A map of gas pipelines in the US reveals that the network spans over two million miles carrying gas into millions of homes and businesses. However, the number of pipeline explosion tragedies has been on the rise in the recent past due to aging, damage, or cracking brought on by erosion of the pipe walls over time.
Several local utility companies are yet to replace the old lines while, in other cases, the pipeline companies charged with operating these gas lines fail to properly monitor them which further increases the risk for injury. If a gas pipeline explosion resulted in severe injuries for you or caused the death of a loved one, this article explores the legal options available in the pursuit of explosion injuries and damages.
Explosion Accident Lawyer – Why You Need One
Anyone who’s been injured in a pipeline explosion should know that they were not responsible for the accident. Most people also understand that they are entitled to damages to go towards catering for the expenses and losses incurred as a result of the explosion.
However, the outcome of the entire ordeal all depends on whether or not victims retain the services of a personal injury law firm to handle their claims. Insurance companies for the pipeline companies who are considered the negligent parties, in this case, exist to compensate the victims in such circumstances. But, you need to remember whose interests they’ll be looking to protect, and it’s certainly not the victims.
Explosion accident attorneys are well versed in handling these types of claims and are capable of going toe to toe with insurance companies on your behalf. If you attempt to handle a claim on your own, you may not be aware of all the crafty tactics insurance representatives use to trick and trap you into reducing the value of your claim.
For instance, what may appear to be a casual conversation between an insurance company representative and a victim might result in recorded statements that downplay the severity of the injuries and how the injuries in question aren’t necessarily impacting their ability to function. In other instances, the insurer might get the victims to unwittingly accept blame for failing to take certain actions that could have minimized or avoided their injuries altogether.
If you talk to an insurance company representative on your own and end up making statements that could undervalue your claim, that’s it. That train has left the station. You won’t have any opportunity to retract your statements even if you believe they misinterpreted your remarks.
Aside from helping you circumvent any tricks, underhanded tactics, and traps the insurance companies may set, an experienced gas explosion lawyer provides the added benefit of an independent investigation into the circumstances surrounding the accident. They can go to the accident scene as soon as possible and collect crucial evidence to determine the true cause of the explosion.
That way, they are better placed to identify all the potentially liable parties in your claim so that you don’t end up receiving the short end of the stick when suing all negligent parties responsible. Any check you receive from your insurance company represents a proposed settlement for your claim.
If you cash it, it means that you’ve accepted the settlement. This is usually written in fine print somewhere on the check. So, unless you’re satisfied with the amount on the table and its ability to cover past, present, and future expenses related to your injuries, it’s better to consult with a lawyer first. They are in a better position to determine whether or not you should accept the offer.
Legal Options for Pipeline Explosions
Replacing an aging or damaged pipeline can cost pipeline owners and operators well above $1 million per mile. With those kinds of figures, it’s easy to see why these companies would avoid replacing them if they didn’t have to.
If an explosion occurs and results in severe or even fatal injuries, there are various legal options available to hold the pipeline companies or operators responsible. Here are some examples of lawsuits you can pursue.
1. Failure to Properly Mark Pipeline Locations
Before embarking on any kind of excavation work, a specialist must be brought on board to map out any underground pipelines that may exist in the area of interest. That way, the safety of the people who will be digging in the area is safeguarded. If a contractor fails to do this, provides inaccurate or incomplete information, or the pipeline was never mapped in the first place, any injuries that result from an explosion are grounds to sue all negligent parties.
3. Pipeline Corrosion or Metal Fatigue
Over time, the risk of pipeline failure inevitably increases due to the extreme pressure that comes from oil and gas transportation. Owners and operators have the responsibility to continuously monitor the pipelines and ensure their integrity. If they fail to do this and a pipeline explosion occurs, causing severe or fatal injuries, these are grounds to sue all the responsible parties.
4. Poor Installation Practices
As the natural gas industry continues to thrive, new technology is developed to allow for the expansion of the pipeline to areas of the country that were previously inaccessible. As a result, more and more companies continue to set up shop there. As the rate of pipeline installation increases, the risk for potential errors that result from shoddy workmanship also rises.
Some contractors focus on the speed of installation rather than the quality and compliance to standards. If cutting corners results in an explosion further down the line and you’re injured as a result, then you have grounds to sue.
4. Inadequate Training and Safety Practices
Both state and federal governments have specific rules and regulations that stipulate the minimum safety practices and standards that oil and gas pipeline workers, operators, and owners have to adhere to. Pipeline companies are charged with the responsibility of implementing, training and enforcing these safety practices to keep both the workers and the general public protected from any potential mishaps.
A safety plan needs to include guidelines for preventing calamitous events and action plans detailing how to respond if an explosion were to occur. If a company’s inadequate training and safety practices contribute to a pipeline explosion and you sustain injuries; as a result, you have grounds to sue for compensation.
