18-Wheeler Accident Attorneys – Truck Accident Attorney is on Your Side
Though it may seem entirely obvious that you were blameless in your 18-wheeler accident, winning full compensation for your losses is neither guaranteed nor an automatic process. By law, the defendant or defendants in your case owe you nothing at the start. In short, to recover compensation for your losses, you have to fight for your rights.
The fact is, unrepresented big rig accident victims, that is to say, victims who choose to represent themselves, almost never receive the entire compensation that their cases merit. Often, an experienced 18-wheeler accident attorney can be the key to ensure you recover thousands or even millions of dollars for your injuries, rather than recovering nothing at all.
Despite the fact that receiving compensation for your losses in the aftermath of an 18-wheeler accident isn’t automatic, it doesn’t have to be difficult, either. Understanding your rights and making sure you have an experienced personal injury attorney for at your side, you’ll greatly increase your chance of winning your case and holding the blameworthy defendants accountable for their misdeeds. In the information that follows, we’ll go over the basics of 18-wheeler accident law to help you understand your rights.
This article is meant to explain just the fundamentals of truck accident law. To learn more about the precise legal implications of your exact situation, call us toll free. We’ll gladly answer your questions about tractor trailer accident law and give you a free consultation.
The Importance of Litigation
Filing a claim or bringing a lawsuit against a defendant or against multiple defendants serves two crucial purposes. First, undertaking these actions will let you recover financially for the losses you’ve suffered due to your 18-wheeler accident. The law mandates that people injured in big rig accidents are not automatically entitled to receive even a single penny for their losses. That means the scales of justice are tilted in favor of the blameworthy parties, the defendants, at the start. To win, you will have to tilt those scales in your favor. An experienced 18-wheeler accident attorney can help you do this. The defendant has no automatic obligation to pay you anything at all, and you can expect that you will have to fight for the full compensation to which you’re entitled.
Some of your losses, of course, were probably emotional and physical, and some of them probably financial. 18-wheeler accident victims typically confront high repair costs, high medical bills, and the financial strain of being unable to return to work in the aftermath of their tractor trailer accident. Receiving full compensation from the blameworthy parties who caused your injuries eases the financial pressures that hit you due to your collision and let you and your family get back on your feet again.
Furthermore, filing a lawsuit lets you punish the people and organizations at fault for causing your 18-wheeler accident. Punishing the defendant or defendants mean they will think twice before erring in the same ways in the future and putting more people at risk.
The Two Ways to Win
Most 18-wheeler accident cases present two different ways to win compensation for your injuries. Most big rig cases settle out of court when the plaintiff and the defendant or defendants arrive at an agreement (that is, a settlement) without the intervention of a judge or a jury. Sometimes, however, the parties are unable to reach an agreement, and a plaintiff will have to win at trial in order to receive damages.
In a settlement, a defendant offers a plaintiff an amount of money as compensation for his injuries, despite the absence of a judge’s order that money must be given. As a trade, the plaintiff agrees not to file a lawsuit for more money in the future. Agreeing to a fair settlement offer helps a plaintiff because it lets them receive money quickly without the stress of waiting for a courtroom and randomly selected jurors to decide the fate of the compensation to which he’s rightfully due.
Because defendants recognize they face no legal requirement to pay you money, it can be difficult to get a fair settlement offer out of them without an experienced 18-wheeler accident attorney helping you. Having an experienced lawyer looking after your case will clearly signal to the defendants that if they don’t settle with you, they risk losing big in the courtroom. If you are able to make a defendant nervous about losing in court, he will be much more willing to offer you a fair amount for your injuries outside the courtroom. The experienced 18-wheeler accident attorneys of our firm know just how to pressure defendants to settle your case. We have won settlements and verdicts against virtually every major insurer in the nation. Insurance companies know our name and our reputation. That’s way they are typically eager to settle with our clients rather than lose to our lawyers in the courtroom.
Be very careful about bad settlement offers. Before you have hired an 18-wheeler accident attorney, you might receive a bad settlement offer. After all, defendants understand that if you accept such an offer, you will not be able to hire an attorney in the future to sue them for additional money. They are also aware that in the aftermath of a tractor trailer accident, accident victims are short on cash and faced with repair bills, medical bills, and the high stress of lost wages. That’s why it’s common for defendants to offer victims fast cash, aiming to get them to accept the offer and surrender their legal right to pursue them for full compensation. In other words, offers you will be presented with before hiring an experienced 18-wheeler accident attorney will probably not be fair, and they’re pretty much always binding if you agree to them. If you’re looking at accepting a settlement from an insurance company, make sure you let an experienced 18-wheeler accident attorney look over it before you agree to the offer. The lawyers at our firm can tell you the true value of your case, and whether you are entitled to more money than the defendants are putting on the table for you.
Some cases don’t settle out of court, for any number of reasons. Therefore, these cases typically need to go to trial for you to win full compensation. Because commercial vehicle accident victims have the burden of proof in a lawsuit, you’ll face a challenging task at your trial. To win, you have to present evidence for four different elements of your 18-wheeler accident claim. These elements are duty, breach, causation, and damages.
