The state of Texas is famous for its oil and gas industry, and the chemical plants and refineries in the city of Houston alone employ approximately 100,000 people. Because petrochemical work is inherently dangerous, employers are held to high safety standards and must train their employees in safe work practices to reduce the possibility and severity of workplace accidents.
Despite such training and safety protocols, accidents do occur, seriously injuring refinery employees in some cases. If you were hurt in a plant or refinery accident and your employer does not subscribe to the state workers’ compensation program, you can still take legal action to recover damages, including your medical expenses, lost income, and pain and suffering.
Safety Protocols to Prevent Injuries
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) requires chemical plant refineries to institute protocols that protect employees by:
- Providing initial and ongoing safety training
- Providing protection against falls
- Preventing exposure to dangerous chemicals
- Keeping workers safe in confined spaces
- Installing safety guards on machinery
- Providing personal protective equipment such as respirators
- Establishing a medical accident protocol to mitigate the seriousness of injury when there is a mishap
Common Plant and Refinery Injuries
Unfortunately, some employers are less conscientious than others about adhering to safety protocols. Negligently ignoring OSHA standards and failing to provide safety training can lead to a variety of serious work-related injuries, such as:
- Burns from a fire or explosion
- Amputations or damage to limbs due to unsafe equipment
- Broken bones, spinal cord damage, or brain injury resulting from falls or being struck by a falling object
- Various injuries caused by vehicle accidents
- Electrocution due to faulty or exposed wiring
- Repetitive strain injuries
- Hernia or back injury from heavy lifting
- Injury resulting from violence in the workplace
If you’ve sustained a work-related injury in a chemical plant or refinery, you’re entitled to compensation for your damages. Even if your employer is a non-subscriber and doesn’t carry state workers’ compensation insurance, you may seek compensation in civil court.
A petrochemical accident attorney can investigate to determine whether your employer has violated OSHA protocols or otherwise negligently contributed to your accident.
Your lawyer can then start the process of demanding fair compensation not only for your economic damages (medical bills and lost wages) but also for pain and suffering, as well as emotional and psychological distress, which state workers’ comp does not cover.
Choosing the Right Attorney
Below are suggestions for choosing the best attorney to represent you in a plant or refinery accident case.
Look for a Specialist
Today, lawyers tend to specialize in certain types of cases. You need a personal injury attorney with experience and a good track record in plant and refinery accident cases. Such a lawyer will be well versed in laws regulating refineries and know how to investigate to determine negligence and liability on the part of your employer or a third party.
Ask for Recommendations
If you know anyone who has obtained compensation for a refinery work injury, find out who handled the case and contact that attorney’s office. Even if you don’t retain that particular lawyer, you might get a referral to a different attorney who’s right for your case.
Do Some Research
Once you have some referrals, check those lawyers’ websites for practice areas, client reviews, testimonials, verdicts won, settlements awarded, and other relevant information. You can also check the state bar association’s site to be sure the lawyer you’re considering is a member in good standing.
Meet With Your Top Choices
Once you’ve found a few attorneys who might be right for you, contact their offices to schedule a meeting about your case. Most personal injury lawyers will offer you a free first consultation. You should bring all the information and documentation you have regarding your case, so the lawyer can evaluate it and ask you relevant questions.
You should also prepare questions you want to ask the lawyer. You might inquire, for example, about the firm’s track record in cases like yours, how frequently and with whom you will communicate about your case, and whether your lawyer is prepared to go to trial if the defendant does not offer a fair settlement. Your first consultation also allows you to find a lawyer who inspires trust, makes you comfortable, and impresses you as a knowledgeable and capable advocate.
Discuss Attorney Fees
Find out when and how much you will pay your lawyer. Many personal injury attorneys will take your case on a contingency-fee-basis and charge you a percentage of your award only after the case is won. There could, however, be incidental costs incurred in the course of pursuing your case, so you should ask at your first consultation for all details related to fees.