Our nation’s oil fields, in Montana and elsewhere, are responsible for a lot of well-paying jobs. But those jobs come at a price. Oil fields can be dangerous places, and those who work in them face a risk of injury, or even death, not found in many other occupations. Recently a 49-year-old man from Carlsbad, New Mexico became the latest worker to die in an oil field accident in that state.
At the time of this writing, investigators were still trying to piece together exactly how the accident happened. The victim sustained a crush injury which may have occurred as he stood between two pieces of machinery, according to the local sheriff’s department. The victim was allegedly supervising the operation of the machinery at the time of the accident. He was rushed to the hospital but died from severe head trauma.
When an oil field worker is killed on the job, his or her family is entitled to collect workers’ compensation death benefits from the employer. These benefits are paid regardless of who was at fault in the accident, as long as the death occurred while the worker was in the course and scope of his or her employment. The benefits are limited by statute, however. Under Montana’s workers’ compensation system, the employer is liable only for the workers’ compensation benefits and cannot be sued for additional damages in a civil lawsuit.
If a third party, other than the workers’ employer, was negligent in causing the accident, a work accident victim can file a civil lawsuit against that party for additional damages, over and above what is recoverable under the workers’ compensation system. In oil fields, as in construction sites, there are often a number of different trades, with different employers, working in close proximity at any given time. If the negligence of a worker from another employer caused the accident, that employer can be sued for damages. Similarly, if defective or unsafe equipment contributed to the accident, the manufacturer can be held liable in a civil lawsuit.
Source: Carlsbad Current-Argus, “Oil field accident near Artesia kills Dexter man,” Nov. 21, 2012