Proving duty means you have to show that the defendant in your lawsuit owed you the duty to act with enough caution to keep you from getting harmed. Proving duty is often a straightforward task since most people owe each other the duty to behave as a reasonable person would act so as not to harm others. This duty of care might involve refraining from doing unreasonably dangerous things, or it might involve taking affirmative precautions to prevent others from being harmed.
Second, you have to show the defendant’s behavior was a breach of the owed duty of care. If the “reasonable person” duty of care applies in your case, for example, proving breach involves demonstrating that the defendant did something a reasonable person would have refrained from doing. To prove breach, you need to bring evidence into the courtroom that shows the jurors exactly what the defendant in your lawsuit did or failed to do. The jurors will think about all of the circumstances surrounding your big rig accident and will decide whether or not the defendant’s actions counted as a breach of the relevant duty of care.
Third, you have to prove causation. It isn’t sufficient just to show that the defendant breached the duty of care you were owed; you must continue by proving the defendant’s breach of the care caused you injuries. In other words, you must prove the breach and your injuries were definitely linked. This requires extensive evidence. Many parties play a role in getting a commercial vehicle ready to undertake a haul, and any one of these multiple parties might have made a mistake that contributed to your crash. Because so many individuals or organizations could potentially be at fault, defendants named in the lawsuit will frequently try to shift blame for the big rig wreck onto someone else, or even onto you. Without enough evidence that pins the blame on the defendant, your lawsuit will fail.
Fourth and finally, you have to prove damages. The word “damages” means the money you are to collect from the defendant if you successfully prove the above three elements of your 18-wheeler accident claim. Damages are able to compensate plaintiffs for lost wages, pain and suffering, medical pills, loss of earning capacity, repair bills, and other types of losses they’ve suffered due to the 18-wheeler accident. To receive damages, you have to not only calculate how much you are owed, but you must bring evidence to court to show your calculation of damages is reasonable and supported by the evidence. It’s probable that the defendant in your case will also calculate their own figure for the damages, a number that’s sure to be smaller than yours. It takes powerful evidence to convince a jury that you’re not looking for a handout and the defendant is just trying to escape legal responsibility.
Calculating damages is usually a complex task. If your medical treatment is ongoing, for instance, it can be difficult to figure out by yourself an estimation for how much your bills will ultimately cost. Placing a price tag on ambiguous losses such as pain and suffering can be really challenging for non-lawyers, and reasoning out the damage amounts for loss of earning capacity can be very intricate once you start thinking about the time value of money and other factors such as potential raises. The experienced personal injury attorneys at our firm understand what it takes to calculate the damages for all kinds of losses. We’ve been figuring out damages for twenty years and counting. We can tell you what a jury is probably going to decide about the value of your case.
Whether your claim winds up settled out of court or decided upon in the courtroom, our 18-wheeler accident attorneys are here to help. We know how to pressure defendants on behalf of our clients who need fair settlements, and we know how to build a bullet-proof trail strategy for winning your claim in the courtroom.
Any litigation, early on, requires you to identify which defendants are blameworthy and liable in your case. This is a particularly complex task since, as mentioned above, the work of multiple parties goes into getting a commercial vehicle ready to make a delivery. Any one of these individuals or organizations, or a combination of them, can make a mistake behind the scenes that wound up leading to the wreck. If more than one individual or organization caused your collision, all of them can be named as defendants in your lawsuit.
In 18-wheeler accident cases, there are certain parties that are typically to blame for the errors that lead to wrecks. These parties are truck drivers, trucking companies, cargo-loading companies, and route-planning companies. In the following section, we’ll talk about the role these parties frequently play in causing tractor trailer accidents.TruckersDid You Know?
Our San Antonio 18 wheeler accident attorneys have won thousands of cases. Call us today to discuss your case.
Truck drivers are commonly among the defense parties most directly liable for causing an 18-wheeler accident. It’s not uncommon for a truck driver to make a mistake on the roadway. They speed recklessly, roll through stop signs, make illegal turns, and make other careless driving mistakes that put others in harm’s way. Also, truck drivers might skip their mandatory rest breaks to meet unrealistic delivery schedules. Skipping rest breaks means truckers are more likely to fall asleep behind the wheel and get involved in a wreck. No matter whether the truck driver in your 18-wheeler accident made a careless mistake or prioritized his deliver schedule above your safety, a reckless truck driver can be named as a defendant in your lawsuit.
Typically, more parties than the truck driver are liable for a semi truck accident. Most of the time, if you can sue the truck driver, you can also sue the trucking company that owns the vehicle. Two legal theories make this a possibility. First, you can frequently hold the trucking company responsible for your wreck under the theory of direct liability. A trucking company is directly liable for your injuries when they do something negligent themselves, such as failing to maintain the vehicle’s brakes in such a way that the faulty brakes led to the accident and your injuries. In that case, you may be able to hold the trucking directly liable for their negligence.
In other scenarios, the trucking company might not have done anything wrong, and it might seem the trucker is the only liable party. But in these situations, the trucking company can typically still be held to account under vicarious (indirect) liability due to the legal doctrine of respondeat superior. This fancy-sounding Latin phrase basically means one thing: an employer is responsible for its employees’ on-the-clock actions, even when the employer didn’t do anything wrong itself. In short, in an 18-wheeler accident case, whenever you can sue the trucker, you can also sue his employing trucking company.
