Refinery explosions are catastrophic accidents that can cause severe injuries and fatalities. Working with hazardous substances, such as oil, is dangerous. When machinery malfunctions or other hazards exist, they can spark a fire and explosion. At Kherkher Garcia, LLP, we know you face a long road to recovery. You won’t be alone when you have our legal team on your side. We will be your advocate during this traumatic time in your life and fight for the compensation necessary to pay for your medical care and replace your lost income.
An oil refinery exposes a person to various dangers. Flammable materials, heavy machinery, cramped working spaces, and exposed electrical components can cause debilitating and life-threatening injuries in an accident. Explosions cause not only physical harm from the blast but also subsequent injuries from fires, flying debris, and falls. If your employer provides workers’ compensation coverage, you could file a claim for benefits. You might also be entitled to various losses in a lawsuit if someone was negligent in causing the accident.
The Houston workplace explosion lawyers of Kherkher Garcia, LLP understand the effects an accident like this can have on your life. You’re dealing with more than just physical injuries. There’s also significant emotional trauma, expensive medical bills, and the complex nature of handling a case. If you can’t afford your expenses, you could face crushing debt. You should not be responsible for the costs you incurred from your work-related injury or illness. We can help you file a claim or lawsuit and work to reach a positive result on your behalf.
Learn more about the dependable legal services and representation we offer by calling Kherkher Garcia, LLP at (713) 333-1030 for your free consultation.
What Causes Refinery Explosions?
Although there are risks in every job industry, refinery plant workers face the most dangers. Refinery explosions can happen for many reasons. Gases, heat, and chemical reactions are inherently hazardous. When you add the processes of refining oil and other necessary tasks, there are additional dangers that can spark a fire or cause a devastating accident.
Explosions often occur due to poorly maintained machinery, equipment, or facility where the work takes place. Plant operators must comply with specific safety regulations to prevent accidents. They should perform routine inspections and maintenance to keep everything in good working condition. If they come across damaged components, outdated equipment, or defective tools, they must repair or replace them. Producing chemicals at a refinery requires functioning equipment, so that tasks are done safely and efficiently.
Training for Workers
Employees must know how to operate machinery and handle the chemicals they work with daily. They should also understand the risks they face by performing specific tasks and encountering harmful substances. Providing training for all workers is necessary to avoid a potentially dangerous scenario while handling flammable chemicals near an open flame or cleaning fuel pipes.
Employers should make various programs and checklists readily available to workers, such as:
- Emergency response training
- Safety precautions
- Chemical hazards
- Preparing and storing hazardous substances for transport
- Performing checks before using forklifts
- Control measures for chemical safety
- Safety measures for exposure to electrical equipment
Refinery workers aren’t the only individuals responsible for maintaining a safe working environment. Their employers must follow standards set by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration. Violating them can cause injuries and fatalities and also lead to citations, fines, and other penalties.
Examples of standards employers must follow are:
- Regularly check all conditions of the workplace
- Remove hazards from walking and working areas
- Provide safety equipment and tools
- Warn employees of on-site hazards
- Offer training programs
- Maintain machinery and perform repairs when necessary
Refining crude oil requires the use of extreme heat. Machines can become corroded from exposure to oxygen. When corrosion occurs, it can go undetected. Even if you perform thorough inspections, the problem might go unnoticed and keep getting worse with the continued use of the machine. Without immediate maintenance, an explosion could occur.
The chemicals used in plant refineries are extremely reactive, so workers must handle them with care at all times. Nitrogen is a common element that can quickly react to contributing factors and spark a fire that leads to an explosion.
Other common reasons explosions happen at refineries are:
- Electrical hazards
- Well blowouts
- Using dirty or impure chemicals
- Poor labeling
- Unsafe procedures
- Malfunctioning equipment and machines
- Flammable materials
Explosions are often preventable. This makes injuries even more tragic because you realize someone could have done something to keep you out of harm’s way. Determining who was at fault can be challenging, but a knowledgeable and experienced Houston refinery explosion lawyer could help. You should contact Kherkher Garcia, LLP immediately if you believe someone’s negligent actions led to the accident so we can develop the right strategy to hold them accountable.
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Common Injuries Caused by Refinery Explosions
A range of injuries can result from an explosion at an oil refinery. Some are directly from the explosion, while others happen after. For example, a person could suffer burns from the blast but also sustain subsequent injuries from falling off a platform or being struck by flying debris.
Explosions send out a blast wave that can harm anyone in their path. The most common injuries suffered from the blast are:
- Eye globe rupture
- Abdominal hemorrhage
- Damage to the middle ear
- Blast lung
- Abdominal perforation
- Ruptured eardrum
Exposure to flames, smoke, and high temperatures can cause additional injuries. You could also sustain injuries from exposure to hazards after the blast. Common injuries might include:
- Bruises and lacerations
- Traumatic brain injury
- Loss of limb
- Broken bones
- Lung damage from smoke inhalation
- Penetrating wounds
- Spinal cord damage
- Internal injuries
Other than physical injuries, refinery workers can also face lifelong psychological and emotional problems. Post-traumatic stress disorder, depression, and anxiety are common. If you don’t fully recover, you might require ongoing medical treatment. Some people become disabled and can no longer work or care for themselves.
If your injuries arose as the result of purely accidental circumstances, and your employer carries workers’ compensation insurance, you can seek benefits from there, no matter how small or significant your injuries may be.
On the other hand, if someone was at fault for your injuries, you may want to go after the responsible party. Even if you sustained minimal injuries from the explosion, you deserve to hold the at-fault party accountable. You shouldn’t be forced to pay out of pocket for your prescriptions, physical therapy, and other medical costs when someone else caused the accident. The Houston refinery explosion attorneys of Kherkher Garcia, LLP are ready to take on your case and fight for the justice you deserve.
