waters and limiting safety rules in the Gulf of Mexico specifically.
One investigation found that “…several of the independent companies seeking the rollback…had been cited for workplace safety violations in recent years at a rate much higher than the industry average.”
Many of these small oil and gas extraction companies are backed by Wall Street or private equity firms that invest in old or deteriorating platforms. Many of these rigs were left behind by larger companies like Chevron, who have since “moved to deeper, more lucrative waters.”
Louisiana’s economy is tied to rich oil deposits that span from the Outer Continental Shelf in the Gulf of Mexico to beneath the sediment of the Mississippi Delta.
Offshore and maritime positions are among the most dangerous in the world, but they remain an important part of Louisiana’s culture and economy. But at what cost?