In some situations, manufacturers cause 18-wheeler accidents by building products with manufacturing flaws or design defects. After all, big rigs are made up of many, many components, and these components have to function together for the semi truck to operate safely. If a tractor trailer’s tires or cargo straps are unsafe and flawed, for instance, the tractor trailer can pose a danger to other motorists on the roadway. If a manufacturer’s actions have led to a defective part, the manufacturer can be held liable and be named as a defendant for their role in causing your injuries.
Companies that Load Trucks
In some scenarios, the components of the truck might not make the semi truck unsafe, but rather the loading of the truck might make it dangerous. For most 18-wheelers, the law mandates that they can’t be loaded with over 80,000 pounds; nevertheless, many companies try to overload trailers in an effort to save the expense of extra trips. But overloaded trucks are more likely to tip over and cause an accident when the truck rounds a turn. Other times, companies that load trucks don’t fasten the haul sufficiently to the flatbed trailer. This can result in the cargo coming loose from the trailer and causing a danger for other motorists. If improperly loaded or overloaded cargo played a role in your truck accident, the cargo-loading company may well be named as a liable defendant in your lawsuit.Companies that Plan Routes
18-wheelers can’t drive down the same paths as ordinary passenger vehicles. For instance, plenty of roads, bridges, and tunnels have weight, height, and cargo restrictions that have to be considered when the truck’s route is planned. Given these complexities, truck drivers rarely improvise their own routes while they are driving. Rather, route-planning companies are responsible for planning the big rig’s paths ahead of time. If the company that plans the semi truck’s route fails to take into account important restrictions and sends a truck on a route that will make it pose a danger to other motorists, the route-planning company may be held liable for any resulting injuries.
Truck drivers, trucking companies, manufacturers, companies that load trucks, and companies that plan routes are just some of the multiple individuals and organizations who may have been to blame for your wreck. It’s critical to determine just which individuals or organizations, or which combination of them, are liable for your 18-wheeler accident. That allows you to recover the full compensation you’re due for your losses, and experienced 18-wheeler accident attorneys can name all of the liable parties for you. The 18-wheeler accident attorneys at our firm have two decades of experience in identifying all of the liable parties.
Conducting an Investigation
In the aftermath of an 18-wheeler accident, it’s typically necessary to perform an investigation into the circumstances of the accident. Performing an investigation lets you figure out who caused your wreck, and it lets you collect the evidence that’s needed to prove in the courtroom who was behind your accident. As discussed above, you carry the burden of proof in the trial. Jurors don’t want to simply be told how to decide; they want to see, touch, and hear evidence that justifies your position. Powerful evidence collected in an investigation isn’t just a helpful component of a case. It’s necessary to win.
The experienced 18-wheeler accident attorneys at our firm have been performing thorough investigations for so many years that we have the procedures down to a science. In fact, our standard procedure is to fly to the scene of the wreck in just about every big rig accident we litigate. When we arrive at the accident scene, we start collecting evidence right away. Pieces of wreckage, police reports, witness statements, measurements, photographs, test results, and other evidence that we collect may all be helpful in proving your case. We find these items and store them in such a way that they are later properly admissible in the courtroom.
On the other side of the case, the defense attorneys also perform an investigation of your 18-wheeler accident scene. They visit the site of the wreck and look for evidence that might make it seem you were responsible for the accident. Most of the time, defense attorneys are sent to the big rig accident scene just moments after the collision happens. They bring with them a team of investigators and accident recreation specialists. They get this head start on the investigations since they know that waiting a long time for evidence makes it more likely that the needed evidence will have dried up. For example, as time passes, witnesses to an 18-wheeler accident tend to forget what they have seen.
One recent case our 18-wheeler accident attorneys litigated demonstrates the need for prompt investigations quite well. In this particular case, our client was accused of causing the collision with a semi truck that had happened in the night. The defendant claimed our client caused the wreck by driving without headlamps installed in his vehicle. When our client called us for assistance, we hurried to the salvage yard where the remains of his vehicle had been towed. Sure enough, we discovered his vehicle was missing headlamps. But this wasn’t enough for us; we decided to check the salvage yard’s video surveillance tapes, tapes that had been scheduled to be routinely destroyed in just a few hours. The footage showed the defendant had entered the salvage yard and taken the headlamps from our client’s vehicle. With this footage in our possession, we were ready to expose the defendant’s tampering with the evidence.
This story’s moral is one the defense attorneys already know. It’s critical to get your investigation underway promptly in the aftermath of your 18-wheeler accident because evidence tends to be more difficult to find as time goes on. Though our 18-wheeler accident attorneys are typically able to build good cases even when we aren’t contacted until months following the wreck, our strongest cases are usually built when we are called by accident victims right away. Don’t lose time in getting a personal injury attorney at your side.
