Oil is big business in Austin, and for good reason: the volume of oil coming from the Lone Star State puts it in the ballfield of major oil-producing countries like Iran and Iraq. And the end is nowhere in sight. The Texas oil industry is booming, with experts predicting major market growth in the coming decade.
Wherever business is booming, however, there are individuals eager to take advantage; the urgency to extract oil from the ground quickly and bring it to market can cause some in the oil industry to behave negligently, even recklessly, allowing and encouraging their drivers to engage in behaviors that directly contribute to motor vehicle accidents.
Statistical analysis reveals a clear correlation between oil industry driving and motor vehicle collisions. A study published in Accident Analysis & Prevention found that oilfield drivers face elevated worker fatality rates. The results of that analysis showed that oil and gas industry drivers are 8.5 times more likely to die in a motor vehicle crash than workers in other private industries. Meanwhile, the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health reports that automobile accidents — specifically those that result from driver fatigue — are a leading cause of fatality in the oil and gas industry.
There are numerous reports of fatigued drivers falling asleep at the wheel, causing them to collide with the vehicles around them. While driver fatigue is a risk with any type of commercial driving, oilfield drivers are exempt from some of the regulations enforced on other commercial drivers. These regulations are designed to provide drivers with days off and break time in order to ensure they are rested enough to drive safely. Because oilfield drivers are allowed exceptions, however, their workers are more likely to succumb to driver fatigue, causing them to fall asleep at the wheel or engage in poor decision-making while driving. Additionally, in some cases, the companies that employ these drivers actively encourage their workers to get back on the clock without adequate rest between shifts.
If you have been hit by an oil or gas vehicle in Austin, you may have grounds for a lawsuit. An oilfield accident lawyer can help you seek compensation for your medical bills and other costs incurred from your injury. An experienced Austin law team can also assist in conducting a legal investigation into the circumstances behind your accident — and filing for punitive damages in the event of reckless behavior.
One of the largest contributors to oil and gas vehicle accidents is the industry’s exemption from certain commercial driving regulations. According to federal motor carrier regulations, most commercial drivers are required to rest for at least 34 consecutive hours after working seven (or in some cases, eight) days in a row.
Oilfield drivers, however, may resume driving again after only 24 hours of rest, meaning they often get less time off between drives. On top of that, they are allowed to count the time they spend waiting on-site as off-duty break time, even though they may not be resting during this time.
While these exemptions are legal, they are frequently abused, and there are other negligent behaviors that contribute to the high rate of oil industry motor vehicle accidents. FVF uncovered one case where Austin oil industry drivers were encouraged to defraud Federal Motor Carrier Safety regulations by misrepresenting the amount of time they had off between shifts. National news organizations have also reported on the phenomenon; there have been multiple cases in the oil and gas industry of employers pressuring operators to drive over the legal limit of 14 continuous hours. Additionally, some businesses use oilfield exemptions as an excuse for dangerous worker practices, forcing drivers to wait long stints — sometimes over 24 hours — at the drilling site, without a place to sleep or rest.
These conditions naturally lead to increased driver fatigue and stress. And drowsiness is a factor in a significant number of motor vehicle accidents, particularly those that result in fatalities or serious injuries. The AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety, for instance, found that driver fatigue was a contributing factor in over 10 percent of serious accidents — those that ended with significant property damage, airbag deployment, or injury. The bottom line is that fatigued driving is dangerous driving.
Additionally, as the practice of fracking gains more widespread adoption, the potential for oil and gas industry accidents may rise significantly. Fracking requires additional loads of water and sand, which are carried to the drilling site by commercial drivers. That means more drowsy drivers on the road and, most likely, more accidents as a result.
Fortunately, accident victims don’t have to navigate the details of their legal case alone. If you or someone you love has been seriously injured by an oil or gas industry driver, your case may warrant a special investigation into the circumstances behind the accident. Qualified Austin oilfield accident lawyers can review employer backgrounds, training, and policies to reveal whether the business has a history of negligent behavior.
At FVF, we help victims of these accidents assert their right to compensation and punitive damages. We can assist with the process of filing a wrongful death claim, helping you negotiate the legal ownership of the victim’s estate, seek compensation for loss of companionship, and pay for medical bills and funeral costs. Our team has a long history of supporting oilfield accident victims and their loved ones — and ending the kinds of lax driving practices that cause dangerous collisions.
While we may never be able to undo the damage of a serious motor vehicle accident, we can help you assert control over your case and fight for your rights against oil and gas companies. We are client focused and passionate about justice, and we will do everything in our power to help you reclaim your life again after your accident.
If you have been involved in an accident involving an oil or gas vehicle — or any motor vehicle — contact us today for your free consultation. Our expert attorneys in Austin can explain your rights, help you find medical care, and ensure that negligent parties are brought to task for their actions.
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