Navigating the Aftermath of an Oilfield Accident: Steps Workers Can Take

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North Dakota has a no-fault system for workers’ compensation, which means that workers injured on the job should receive coverage from WSI regardless of who caused the accident, even if it was the injured worker.


Oilfield jobs offer steady work and decent pay, but they are not without risk. According to a study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), there were 470 fatalities in the oil and gas industry between 2014 and 2019, 39 of which occurred in North Dakota. 

Causes of death included vehicle crashes, contact incidents (workers struck by objects), explosions, falls, and exposure to harmful chemicals.

This does not account for the number of non-fatal injuries that occur, some of them severe and resulting in lengthy recovery or long-term disability. A recent explosion at an oilfield near Williston, North Dakota, left three of five workers on-site at the time with significant burns that required them to be airlifted to Swedish Medical Center in Aurora, Colorado. 

Immediate Legal Considerations Post-Accident

What happens to employees injured on an oilfield job site? Immediate medical attention is the first concern. But other steps are necessary, as soon as the worker is able, to protect his rights to payment of medical bills, compensation, and lost income. 

Accidents involving injury should be reported immediately to North Dakota Workforce Safety & Insurance (WSI)–a claim should be filed. This will protect the injured employee’s right to coverage from WSI. Details of the accident should be documented to ensure the full scope of the incident is understood. Online forms include detailed information about the employee, the incident and resulting injury, and medical care. All information provided should be honest and accurate.

North Dakota has a no-fault system for workers’ compensation, which means that workers injured on the job should receive coverage from WSI regardless of who caused the accident, even if it was the injured worker.

Other Sources of Compensation in Addition to Workers’ Compensation

If someone other than the injured worker, a fellow employee, or his employer is at fault for causing the accident, the worker may have what is called a “third-party claim” against the responsible party. Such a claim is outside the workers’ compensation system, and more damages are available to the injured worker. An attorney should be contacted to investigate the accident and determine if there is a third-party claim. 

Navigating Workers Compensation and Insurance Claims in North Dakota

What if a workers’ compensation claim is denied? Denial could occur if there is a delay in filing a claim or seeking medical treatment. Employers may also dispute liability, which can delay compensation or end in a claim being denied. 

Having an experienced personal attorney is the first step toward ensuring proper compensation following an injury accident. An attorney can offer guidance and support in filling out the claim and can handle an appeal if the claim is denied. 

Long-Term Legal Consequences

Although workers’ compensation covers temporary total disability (TTD), temporary partial disability (TPD), and permanent total disability (PTD), it does not fully compensate for lost wages, earning potential, and other losses associated with long-term disability scenarios.

Man standing by bed near window; image by Marcos Paulo Prado, via Unsplash.com.

A third-party claim, if there is one, can provide the rest of the compensation that is appropriate for the injury. 

Case Study Analysis: Recent North Dakota Oilfield Accident

According to the North Dakota Department of Mineral Resources, the recent oilfield explosion near Williston was attributed to gasses released from the oil well that somehow ignited. What does this mean for the three injured workers?

It may depend on how the accident occurred. So far, the cause of the ignition is unknown. A personal injury attorney is the best bet for workers to uncover the truth and fight for warranted compensation.

The Role of Legal Advocacy in Oilfield Safety

In some cases, the workers’ compensation system operates just as it should, ensuring injured workers receive medical and wage-loss coverage during their recovery. When cases are denied, experienced attorneys can make a difference. 

Not only can attorneys fight for fair compensation for injured oilfield workers in North Dakota, but the cases they win can help promote safer working conditions in the industry.

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