Our Oil Spill Lawyers Can Help You Get Compensation
Texas has one of the largest coastlines on the Gulf of Mexico, and with oil as a major industry in our state, the potential for damage to the environment, businesses, and human and animal life from oil spills in the Gulf is great. When an oil spill occurs, toxic chemicals are dumped into our oceans, contaminating water and soil, and harming individuals who are exposed to them, as well as those who work on rigs and barges, and potentially doing billions of dollars of damage.
Oil spills and explosions are often the result of some person or company’s negligence or fault. If this was the case and you or a family member was injured and can no longer work, or a loved one has died as the result of an oil spill or explosion, you may be entitled to compensation for your losses through insurance, special funds that have been set up to compensate victims, or an individual or class action lawsuit. In some cases, injured workers may be covered by Texas workers’ compensation. However, Texas laws are complicated; large companies and their insurers have high-powered lawyers on their side working to deny claims or get you to settle for as little as possible; and accepting a special fund claim settlement can keep you from getting additional benefits, so this is not something you should attempt to deal with unaided.
By hiring an experienced Houston environmental injury attorney from Terry Bryant Accident & Injury Law who is familiar with oil spill cases, you as a victim are taking the first step in receiving the necessary financial help you need to recover from the harm you suffered. Getting proper representation can help hold wrongdoers accountable and lessen the chances of similar disasters happening in the future.
Protect yourself by calling us now for a free evaluation of your case and to determine the best way to move forward: Call 713-973-8888 or toll-free 1-800-444-5000.
How a Houston Oil Spill Lawyer Can Help You
Terry Bryant Accident & Injury Law in Houston has been an advocate for Texas residents since 1985 in their quest to achieve just compensation and justice for rightful legal claims. Our attorneys know the laws and the various means of getting compensation, and we are here to help you hold companies accountable for their negligence and fight for maximum financial compensation.
When you have us on your side, we will:
- Meet with you to discuss your injuries, how they happened, and who might have been responsible, and evaluate whether you have a valid case and what it may be worth
- Answer your questions, explain your legal options, and help you determine the best course of action to take to hold the negligent parties legally responsible
- Conduct investigations, gathering evidence, interviewing witnesses, and researching past records of similar corporate problems and wrongdoings
- Hire experts in the field to testify as to the source and extent of your damages and how they negatively impact your life and the type and costs of treatment you will need into the future
- Determine what type of claim you should make and file appropriate legal documents and demands for compensation
- Negotiate with insurance companies and opposing counsel for a fair settlement
- Build your case and take it to court if necessary to aggressively fight for the compensation you are entitled to.
The sooner you contact us, the sooner we can start working on your case while evidence and witnesses are still available. Call today to get started at 713-973-8888.
Who is Liable for an Oil Spill?
Under the Oil Pollution Act of 1990 (33 U.S.C. §2701 et seq. (1990)) (the “OPA”), the owner or operator of a facility from which oil is discharged (responsible party) is liable for the costs associated with the containment, cleanup, and damages resulting from the spill. The Act streamlined and strengthened the ability of the federal Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to prevent and respond to catastrophic oil spills.
The OPA requires oil storage facilities and vessels to submit to the federal government plans detailing how they will respond to large discharges. The EPA has published regulations for aboveground storage facilities; the Coast Guard has done so for oil tankers. The OPA also requires the development of Area Contingency Plans to prepare and plan for oil spill response on a regional scale.
Due to the extreme amount of damages caused by oil spill disasters, the Act set up a special trust fund, financed by a tax on oil, to compensate individuals and businesses damaged by oil spills. The EPA’s first priority is to ensure that responsible parties pay to clean up their own oil releases. However, when the responsible party is unknown, incapable, or refuses to pay, funds from the Oil Spill Liability Trust Fund can be used to cover the cost of cleaning up spills and paying damages.
In some cases, individual corporations can be held liable, and there have been special funds set up to deal with the major BP Deepwater Horizon disaster.
How do Oil Spills Happen?
According to the Environmental Pollutions Centers, oil spills can happen through natural causes — such as climatic conditions and disturbances, and erosion — or from human caused (anthropogenic) activities related to oil refining, handling, transport, storage, and use of crude oil and any of its distilled products.
The most commonly encountered anthropogenic causes include:
- Accidental spills. These may occur during aboveground and underground storage, handling during transfer, transportation, offshore drilling, maintenance activities, and road runoff.
- Intentional Oil Discharges. These may occur through drains or in the sewer system, such as through oil changes. They may also occur indirectly through the burning of fuels, including vehicle emissions, which release various individual components of oils and oil products.
