A man and his son-in-law were killed in an oilfield-related accident recently one mile northeast of Clafin, Kansas. The man was fixing a leaky valve and asked his son-in-law to bring him additional parts. Unfortunately, both were overcome by hydrogen sulfide gas, a byproduct of oil and natural gas production, and suffocated from the toxic fumes.
A family that loses a loved one in such an accident is often burdened with the task of paying medical and funeral expenses, on top of dealing with emotional pain and loss of financial support. Sadly, large corporations in charge of oilfield operations often try to cover up the investigation and hide any liability for workers’ deaths. They may try to persuade family members to simply file for workers’ compensation or Social Security benefits. However, in the wake of a loved one’s death, these compensation systems usually don’t award enough to cover all expenses and future losses. For example, they do not give payments for pain and suffering endured by the family.
When workers’ compensation won’t cover expenses
If a worker's death is caused by the negligence of another party, the family can take action, in addition to filing for workers’ compensation, to be fully compensated. In the above Clafin case, Kansas law allows two types of actions if the investigation finds someone else at fault. A personal representative can file a survival action on behalf of the victim to collect any damages the victim would have been able to file for if the accident were not fatal. These damages are limited to what the victim actually suffered, such as medical expenses and funeral costs. Compensation for pain and suffering are extremely limited if the death was instantaneous.
The second type of action that can be brought is a wrongful death lawsuit. This action may award family members the following damages for their own suffering as a result of the worker’s death, the damages may include:
Loss of financial support
Loss of care, love and comfort
Emotional pain and suffering
In Kansas, non-pecuniary losses are limited to $250,000. Pecuniary losses are actual economic losses, such as past and future income and medical expenses.
Posted in Toxic Torts | Tagged liability, oil drilling, on-the-job injury, workers comp, wrongful death