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What Makes Texas Oilfield Truck Accidents So Complex?

Injured by an oilfield truck? Attorney Michael Grossman can help.

With growth in the oil and gas industry, the amount of oilfield vehicles on the road has grown exponentially to meet industry demands. The oil and gas industry utilizes various oilfield vehicles, such as, heavy duty service trucks, vacuum trucks and heavy tanker trucks to transport material and equipment for drill sites, deliver oil, and remove waste products from well sites.

Accident with oilfield vehicles

Unfortunately, the number of accidents involving oilfield vehicles has grown exponentially for a variety of reasons. Many factors, such as relaxed regulations, unrealistic schedules, and low employee standards, have contributed to the rise in the number of oilfield accidents. In fact, oilfield trucks cause more accidents than normal over-the-road trucks on a per mile basis.

Questions Answered In This Article:

  • How are accidents with oilfield trucks different than other commercial trucks?
  • Are the laws different for oilfield trucks?
  • If I am in an accident with an oilfield truck, what can I sue for?
  • If I am in an accident with an oilfield truck, who do I sue?

Underlying Consequences from Rapid Growth in the Oil and Gas Industry

The oil industry operates quite differently from other industries. In most businesses, straight supply and demand rule: higher demand brings on new hiring and production, and the reverse takes place when demand slackens. But for a lot of oil and gas wells, the main (massive) investment comes on the front end with exploration and drilling, and production thereafter is fairly cheap. As a result, when prices are high, oil drillers flood in to explore. But even when prices fall, producers still want to recoup their investments and pump as much oil out as fast as possible. Translation: no matter what the price, oil companies still want their product to market as quickly and cheaply as possible.

Safety often become secondary during these periods of rapid production, and this relaxed attitude permeates all areas of the industry, especially the operation the trucks that transport oilfield fluids and equipment. Also, as oil prices have recently ebbed, cutting corners becomes common practice, especially with the standard of drivers these companies are employing. With the pressure to keep labor costs down, many oil companies are hiring non-experienced drivers, some of which have criminal records, at a staggering rate in order to meet demand. To make matters worse, these companies are pushing their truck drivers beyond the limits of exhaustion and burnout because the regulations for oilfield truck drivers is more relaxed. We have seen this firsthand in the many Midland truck accident cases we've handled. When we get a cal about such a case in the Midland/Odessa area, it's far more likely than not that we're dealing with a tired truck driver than if we were to get the same type of related to an accident in Dallas.

Relaxed Regulations for Oilfield Truck Drivers

Oilfield truck drivers are exempt from many of the same hours-of-service rules that apply to drivers in other industries. These exemptions allow drivers to make more money, but the downside is they often work shifts that can stretch up to 20 hours or more.

For example, while the typical commercial truck driver has to take off 34 hours after working 60 hours during a seven-day stretch, an oilfield truck driver only has to take off 24 hours. Instead of being mandated to stop driving after their workday has reached 14 hours, oilfield truck drivers will often wait at the well while other crews finish their jobs, and then make another trip. While this time spent waiting does not count toward their daily hours-of-service limitation, wait times can often be 10 hours or more, and the drivers have no place to sleep or rest while waiting. In other words, oilfield drivers are likely to be more tired than your average long-hauler, and exhaustion can increase their risk of crashes.

Despite knowing the consequences, oil and gas companies continue to manage oilfield truck drivers in a careless way. So, it is easy to see why so many are involved in accidents.

Accidents with Oilfield Trucks are Different than Commercial Truck Accidents

One of the confusing parts of these cases is whom their attorney is actually going to sue. Most businesses outsource transportation to actual trucking companies. Oil and gas companies, however, employ a variety of transportation methods which will impact who your attorney can file a claim against:

  • The oil company's truck: Many oil and gas companies have their own fleets. If one of their drivers caused your accident while driving a company truck, then you can obviously have your lawyer file a claim against the driver. However, Texas law allows victims to sue companies for their employees' mistakes. Your attorney should file a claim against the driver and his employer.
  • Private trucking companies: If an oil and gas company hires a company like J.B. Hunt to move its materials and the J.B. Hunt driver caused your accident, your attorney should file a claim against J.B. Hunt and the driver. The oil company generally cannot be held liable for actions taken by an independent company and contractor. However, if the oil company improperly loaded the freight and the freight itself caused the accident, you potentially have a claim against the company.
  • "Independent contractors": Oil and gas companies try to bend the rules by labeling their own employees "contractors" to avoid liability when the employee causes an accident. A smart lawyer should investigate the relationship between the driver who hurt you and the company to see how a Texas court will actually treat the driver.

If you or a loved one has been in an accident or killed by an oilfield vehicle, you can file a lawsuit for what you've lost. The types of recoverable losses you can sue for are:

  • Medical bills: Truck accidents can cause major harm to an individual and result in a staggering amount of medical bills. Furthermore, even a loved one who passes away after an accident may still leave a family with substantial medical bills.
  • Pain and suffering: Outside of physical damage, emotional damage and devastation often occur after an accident, especially if you witnessed a loved one's death. A good attorney will work hard to secure you money for non-physical damages.
  • Loss of income: The law understands that compensating for lost income is important if an individual has to miss work due to an injury. It can also be substantial compensation for individuals who lost someone they were dependent upon.
  • Funeral expenses: In the event of a loved one's death, you can get money to help pay for the unexpected funeral costs.

Don't Let The Oil Company Win

The oil and gas companies don't want you to hire lawyers like us. At Grossman Law Offices we have litigated a wide range of oilfield truck accident cases in the past 25 years, and we have helped victims obtain full compensation for the suffering they were forced to endure. If you would like to speak with one of our attorneys, please call us at (855) 326-0000 (toll free) for a confidential and free consultation.

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