While all oil discharges can be destructive, the most damaging is a sudden oil spill involving thousands or even millions of gallons — such as that from an oil tanker failure or due to accidents in offshore drilling like the BP Deepwater Horizon oil spill.
Do I Have a Claim for Damages from the BP Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill?
Energy companies have drilled more than 2,000 oil wells in the oil-rich Gulf of Mexico since the 1930s. BP, one of the world’s largest oil companies, leased the Deepwater Horizon rig from the world’s biggest oil rig contractor, TransOcean, beginning in 2001, to search for oil in an area of the Gulf. BP hired Halliburton, an oil field services company, to help operate the rig and carry out the exploration. All these companies are potentially liable for oil spills.
On April 20, 2010, the Deepwater Horizon oil rig exploded, killing 11 people. Two days later, the rig capsized, spewing oil from a pipe into the water for 87 days, causing the release of an estimated 377,514 metric tons of oil into the Gulf of Mexico. In addition to those injured and killed, the explosion and oil spill caused enormous damage to the environment, businesses, and individuals.
The BP Compensation Fund
BP set up a $20 billion escrow fund to be used to compensate businesses and workers whose financial livelihood has been damaged or threatened as a result of the BP oil spill disaster, including workers in Texas. Some of the harmful effects of oil exposure can include:
- benzene exposure
- contamination of food sources
- toxic shock
- water and property pollution.
Early claims for damages were handled by BP, but as of August 23, 2010, an independent entity called the Gulf Coast Claims Facility began accepting and processing claims related to the Gulf oil spill (www.gulfcoastclaimsfacility.com). Individuals and businesses that file a claim can be compensated for a variety of economic damages attributable to the oil spill and cleanup efforts, including:
- Lost income for workers, lost business profits, and diminished earning capacity
- Personal or business property damages
- Personal injury and health problems associated with the spill and cleanup, including head injuries, hearing loss, PTSD, severe burns, and wrongful death.
Who Can Claim Damages?
Any party who has suffered financial losses as the result of an oil spill can claim damages, including:
- Fishermen, fish and shrimp farmers, and processors
- Charter boat operators
- Suppliers of equipment, goods, and services to marine businesses
- Owners of marinas, hotels, and other waterfront properties
- Individual homeowners who face cleanup costs and loss of value of their properties
- Other businesses and individuals who suffer financial losses.
Determining Whether to File a Claim
Lawsuits may take years to resolve, so if you are an individual or business harmed by the BP oil spill, filing a claim with the Gulf Coast Claims Facility may be a relatively quick way to get compensation. However, if you accept a lump-sum payment under the fund, you will probably not be able to file a lawsuit against BP and other liable parties should your injuries and losses increase in the future, and you will lose the opportunity to win additional compensation. Claims that are for more than $5,000 go through a longer review process and take more time. In addition, many businesses and individuals who have sought compensation for the BP oil spill through the Gulf Coast Claims Facility (GCCF) have had their claims for compensation unfairly delayed and even denied.
When you speak to our attorneys, we can help you determine the best legal approach for you to take to receive compensation. If you decide to file a claim with the fund, we can help you file correctly and research your situation to supply correct documentation.
What Are Other Damaging Oil Spills?
While the BP oil spill is the most notorious, there is a long history of oil spill disasters. According to the Center for Biological Diversity, the following are some other major oil spills in the Gulf and other U.S. waters:
1969 – A Union Oil Co. drilling rig in the Santa Barbara Channel, six miles offshore from Santa Barbara, California, suffered a blowout, spilling 3 million gallons of oil.
1979 – Exploratory well IXTOC 1 blew out in Mexico’s Bay of Campeche in the Gulf of Mexico, 600 miles south of Texas. It took nine months to cap the well, during which time 140 million gallons of oil were released into the Gulf of Mexico. This is 14 times as much oil as was spilled by the Exxon Valdez in 1989. The oil reached traveled all the way to Texas beaches.
1989 – The Exxon Valdez ran aground, spilling 10 million gallons of oil into Prince William Sound.
1990 – The Mega Borg spilled 5.1 million gallons of oil in the Gulf of Mexico, 57 miles south-southeast of Galveston, Texas, following a pump-room explosion and fire.
1993 – The Bouchard B155, Balsa 37, and Ocean 255 collided in Tampa Bay, causing the Bouchard to spill 336,000 gallons of No. 6 fuel oil.
2000 – The Westchester ran aground near Port Sulphur, Louisiana, dumping 567,000 gallons of crude oil into the lower Mississippi River.
2004 – The M/V Selendang Ayu ran aground, spilling 337,000 gallons of oil in the Makushin and Skan bays in Alaska’s Aleutian Islands.