Obstacles to your Recovery
Our clients are often quite savvy and sophisticated people who are fully capable of picking up a legal textbook and learning about the law by themselves. All the same, there’s much more to winning an 18-wheeler accident case than just knowing the law. That’s why big rig accident victims without lawyers are almost never able to receive the full compensation that their cases are actually worth. In the information below, we’ll explain three obstacles that commonly prevent unrepresented accident victims from receiving the compensation they would otherwise be entitled to.
Lying Truck Drivers
In any sort of litigation, the defendant will often have motivation to lie. But in commercial vehicle accident cases, truck drivers have special motivation to twist the truth. Not very many trucking companies will hire a trucker who has a history of causing wrecks. Truckers are well aware of this fact, and they understand that if they are caught as the responsible party for your accident, they will likely lose their jobs and their careers. Given the choice between lying or losing their livelihoods, many truck drivers will opt to invent a story about how you caused the accident and about how they did not. If you can’t demonstrate that the truck driver is lying about the origins of the accident, you may well lose your case and receive nothing for your losses.
Our experienced 18-wheeler accident attorneys have strategies for getting the truth out even in the face of lying truckers. Often, we’re able to gather so much evidence that the trucker is discredited. When witnesses statements, video surveillance footage, and forensic testing all back up your version of the events, it’s not likely that a jury or judge will think of the trucker as credible. In other situations, we take depositions to root out the truth. In a deposition, a lawyer can ask questions to the defendant’s witnesses. The attorneys at our firm have conducted thousands of depositions in the past twenty years. We have perfected our questioning techniques, and we can use them to get lying truckers to tell the truth far in advance of the actual trial.
Large Insurance Policies
The law mandates that trucking companies are obligated to carry insurance policies for their fleet of big rigs. These insurances policies are worth about fifty times the amounts of policies carried on ordinary passenger vehicles. Therefore, insurers stand to lose about fifty times more money due to an 18-wheeler accident than they stand to lose in an ordinary passenger vehicle wreck, and so they will devote about fifty times more resources to defending against paying these claims. It’s straightforward to understand why the huge amount of money involved in these cases alone can make it harder to receive compensation from a truck insurance policy compared to a car insurance policy.
Insurers use insurance adjusters to dodge paying out on 18-wheeler accident claims. These adjusters are nothing like the individuals you might have to dealt with in the past if you have ever filed a claim against a policy on an ordinary passenger vehicle. Insurance companies reserve their most experienced and ruthless adjusters to work on big rig accident claims. These are professionals who have reached their current positions by building track records of successfully denying commercial vehicle accident victims’ claims. Usually, the only thing these aggressive adjusters fear is facing an experienced 18-wheeler accident attorney.
Be careful when you talk with an adjuster. They’ll likely phone you to ask innocent-sounding questions about your 18-wheeler wreck. They might seem nice, but their actual goal is to get you to say something that can be used against you to harm your case. Whatever you say to them will be recorded and used against you. The best way to deal with insurance adjusters is to not deal with them at all. At our firm, we don’t let insurance adjusters talk to our clients and badger them with questions. We take their calls instead. That way, they don’t have a chance to use your words against you.
Also, insurers frequently use specialized defense attorneys to help them dodge paying claims. These lawyers are highly skilled in insurance defense law, and they know plenty of technicalities that they can use to dismiss lawsuits brought by inexperienced plaintiffs or inexperienced lawyers. The accident attorneys at our firm, who have been practicing in this area of law for twenty years and counting, know all of the defense lawyers’ tricks and how to respond to them.
Self-Insured Trucking Companies
In some situations, an insurance company won’t be involved in the case whatsoever. This is because some trucking companies opt to be self-insured. In other words, they devote a portion of their budget to assets they can distribute to a plaintiff if they are ever successfully sued. If you are facing a self-insured trucking company, you likely won’t be negotiating with any kind of traditional insurance adjuster. Rather, you will be dealing directly with an officer of the self-insured trucking company. Though traditional insurance adjusters can be quite aggressive and stubborn, self-insured trucking company officers are often even more difficult to deal with unless you have an 18-wheeler accident attorney at your side.
The salaries of self-insured trucking company officers typically come directly from their employers’ profit. In other words, if a self-insured trucking company officer opts to pay your claim, that means his paycheck will likely take a hit. Because many self-insured trucking company officers are more concerned with their own finances rather than yours, you can expect their personal motivations to take priority in how they handle your claim.
Furthermore, self-insured trucking company officers, unlike traditional insurance adjusters, are not licensed professionals. Traditional insurance adjusters at least are supposed to abide by certain ethical guidelines in order to keep their licenses. But self-insured trucking company officers face no such standards. That’s why clients often hire us after a self-insured trucking company officers have been harassing them. These officers are known for tampering with evidence and taking any number of other unethical steps not to pay victims’ claims. Call us right away for relief from these sorts of behaviors. Our 18-wheeler accident attorneys know how to use the law to stop their unethical conduct.
What our firm can do for You
There’s a great deal our 18-wheeler accident attorneys can do to help you succeed with your claim. One of our initial steps is always to make sure our clients get the medical treatment they need. If a client is uninsured or for some other reason can’t afford medical treatment, we can often help that client see a doctor. Our next steps are to manage every step of our clients’ cases and keep them fully informed along the way.