Workers’ Compensation Benefits You Can Pursue
You can file a claim for workers’ compensation benefits if your employer offers coverage. Four types of benefits are available, depending on the circumstances of the explosion and the severity of the injury.
The insurance company will pay your doctors directly for all necessary and reasonable treatment when you apply for medical benefits. You’re only entitled to coverage if the physician you treat with is in your claim’s healthcare network. You might end up paying for the appointment yourself if you decide to see someone who is not on the approved list of healthcare providers.
Income benefits can replace part of the wages you can’t earn while you’re out of work. There are four different types of income benefits you could collect.
Temporary income benefits – If you can’t work for longer than seven days, you could receive payments at 70 percent of the difference between your average weekly wage before and after the accident. Even if you return to your job, you might still be entitled to benefits as long as you were forced to seek employment elsewhere or had to change positions at your current employer.
You will continue to collect benefit payments until:
- The benefit period ends. You can receive payments for up to 104 weeks after the eighth day of having a disabling condition;
- You can earn the average weekly wage you made before your job-related injury; or
- Your medical provider informs you that your injury has healed as much as possible. This is known as maximum medical improvement.
Impairment income benefits – If your doctor places you at maximum medical improvement, you could begin collecting impairment income benefits. The payments you receive will be 70 percent of your pre-disability average weekly wage. The duration of benefits will depend on the impairment rating you receive.
Impairment ratings are percentages. They indicate how much an injury affects the body as a whole. Each percentage point gives you three weeks of payments. So, if you were given a 10 percent impairment rating, you will collect payments for up to 30 weeks.
Supplemental income benefits – When you reach the maximum amount of weeks allowed for impairment income benefits, you could start receiving these payments. However, you must meet these requirements:
- Have at least a 15 percent impairment rating;
- Not accepting a lump sum payment for benefits;
- Prove that you’re looking for employment; and
- Didn’t return to your job or are making less than 80 percent of your pre-injury average weekly wage.
The payments you receive will be 80 percent of the difference between 80 percent of your average weekly wages before the accident and the wages you’re making now.
Lifetime income benefits – You can collect these benefits for the rest of your life as long as you have one of these injuries:
- Spine injury, causing complete and permanent paralysis to both arms, both legs, or one arm and one leg;
- Total and permanent vision loss in both eyes;
- Traumatic brain injury causing incurable insanity or imbecility;
- Loss of both hands at or above the wrist;
- Loss of both feet at or above the ankle;
- Third-degree burns over a majority of both hands or the face and one hand;
- Third-degree burns covering 40 percent or more of the body and require skin grafts; or
- Loss of one foot at or above the ankle and one hand at or above the wrist.
During the first year, the payments you receive will be 75 percent of your average weekly wage before suffering a disabling condition. Every year after that, payments will increase by 3 percent.
If your loved one died in a refinery explosion while performing their job duties, you could recover compensation for any expenses related to their burial. The person who paid will be the one to receive these benefits.
Surviving family members could apply for death benefits if they lost someone to a fatal refinery explosion injury. The following relatives can seek death benefits:
- Minor children
- Children under 25 years of age enrolled in an accredited university or college
- Dependent grandchildren
- Another dependent family member
- Non-dependent parents if none of the above relatives are still alive
Payments are 75 percent of the deceased’s average weekly wage for a specified period of time.
Number of Fatalities
Number of Fatal Injuries by Job Type
- Drilling Operations
- Well Servicing, Intervention, or Workover
- Yard Operations
- Hydraulic Fracturing
Pursuing a Lawsuit for a Workplace Accident in Texas
There are only two circumstances that could qualify you for a lawsuit following a refinery explosion:
- File a lawsuit against your employer if they were negligent in causing the accident and don’t carry workers’ compensation insurance; or
- Sue a third party responsible for the dangerous working conditions, such as a maintenance company.
To file a lawsuit, you must observe a two-year statute of limitations. This is a strict timeframe that begins on the date of the accident. If you don’t file before the deadline passes, you will lose your right to compensation through the court system.
Unlike workers’ compensation benefits, personal injury lawsuits allow you to recover more than just medical costs and lost income. The available losses you can pursue compensation for are:
- Past and future medical bills
- Physical impairment or disfigurement
- Damage to personal property
- Mental anguish
- Lost household services
- Loss of income
- Loss of future earnings
- Pain and suffering
The Houston refinery explosion attorneys of Kherkher Garcia, LLP can review your total losses and other factors associated with the accident to determine the appropriate amount of compensation you deserve. You should not walk away from your case without the money you’re owed from the at-fault party.
Contact Kherkher Garcia, LLP
At Kherkher Garcia, LLP, we know the economic burden you can face after a serious accident. You shouldn’t struggle to pay for your treatment, daily living expenses, and legal services. We want to give you an opportunity to seek the maximum compensation possible without spending more money. That’s why we take cases on contingency. You don’t have to pay us our legal fees and costs unless we win. We get paid if you get paid.
With 24/7 services, you can reach us when you need us most. You will receive personalized one-on-one attention from start to finish of your case. Injured workers deserve to feel like a priority. You can depend on our team to provide the support, compassion, and guidance you need to get through this traumatic ordeal.
If you were in a refinery explosion and suffered injuries, do not hesitate to contact Kherkher Garcia, LLP. One of our Houston refinery explosion lawyers can meet with you for a free consultation to discuss your legal options and future. Call us at (713) 333-1030 now.