[Page Updated 06/15/2022] The oil and gas industry has seen more than its fair share of plant and refinery accidents throughout its troubled history. As a result, working in an oil refinery is considered one of the most dangerous occupations.
Torrance Injury Attorneys / Practice / Torrance Oil Refinery Injury Lawyers
If you are a victim of a refinery accident, then read this review to know more about why you need some experienced personal injury lawyers, and then come in for a free case review with one of our attorneys.
A refinery accident is when injury or destruction of property occurs as a direct result of the oil refinery process. The complex refinery process means that accidents can occur for many different reasons, such as explosions, gas leaks, fires, acid leaks, chemical spillages, and many others. Some of the worst refinery accidents in recent memory have resulted in huge fatalities and have been widely reported by media outlets.
in 2015, a Torrance gasoline processing machine at an oil refinery exploded. The blast sent chemical-laden ash and fumes skywards and onto homes surrounding the Torrance fire zone. A large piece of damaged machinery was blasted away. This object landed near a tank with gallons of toxic hydrofluoric acid that could have created a massive explosion if it had been penetrated and exposed to oxygen.
One recent disastrous accident occurred when a series of powerful explosions rocked the Exxon Mobil oil refinery in February 2017. Four workers were injured when the accident occurred, including two workers seriously injured, and the explosion resulted in massive structural damage.
Findings from the investigation pointed the finger at Exxon Mobil oil refinery, with the major concern being focused on safety equipment not being checked or being in a state of poor maintenance. Exxon Mobil Refinery eventually had to plead guilty to fraud and was liable to pay huge sums in injury claims.
The complex nature of the refinery process means that at any given time, something could go wrong and result in a terrible accident. Many improvements in occupational safety and health have been implemented to reduce the safety hazards that refinery workers face every day, but cases of workers being injured are still common.
Research has shown that causes of these injuries vary greatly, for example, negligence, misuse or total lack of safety equipment, safety violations, not following proper procedures, and poor training of employees. The following is a brief look at the types of refinery injuries that commonly occur:
Oil refineries operate at extremely high temperatures while handling flammable hydrocarbons, which can easily result in a flash fire. Such fires can spread quickly, and the risk of a refinery explosion is very high. Due to the difficulty of extinguishing crude oil and gas fires, burns are one the most common types of accidents on an oil platform or other vessel.
Some of the refinery structures are very tall; sometimes, heavy equipment and material must be hoisted to great heights. Falling objects pose a danger to refinery workers who will be conducting work below, with broken bones, head injuries, internal organ damage, or even death being widely reported. Even more devastating, many die before the ambulance arrives or the event can be investigated.
Refinery workers, and residents of surrounding communities, are constantly being exposed to hazardous gas emissions due to normal refinery operations, furnace fumes, or random gas leaks. The effects of inhaling these gases can have detrimental health impacts, with respiratory illnesses being the most common. According to the public health administration, these air quality-related illnesses have been known to last a lifetime and can be fatal to young children and the elderly.
The chemical safety board classifies many routinely used refinery chemicals as highly toxic and dangerous to humans and animals. Fatal accidents can result from exposure to chemicals such as hydrofluoric acid, sulfuric acid, and ammonia. Mixing the wrong chemicals as well can result in a refinery explosion. Other less dangerous materials such as formaldehyde and methanol can still cause health problems throughout long-term exposure.
Some substances that a refinery’s chemical plant emits can be extremely poisonous. One such chemical that refinery officials always warn about is hydrogen sulfide. This highly lethal substance is odorless at high concentrations and has been the cause of many industrial workers experiencing fatal accidents.
Oil refineries are designed in such a way as to make the refinery process as efficient as possible, and this often results in things such as proper walkways and landings being overlooked. Workers’ safety lapses can result in slipping while walking or falling off a high scaffold, resulting in an injury or fatality. Cases of permanent disability have been known to occur as a result of seemingly minor falls.