Injury & Wrongful Death Lawyers – San Antonio Oil and Natural Gas Drilling Accident Attorney – Texas Workers Compensation and Oil Rig Injury Lawyer
Injured On The Job While Drilling for Oil or Gas Around in Texas?
Long dormant for periods of time, Texas petroleum is again “on the map” as our nation struggles to keep oil and gas affordable.
So in order to get the last drops of oil, and a huge, newly discovered reservoir of natural gas, drilling companies, contractors, wildcatters and the corporations they sell their valuable commodities to work long hours and under stressful circumstances. It makes no matter whether the drilling site is in East or West Texas, or out in the Gulf. Every one of those reservoirs is “active.”
Because of this inherent stress, drug testing isn’t an everyday rule. But speed to market is. So it comes as no surprise that the petro-drilling industry is a terribly high-risk venture. This makes workplace injuries common: gruesome wounds such as instant amputations, crushed bodies, and horrible injuries from rig and pipeline blowouts or explosions. Broken bones, injured backs and concussions can debilitate any drilling worker at hour of the day or night. Tool pushers are usually the most commonly injured on a derrick. But no one who spends any time in the oil patch is immune. Who is responsible when any of these job-related accidents, many times the result of someone’s negligence, occurs?
There are several things you must know, and quickly. They are important points such as:
If the Texas drilling operation you work for had workers’ compensation insurance, which covers some reimbursement for medical expenses, lost wages, pain and suffering.
What to do if the drilling contractor or the company that manages the oilfield is also responsible for your injuries. Your ability to obtain compensation depends on the ability of an oilfield injury lawyer to get to the bottom of the accident, its causes, and find out who is liable.
Exactly who, from a variety of conceivably responsible parties (past your employer), might have contributed to your accident-related injuries, pain and suffering; whether they are aware of their contribution or not.
If something like this has happened to you or a loved one in your family, and if these are questions you have thought of, a San Antonio drilling accident attorney with our Law Office can help you receive the financial compensation you deserve.
With oil likely never to see a sub-$100 per-barrel price again, it is more cost-effective to use technology not in existence 20 years ago to squeeze every drop out. And the more Texas can get for its newly discovered natural gas fields, the less oil a lot of people use, especially to heat their homes. But this drilling renaissance is powered in many places by machinery that dates back to the 80’s. So many oilfield accidents can be caused by worn or defective rigging and machinery in-use far past its prime. Pipelines in many areas (some of them highly-populated) explode from negligence, or material fatigue. Heavy objects such as pipes or other drilling equipment can fall near, or on any part of, the rig. A lot of people slip and fall on oil and water and hurt their backs. Let’s face it, the oil and gas patch (including the one out in the Gulf) is one of the most unsafe places to work in the world.
Resolving oilfield workers’ injury cases is frequently very complex. And in attempting to recover fair damage reimbursement, injured workers are opposed by arguably the most powerful corporations (along with their drilling associates, insurance underwriters and high-priced lawyers) on the planet. If you’ve been hurt in a rig accident on land or at sea, you’re a bug who threatens their privileged end game of record profits in a seller’s market. Without an experienced attorney to represent them, injured oilfield workers are little more than a blip on their radar.
Still, you have faith in the possibility of resolving your injury compensation issues fairly. But you also know that you need an experienced petroleum accident law firm to represent you. This firm has to prepare for trial, but accept a fair settlement once the defendants know it’s the best outcome for them. And you also know it’s highly unlikely you will accomplish by yourself, with a legal “babe in the woods” or your nephew running the case after just graduating from law school. You’d just be serving them (or yourself) up to these business conglomerates, their insurers and legal minions. Then you get to count your losses.
Profits, Profits Everywhere, but No Civil Claim Need be Paid (Thanks to Workers’ Comp)
Texas-based oil drilling companies don’t have to purchase workers’ comp insurance. Only half of them do and if they were smart, all of them would. But that’s beside the point. All workplace injury cases in Texas fall into one of two categories. Subscribers, obviously use workers’ comp to cover their employees from on the job accidents. Non subscribers obviously don’t. So it must first be learned whether or not your employer is a subscriber or a non-subscriber before proceeding any further. This is because; depending on the answer to the above, subscriber and non-subscriber injury claims and cases require entirely different methods and strategies to resolve.
Workers’ comp is a legislature-mandated program that provides universal, no-fault coverage for worker injuries through a “pool” of funds that are provided by participating private insurance carriers. In the insurance industry, this is called “umbrella coverage.” Workers’ comp subscribers are not only able to have their injury claims settled quickly, cheaply, with minimal muss and fuss, they are also protected from just about every civil injury lawsuit.
But there’s a downside to this program. And the workers are the ones who feel the pain from it. By denying workers the traditional civil venues of compensation as-per workers’ comp state law, the rights of employees to be truly and fairly reimbursed are harshly conceded. Workers comp is great for someone who only needs their medical bills paid and will be back on the job in a few days. But for more substantial injuries, like those one suffers on a drilling rig, those benefits lie far below fair-market compensation levels. As a result, these state-mandated “benefit caps” amounts that are awarded rarely, if ever, fully compensate petroleum employees involved in larger, and longer, workers’ comp-covered claims.