5. Defective Pipeline Parts
Oil and gas pipeline systems are always under extreme pressure. The integrity of the parts used to build these systems is therefore critical since even the smallest manufacturing defect can have catastrophic consequences. While proving this type of negligence can be an uphill battle, it is not impossible. A skilled pipeline explosion lawyer can sue the manufacturing company as well for their share of the responsibility in the explosion.
A Brief Overview of Past Pipeline Explosions
In the past decade, there have been dozens of pipeline explosions that have led to hundreds of injuries and fatalities. Here’s a snapshot of some of the major pipeline accidents that have occurred in recent years.
Pipeline Explosion Mexico
On January 18, 2019, a gas pipeline in Tlahuelilpan, a municipality located roughly 70 miles north of Mexico City, exploded due to illegal taps installed by thieves. 85 people died as a result, with 58 others critically injured and hospitalized. In such instances, the pipeline company cannot be held liable for such an explosion as it was the direct result of illegal activities that had nothing to do with them.
Enbridge Pipeline Explosion
On the afternoon of November 28, 2007, an oil pipeline exploded near Clearbrook, Minnesota, killing two men. In August 2019, another gas pipeline explosion in Kentucky killed one person and injured six others. Enbridge, a Canadian multinational company, was put to task over their role in the two explosions since they own both pipelines.
The cause of the Kentucky explosion has been attributed to a rupture in the pipeline. The family of a woman who was killed in the August explosion is now suing the pipeline company for negligence citing the following:
- Failure to properly train the pipeline workers and other employees
- Failure to adequately inspect, maintain and monitor the gas pipeline
- Failure to adequately monitor gas flow and take the necessary corrective action
- Failure to provide proper warnings of hazards
- Failure to warn the deceased and other affected individuals of potentially high hazardous conditions
- Failure to remedy or correct the existing hazardous situation
According to details of the suit, the family is seeking more than $1 million in compensatory damages and also names Spectra Energy Corporation and Spectra Energy Transmission Services in the suit. Enbridge and Spectra merged two years earlier.
Midland Pipeline Explosion
In August 2018, a gas explosion occurred at the intersection of two pipelines owned by El Paso Natural Gas and operated by Kinder Morgan and Navitas Midstream in Midland, Texas. One fatality resulted from the catastrophe, and six people were left nursing severe injuries. The explosion was attributed to an underground gas leak on the pipeline, at which point it caught fire and exploded.
Dixie Pipeline Explosion
In November 2007, two people were killed, and seven others sustained severe injuries when a Dixie propane gas pipeline exploded in Carmichael Clarke County in the state of Mississippi.
Pipeline Explosion in Louisiana
In February 2017, a pipeline exploded at the Paradis Phillips 66 Station in Louisiana, where one person was killed, and two others were severely injured. The explosion was suspected to be due to a valve or gasket failure.
Pipeline Explosion – Damages Available to Injured Parties
If you are a victim of a pipeline explosion or you’ve lost a loved one as a result of this disastrous event, it is possible to file a claim to recover damages. While the compensation you receive will not undo what has already happened, it will go a long way in helping you along your road to recovery.
You also need to be mindful of your state’s statute of limitations for explosion-related claims. In cases where the explosion resulted in a fatality, there are only a handful of people who can file a suit against the negligent parties in the incident.
These include the surviving spouse of the deceased, surviving children, or the parents. If none of these parties file the claim within three months of the death, the executor of the deceased’s estate can file it on their behalf.
There are typically three types of pipeline explosion injury damages available to the injured parties or the deceased’s next of kin.
1. Compensatory Damages
This refers to the money awarded to the injured parties to restore all financial losses incurred as a result of the explosion. It goes towards footing medical expenses and/or funeral costs.
If the victim is unable to work after the accident, economic damages may be awarded to cater for the loss of wages or future earning capacity as well as the loss or destruction of private property.
2. Psychological Damages
This refers to the money awarded due to the emotional distress the victim has experienced as a result of the pipeline accident. In a wrongful death claim, the surviving next of kin can also sue for damages for the mental and emotional anguish they’re experiencing due to the death of their loved one.
3. Punitive Damages
Punitive or exemplary damages as they are sometimes called are awarded in instances where gross negligence caused the explosion. They are aimed at punishing the defendants for what happened and to serve as an example to other pipeline companies and operators to deter them from committing the same atrocities.
Get Legal Representation for a Fair Compensation
An oil or gas pipeline explosion can be devastating to the injured parties, property, and even the environment. Think about the thousands of gallons of oil or gasoline that get released into rivers, lakes, and marshland when a pipeline ruptures. This contamination leads to the destruction of plants and wildlife. If your property was affected as a result of the spillage, you might no longer be able to continue living there.
Regardless of how a pipeline explosion affects you, it is only fair that you are compensated for your losses, and all liable parties are held accountable for their negligent actions. Consult a competent pipeline explosion lawyer to explore all the available legal options to see to it that you get what you deserve.
If you have more legal questions, you can also chat online with a Laws101.com attorney, where you’ll be instantly connected to a lawyer who can give you legal guidance on your specific case or question.