The noise levels that workers are exposed to while working in a refinery are so high that the wearing of earmuffs is strictly enforced. However, regardless of this safety culture, improper use and maintenance of safety equipment result in many cases of hearing loss yearly. Once the hearing has been damaged, the effects are often permanent resulting in lifelong disability.
Very deep and painful cuts can be caused by falling debris or objects being launched at high velocity due to explosions. These lacerations can become serious if infected and, though not usually fatal, can result in permanent scarring.
Various refinery accidents can result in the brain being damaged, such as car crashes, explosions, falls, or being hit by debris. A brain injury can be minor such as a concussion, or in worst-case scenarios, can result in death. Compensation claims involving brain damage often require extensive medical expenses to determine the extent of the injury.
Some employees have been so devastated they have filed their 60-day Notice of intention to strike. Even for non-employees, our injury lawyers often have a lot of ground to cover when handling lawsuits involving industrial accidents. For example, the recent ExxonMobil refinery explosion presents asbestos issues to regulators and owners as part of any settlement or health and safety penalties.
Getting the process started as soon as possible for Texas residents and Torrance residents, for example, is very important, as evidence is literally burning or was already destroyed by flames and fire clean-up efforts led by the EPA authorities.
The first thing that needs to be done as soon as the safety of all personnel is confirmed is to launch an investigation into the cause of the industrial accident. Petrochemical plants usually handle this by the Hazard Investigation Board, and their findings of routine maintenance issues, etc., will be made available to community members and accident lawyers.
Any eyewitness to the accident needs to be interviewed, and, if possible, photographs of the scene should be taken. All medical expenses incurred due to any injury sustained in the accident should be noted and the receipts kept for use during the lawsuit.
There is a statute of limitations for filing claims concerning refinery accidents. This is usually three years after the date of the accident for personal injury claims and two years for wrongful death claims. The amount of work that needs to be done before a motion can be filed is so much that it is advisable to start the process as soon as possible to meet the time limits.
For a lawsuit to succeed, a lot of work involving gathering evidence, collecting eyewitness reports, and filing court motions must be done properly and with a lot of due diligence. Usually, it takes experienced accident lawyers to ensure that no stone is left unturned in pursuing justice for their victims.
In cases such as a major explosion or a fatal accident, the responsible parties will try all they can to shift the blame and avoid paying substantial compensation costs. Such a scenario will require a lawyer who knows has a history of dealing with powerful corporations such as gas companies to help you explore all legal options on your behalf.
Ehline Law Firm has dealt with many complex cases in pursuit of worker’s compensation and, as such, has a lot of experience getting positive results for clients’ claims. Our extensive record speaks for itself, and if you think your company is responsible for your injury, you should pick up the phone and let our team help you with negotiating settlements or going to trial with our associates.
Michael Ehline, and the California division of Ehline Law Firm, will offer you a free consultation and make it our personal responsibility to make sure your personal injury lawsuit is successful. When the pursuit of justice after a personal injury is the only recourse, you will need one of the most well-known personal injury lawyers in Los Angeles, California.
When seeking fair compensation from powerful opponents such as oil companies, chemical plants, and city officials, it is easy to feel overwhelmed and made to feel like you are a public nuisance when all you want is a path to rightful compensation. The right attorney by your side can make a difference and significantly improve your chances of being protected by a successful lawsuit. Furthermore, the temptation to go at it alone might be there, but the penalties over the risk of losing the suit due to failure to investigate cannot be understated.
At Ehline Law Firm, we led many previous clients who walked away happy after achieving famous victories in and out of court. After a free case review, we guarantee success with our no-win, no-fee policy to show how confident we are in our abilities to represent you. If you or your loved one has been injured and you feel that Torrance Refinery owes you some compensation, discuss the matter confidentially by dialing (213) 596-9642.
Michael is a managing partner at the nationwide Ehline Law Firm, Personal Injury Attorneys, APLC. He’s an inactive Marine and became a lawyer on the California State Bar Law Office Study Program, later receiving his J.D. from UWLA School of Law. Michael has won some of the world’s largest motorcycle accident settlements.
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