Now as we said, the program deliver a certain level of financial relief and admittedly, a little bit of convenience to drilling and pipeline employees injured on the job. This “no fault” insurance covers workers, no matter how the oilfield accident occurred or whose fault it was. But as we said, the longer the worker is injured, the less and less workers’ comp serves his compensation needs.
But there’s another side of the workers’ comp coin. Many Texas drilling companies (and their sub contractors) are workers’ comp non-subscribers. And if you’re injured while working for a non-subscriber, that’s a “whole ‘nother story.” In order to receive compensation from a petro non-subscribing employer for your drilling rig injury, your only compensation avenue is to file a lawsuit. An experienced San Antonio drilling accident attorney with our Law Office can get to the bottom of your company’s workers’ comp status, so you know what legal options are available.
Here’ one reason why you should call us quickly. Your serious injury means the odds have finally caught up with your non-subscribing employer. And sure as “T is the first letter in Texas,” once he learns you don’t have a good lawyer, and wants to further his false claim to you that he has workers’ comp, he’ll move quickly to avoid a lawsuit. He’ll show-up at your hospital bed, patting you softly on the arm, telling you to heal-quickly and get back “because we all miss ya.” And then he will, “oh by the way,” ask you to sign an official-looking form he represents as a “standard workers’ comp release” in order to further his fraud and dodge that lawsuit. He might even show up with your “first check.” But be careful. If you sign without calling an experienced drilling accident attorney first, your chance to get him to pay fairly for your injuries (and disability?) is toast!
Alternative Revenue Sources to Workers’ Compensation, And Your Options Against Non Subscribers
Once you get past workers’ comp, there two primary avenues to recover injury damages, one of them is an exception to the workers comp civil suit restriction, which we’ve already mentioned. It involves employer gross negligence which leads to a fatal worker accident, either immediately or over time. So if you have a loved one who died as a result of an oil drilling accident, even if you don’t suspect gross negligence by anyone, you need to talk to an experienced lawyer. For if it turns out the accident was caused by employer gross negligence, then you, as an immediate family survivor, stand a very good chance of winning a civil wrongful death lawsuit, even if it’s against a workers’ comp subscriber.
But the more practical approach to non-subscriber liability for injuries you suffered on the rig – be it on land or offshore – is through a third-party claim or lawsuit. This is the thing your terrified, best-buddy boss was trying to avoid when he visited you in the hospital a few paragraphs back.
If his rig or drilling equipment was not maintained properly, or he didn’t provide safe working conditions, or if one of his helicopters ditched 50 miles offshore and you floated in the water, injured for hours, then he could be held accountable. If a faulty piece of machinery caused the injury, then the manufacturer may be held accountable through a defective product lawsuit. If a drilling contractor working for the rig owner, or another employee negligently caused your injury, they could be held accountable, as well as your employer, maybe. The same thing can be said for the corporation that hired anyone to oversee the drilling rig or offshore platform.
In all such events, you can sue the non-subscribing responsible party or parties, even if you can’t sue your direct employer who subscribes to workers’ comp. But here’s some good news. Third party lawsuits do not prohibit you from filing a workers’ comp claim against your employer in addition. Often, a “no fault” workers’ comp claim coupled with a third party lawsuit against another clearly liable party often combine to deliver the necessary fair compensation.
But in order to reach this “endgame,” you need the deft hand of an experienced San Antonio drilling accident attorney to thoroughly investigate the accident scene and determine roles everyone played in your drilling rig or pipeline accident, and then construct the best strategy to get you the appropriate compensation for your injuries, pain and suffering for your drilling rig-related injury case.
It’s not hard to understand why many pipeline and drilling companies along with their independent “wildcatter” brethren don’t subscribe to workers’ comp, even if it’s better than the alternative of not having it when it when it’s needed. They’re mostly too cheap to buy it because they try to cut corners whenever possible. Workers’ comp insurance, though it costs less than traditional oil and gas production insurance, is still not economical for some. But that’s because of the fundamental dangers of the petroleum drilling industry itself. And since a lot of the independents live from hand-to mouth, insurance is a luxury they can rarely afford. Oh sure, they have money. But you can bet that, with a lot of them, none of it is tied up in insurance policies.
So, once injured, the victim, or plaintiff, must file a claim against the non-subscribing employer, or third party defendant, notifying him or her of the injury and the fair restitution the victim expects. If you work for a defendant who has insurance, they usually hand the matter over to them. Most of the time, the insurer will quickly dispute your plaintiff allegations. But if you have a good attorney, and your case has immediate and apparent strength, it’s possible that negotiations will deliver a fair settlement to pay your bills paid and all of your reasonable damages. But, just as often as not, drilling rig injury cases are contested. Then you and San Antonio drilling accident attorney must file a lawsuit to win fair compensation. And as the injured party you, the plaintiff, holds the burden of proving that the defendant’s negligence caused your injuries and upended your, and your families lives.