2005 – The U.S. Coast Guard estimated that more than 7 million gallons of oil were spilled in the Gulf of Mexico and near-shore areas from multiple sources due to Hurricane Katrina.
2006 – Seventy-one thousand barrels of waste oil spilled from a CITGO refinery on the banks of the Calcasieu River in Louisiana.
2009 – A 458-foot vessel struck a barge in the Houston Ship Channel, spilling 10,500 gallons of oil. In the same year, a supply vessel collided with a Liberian oil tanker, 40 miles offshore of Galveston, Texas, causing 18,000 gallons of oil to spill.
January 2010 – The Eagle Otome collided with a barge in the Sabine-Neches Waterway, near Port Arthur, Texas, spilling 462,000 gallons of oil.
April 6, 2010 – A pipeline owned by Cypress Pipe Company — a joint venture between Chevron and BP — broke, spilling 18,000 gallons of oil into the Delta National Wildlife Refuge in Louisiana.
March 22, 2014 – A barge owned and operated by Kirby Inland Marine, LP collided with a cargo ship in Galveston Bay near Texas City. The barge spilled approximately 168,000 gallons of oil into Galveston Bay and the Gulf of Mexico. Approximately 160 miles of shoreline were contaminated because of the spill, including areas in Matagorda Island, Mustang Island State Park, and Padre Island National Seashore. There was a $15.3 million settlement of the Texas City Y Oil Spill Natural Resource Damage (NRDA) matter.
What Damages Can a Houston Oil Spill Lawyer Help Me Recover?
The Texas Oil Pollution Act (OPA) of 1990 places strict liability on parties that spill oil into the nation’s waterways and coastal areas. Except for the Deepwater Horizon incident, it places a cap of $75 million on damages for income loss and property damage, with unlimited liability for cleanup costs. However, the caps do not apply if the spill was the result of “gross negligence or willful misconduct” or “the violation of an applicable federal safety, construction, or operating regulation.” In addition, parties who have suffered financial losses or wrongful death may be able to file a lawsuit under Texas tort law.
Dangerous and unsafe working conditions can cause long-term personal injuries to oil-rig workers. Off-shore workers are covered by legislative acts, such as the Jones Act, the law that regulates maritime commerce in U.S. waters and between U.S. ports. According to the Act (46 U.S. Code § 30104), if a seaman is injured in the course of employment or if the seaman dies from the injury, the personal representative of the seaman may elect to bring a civil lawsuit against the employer for personal injury or wrongful death.
In a successful lawsuit, our oil spill and environmental injury attorneys can help recover compensation for both your economic and non-economic damages.
Economic damages are to reimburse you for monetary expenses, such as:
- Cost of medical, hospital, and nursing care resulting from injuries
- Loss of wages and earning capacity from being unable to work
- Property damaged by oil spills, such as to boats and business and residential property.
Non-economic damages are compensation for the damages that do not have a dollar value, but negatively impact your life, such as:
- Pain and suffering
- Mental and emotional distress and PTSD
- Loss of consortium and enjoyment of life.
There are times when oil companies knowingly violate environmental laws and place the health of the environment and people at risk. In some of these cases, punitive damages, meant to punish and make an example of a defendant due to especially reckless or egregious actions, may be awarded as well.
Damages for Wrongful Death
If the oil spill resulted in a death, under Texas statutes (Title 4, Chapter71, Subchapter A), you may bring a wrongful death lawsuit against the negligent party in Texas civil court if you are a close family member or representative of the deceased’s estate. The death does not have to be deliberate or intentional to be wrongful; it only has to be shown to have occurred through some act of negligence that the party did or failed to do.
To prove negligence, our attorneys would have to prove the following:
- Duty – The defendant owed a duty of care to the deceased not to cause harm.
- Breach – The defendant breached that duty of care .
- Causation – This breach of duty caused an injury that led to the person’s death.
- You, the family member of the deceased, suffered damages as a result.
Call a Houston Oil Spill Attorney for Help
If you were injured or a loved one has died from an oil spill or while working on an oil rig, a seasoned Houston oil spill attorney from Terry Bryant Accident & Injury Law will aggressively fight to get you the financial help you deserve and ensure that those who are at fault are held accountable. Our attorneys know the law and will evaluate your individual situation to determine whether your injuries or damages warrant a lawsuit and how to best proceed. We can help you determine what types of damages you may be entitled to, assist with claim preparation, and handle any resulting negotiations or litigation to pursue fair compensation.
There are no fees to you unless and until we win your case, so call Terry Bryant Accident & Injury Law today at 713-973-8888 or toll-free 1-800-444-5000 to get started.