What Oil Field Workers Need to Know About Wrongful Death Claims

What Fargo Oil Field Workers Need to Know About Wrongful Death Claims

The oil and gas industry is a vital part of North Dakota’s economy, employing thousands of workers However, these jobs can be inherently dangerous, with workers facing risks of explosions, fires, falling objects, and chemical exposure. A tragic consequence of these hazards can be a worksite fatality, leaving families to cope with immense emotional pain and financial hardship.

If you’ve lost a loved one in a fatal oil field accident, it’s important to understand how wrongful death claims work.

What is a wrongful death claim?

In North Dakota, a wrongful death claim is a civil lawsuit filed by surviving family members against the party responsible for causing their loved one’s death. This lawsuit seeks compensation for the damages suffered due to the wrongful death.

Who can file a wrongful death claim in North Dakota?

North Dakota Century Code Section 32-21-01 outlines who can file a wrongful death claim. The following individuals have the right to bring a lawsuit:

  • Surviving spouse
  • Surviving children
  • Surviving parents
  • Surviving grandparents, if there is no surviving spouse or children
  • The personal representative of the decedent’s estate, if none of the above family members are alive

What needs to be proven in a wrongful death claim?

To win a wrongful death claim in Fargo, you and your attorney will need to prove the following elements:

  • The death of your loved one: A death certificate will typically satisfy this requirement.
  • Wrongful act, neglect, or default: You need to demonstrate that the death resulted from the negligence or wrongdoing of the defendant (the party you are suing). This could involve, a third-party driver causing a fatal accident or a defective product malfunction leading to a fatality, for example.
  • Causation: You need to establish a clear link between the defendant’s actions (or inaction) and the death of your loved one.
  • Damages: You must show that you and other eligible family members have suffered financial or emotional losses due to the death.

Common causes of wrongful death in oil fields

Several incidents can lead to wrongful death claims in the oil fields. Here are some common examples:

  • Explosions and fires: Oil field operations involve flammable materials, and equipment malfunctions or improper safety protocols can lead to catastrophic explosions and fires.
  • Falling objects: Workers on oil rigs are at risk of being struck by falling tools, pipes, or other equipment due to defective equipment, improper securing, or lack of fall protection measures.
  • Transportation accidents: Oil field work often involves heavy machinery and trucks. Truck accidents involving these vehicles, especially due to driver negligence or poorly maintained roads, can be fatal.
  • Chemical exposure: Oil field workers handle various hazardous chemicals. Improper handling, spills, or inadequate safety gear can expose workers to toxic substances, leading to serious health complications and even death.
  • Slips and falls: Slippery surfaces, uneven terrain, and inadequate lighting on oil rigs can cause workers to slip and fall, resulting in head injuries or other fatalities if proper safety measures like guardrails or slip-resistant footwear are not used.

Damages recoverable in a wrongful death claim

A wrongful death lawsuit aims to compensate family members for the losses they have suffered. Recoverable damages may include:

  • Medical expenses: This covers the cost of medical care your loved one received before their death due to the accident.
  • Funeral and burial expenses: Reimbursement for funeral and burial costs associated with your loved one’s passing.
  • Loss of income: Compensation for the financial support your loved one provided to the family, which is now lost due to their death.
  • Loss of companionship and guidance: This non-economic damage acknowledges the emotional pain and loss of companionship and guidance suffered by surviving family members.
  • Loss of household services: The value of services your loved one provided around the house, such as childcare or housekeeping, that are now lost.

How our oil field accident lawyers in Bismarck, Fargo or Minot can help

Wrongful death lawsuits are complex legal matters. At Larson Law, our oil field accident attorneys have decades of experience helping folks who were injured in the patch, and helping their families no matter where they live in North Dakota:

  • Investigating the accident: We will conduct a thorough investigation to determine the cause of the accident, identify potentially liable parties, and gather evidence to support your claim. There are frequently many entities controlling or working on site, and we need to look into each of these parties to see who is at fault, and to what extent.
  • Understanding oil field regulations: Oil and gas operations are subject to various federal and state regulations. Our lawyers have a deep understanding of these regulations and how they apply to your specific case, helping to demonstrate if the employer or other parties violated these safety standards and contributed to the fatality.
  • Calculating damages: Attorneys have experience in calculating the full extent of your losses, including future lost income, emotional distress, and loss of household services. We can ensure you receive fair compensation for all your damages.
  • Negotiating with insurance companies: Insurance companies representing the at-fault party will likely try to minimize their payout. Our lawyers can handle negotiations with the insurance company, fight for a fair settlement, and represent you in court if necessary.
  • Providing compassionate support: Losing a loved one in a worksite accident is a devastating experience. Your attorney will not only handle the legal aspects of your case, but also offer compassionate support and guidance during this difficult time.

Time limits for filing a wrongful death claim

North Dakota has a statute of limitations for filing wrongful death claims. This means there is a specific time frame within which you must file your claim. In North Dakota, the statute of limitations for wrongful death claims is generally two years from the date of your loved one’s death (North Dakota Century Code Section 28-01-18). Consult with the oil field accident attorneys at Larson Law as soon as possible after the accident to ensure you meet all deadlines and preserve your right to compensation.

Here are some additional factors to consider specific to oil field workers in Fargo:

  • Third-party liability: If a party other than your loved one’s employer is responsible for the accident (e.g., a third-party driver or defective product manufacturer), you might have a separate wrongful death claim against that party in addition to any workers’ compensation benefits.
  • Shared fault: North Dakota follows a modified comparative negligence This means that if the deceased worker is found to be partially at fault for the accident, their compensation in a wrongful death claim might be reduced by their percentage of fault.

If you’ve lost a loved one in an oil field accident, the emotional pain can feel overwhelming. While no amount of compensation can truly replace your loss, a wrongful death claim can ease the financial burden and ensure those responsible are held accountable. You don’t have to go through this challenging time alone. Contact the oil field accident attorneys at Larson Law today for a free consultation. Our experience with wrongful death claims in the oil and gas industry can help you understand your rights, gather evidence, and fight for the maximum compensation you deserve during this difficult time. To schedule a free consultation with a skilled attorney in Minot, Bismarck, or Fargo, call our offices or fill out our contact form. We handle accident cases on a contingency fee basis – meaning we don’t get paid until you get paid.