Oil Patch Defendants Always Say it’s Not Their Fault: but Yours
If your drilling employer is a workers’ comp insurance non-subscriber, or the third party against whom you’ve filed an injury claim has private coverage, then he or she isn’t likely to automatically pay you for the harm you’ve suffered due to that negligence. That’s because the insurance company doesn’t want your employer to do that. And paying a claim will certainly produce even higher coverage rates for the defendant(s). Our experience in these matters has revealed that most non-subscribers, their insurance companies and attorneys will often one or two traditional defenses to avoid paying injured employees the restitution they deserve.
The primary liability defense afforded non-subscribers after an oilfield employee suffers an injury is to charge the plaintiff with sole proximate cause. This means the victim was totally to blame for his or her own injuries. In order to invoke the sole proximate cause defense, non-subscribing employers, their insurance companies and attorneys say and do anything to soil your good reputation as a worker by claiming you were careless or irresponsible and caused your own injuries. And since insurance companies are very experienced, and their attorneys very shrewd, when it comes to fighting your claim or civil case, your own cunning oilfield accident attorney to turn the tables of liability back on the negligent employer or third party is a powerful weapon on your behalf.
Defendants Question the Employer-Employee Relationship in Order to Avoid Paying You
When you are injured on a drilling rig, many clever employers place themselves in a position to claim you are technically not their employee, but rather, a contractor. This tactic is supposed to help them avoid responsibility for your drilling rig injury since no Texas employer is liable for their subcontractors or their employees’ injuries. So by claiming this technicality to deny the existence of an employer-employee relationship between you and the company, they then pose the question of why they should be for compensating an injured non-employee?
But most of the time, it’s a ruse. They hire their employees as employees, not as contractors or as temp workers through a third-party. They know that an actual employer-employee relationship exists and the injured worker has the right to obtain compensation against this non-subscriber. They’re just hoping no one will find out a release has been signed by this worker who is unaware of the employer’s subterfuge, then accepts compensation for his injuries that would never fully compensate him. But a skillful, well-seasoned drilling rig accident lawyer can quickly reveal this employer for what he really is, and prove the employer-employee relationship by meeting at least one, and often more, of the following standards of employment:
Social security or taxes have been withheld from your paycheck by the employer.
The essential equipment for the job was supplied to you by the employer.
Your work has been regularly managed, overseen or inspected by your employer.
A specific work schedule has been set for the job by the employer. You are not free to come-and-go as you please.
Your employer requires you to complete a task or sign a document that limits your rights while working for the employer. The most common examples are taking a drug test or signing a document that states you comply with an employee handbook.
You have been employed for an undetermined period of time and not just for a single job.
You are paid by a salary or an hourly wage and not on a job-by-job basis.
In cases where a worker is borrowed from another company, or a third-party agency, and then is injured on the job, the rules for determining the working relationship are similar to those above, but there can be some important differences. Some of these conditions may include:
If the borrowing employer has the power to hire or fire a borrowed worker at any time, the worker is clearly an employee. Otherwise, the worker is a contractor
Most of the time, if the borrowing employer is allowed to pick a particular worker, then the worker is an employee. If the agency that provides the worker is allowed to send any worker they choose, the worker is a contractor.
This answer is the same when it comes to tools and equipment. If the worker must provide them, that person is a contractor. If the employer provides them, the worker is an employee.
If the agency can substitute the borrowed worker for another at-will, the worker is a contractor. If the lending agency cannot, then the worker is an employee.
If the worker is borrowed indefinitely, then the worker is an employee. If the worker is borrowed for a specific project with a specific date of completion, the worker is a contractor.
If a worker is being borrowed or “leased” because of a skill that is unique or hard-to-find, then the worker is a contractor. But on the other hand, if an employer borrows a worker to fill a position that just about anyone can fill, then the worker is an employee.
If the borrowing employer agrees to pay the worker’s social security and income tax, then the worker is an employee. If the borrowing employer does not accept this responsibility, then the worker is a contractor.
A thorough investigation of your employer by a skilled drilling accident attorney proves the existence of any one of these standards. By accomplishing this, your employer finally knows he must is liable for all the damages owed to you. And his subterfuge, once it is brought out in the open usually doesn’t sit well with civil trial juries. So many times, this “he was my contractor” house-of-cards defense collapses. Then the employer will probably see reason and settle with you. Whether he does or not depends on the rest of the evidence you present. As you San Antonio drilling accident attorney, we will depose co-workers, review contracts and examine pay stubs to clearly prove establish that you were an employee when you suffered your drilling rig injury.
Fight the Arrogance of Your Opponents in an Oilfield Accident Liability Case
In all non-subscriber and third party oilfield injury claims, defendants usually have large insurance companies with lots of good attorneys to oppose you. The remainder of those employers will be “self-insured” or uninsured. And all fight just as hard to avoid paying for your injuries. And if one of the corporate petroleum giants is involved, pity the poor foolish oilfield worker who makes an injury claim against them alone.
Non-subscribers’ insurance companies have attorneys either on staff or permanent retainer. They are very good defenders of their clients against oil rig accident claimants like you who try to sue them. Insurance companies are always confrontational under such circumstances. But you can beat them if you have a just cause for claim, solid evidence, and an experienced attorney in your corner who knows every trick they pull, and how to counter it.
But as bad as the insurance companies can be in an oil patch injury claim or lawsuit, self-insured contractors and subcontractors who are liable your injuries, or those who have no insurance at all, use every trick they can think of once an injured worker takes legal action against them to recover damages. Some of those tricks are obscene and some even cross the legal line.
You will deal directly with an officer if the self-insured drilling or pipeline company is a small one. This person’s salary is derived from company profits. Whatever you’re paid for an injury comes directly out of company funds. So by compensating you, your employer, or that third party, literally takes money out his own pocket. A sneaky, self-insured company officer uses any and all means to oppose your claim in order to protect his company’s, and personal, assets.
Self-insured drilling contractors and subcontractors can deliberately dispose of evidence as well bribe or intimidate witnesses, even you. They sometimes resort to physical threats. This is why every time we represent a client against a self-insured company, the first thing we do is to file motions in court to prevent anyone within the company from behaving inappropriately against our clients. Sometimes these motions include clear demands that they make no attempt to communicate with our clients, or their families, in any way without one of our attorneys present.
Injury Claims on Offshore Drilling Rigs are Different from Texas Worker Injury Laws
The laws that govern work injury cases to those who work on offshore drilling platforms, regardless of whether the rig is a “jack-up” inside US territorial waters or a deepwater platform, are completely different than those governing petroleum drilling on Texas soil.
Most (but not all) platform drilling injury cases will fall under the Jones Act (also known as the Merchant Marine Act of 1920). But other legislation such as the Death on the High Seas Act, an even older Limitations Liability Act of 1855, which was enacted years before the laws that govern today’s insurance companies, might also come into play.
And though the same types of damages available through Texas Civil Law are offered to offshore platform workers through the above-mentioned pieces of maritime legislation, the mechanics of winning compensation for injuries, lost wages, pain, suffering and death benefits are dramatically different because there are many contradictory loopholes through which defendants might be able to use against your claim. The insurance companies who underwrite offshore drilling companies and their attorneys are much more specialized than you would find in a Texas accident injury case. We have much more information on maritime drilling injury accidents and the process of filing and winning a civil suit if you will follow this link. But it’s paramount that if you have been injured in an offshore drilling accident that you contact one of Our Law Firm’s San Antonio drilling accident attorneys to better understand your injury compensation rights if you have been injured on an offshore drilling platform.
No Matter Who You Sue, You’re In for a Fight
In all oilfield injury suits, defendants usually either have powerful insurance companies with very good legal representation to stand in your way, or will be “self-insured” or uninsured. No matter which of these three categories your opponent falls into, they all fight just as hard to avoid paying for your injuries. And if one of the corporate petroleum giants is involved, they may have a powerful patron to back them up, if it suits their purposes.
Attorneys are either on staff or permanent retainer to represent non-subscribers’ insurance companies. They have to be good defenders of their clients or these deep-pocketed insurance companies would never hire them. These attorneys, and their Insurance company clients, often act confrontational, patronizing and very dismissive towards you. But you can beat them if you have a just cause for claim, solid evidence to back it up, and a San Antonio drilling accident lawyer to counter their arrogance and trickery.
But as bad as they are, other opponents can be even worse. They would be the self-insured contractors and subcontractors who are liable your injuries, or those who have no insurance at all. These people, usually the wildcatters and independents, can come up with even worse tricks once an injured worker takes legal action against them to recover damages. Some of their tricks would curl your hair.
You will deal directly with an officer of this self-insured drilling or pipeline company whose salary comes from company profits. So if this person pays your injury claim that money comes directly out of company funds. So by compensating you, your employer, or that third party, literally takes money out his own pocket. We’ve seen many sneaky, self-insured company officers use any and all means, legal or otherwise, to oppose your claim while he protects his company’s, and personal, assets.
These people are not above deliberately destroying evidence, bribing or intimidating witnesses, or resorting to physical threats against you, your attorney, or anyone else standing in his way. When we represent a client against a self-insured company, the first thing we often do is to file motions to prevent anyone within the self-insured company from behaving inappropriately against our clients. Sometimes these motions include clear demands that not even communicate with our clients, or their families in any way without one of our attorneys present.
What You Need to Do (and Not Do) Right Now to Win Oilfield Injury Compensation
The most important thing for you to remember right now is this. Before you speak with an insurance company, or accept even a single dollar of payment or compensation from your employer, or sign anything, or attempt to file a lawsuit on your own, you must contact a competent lawyer. Your employer or his insurance company is praying that you’ll accept a substandard settlement and save them money, and a trial. So keep your mouth shut and your eyes wide open. In fact, it’s never a good idea to discuss any details of your injuries or intentions, or anything else about the injury, with your employer, a third party, anyone with the insurance company, or even your co-workers before you speak to an experienced drilling accident lawyer. He’ll tell you to keep on keeping your mouth shut. And it is good advice.
Then, you must realize the critical importance of acting swiftly. In oilfield accident cases, the evidence begins fading almost immediately. Physical evidence can quickly change, or be lost forever. Witness stories change, or they forget what they saw. If you wait too long to hire an attorney and put him to work, you seriously compromise your ability to win the injury damages you and your family deserve.