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Oil field injuries burden rural hospitals

Few would dispute that the Bakken oil boom has brought significant economic benefits to Montana and western North Dakota. But those benefits come with a price. In the Bakken oil region, an increase in highway and oil field accidents is putting a strain on local hospitals.

A recent news article discussed the burden now being faced by rural hospitals in western North Dakota. Oil field accidents and highway accidents are behind a dramatic increase in emergency room visits and ambulance runs.

The Tioga Medical Center, a small hospital in Tioga, North Dakota, for example, has seen its emergency room visits triple in the last five years, from 600 patients a year to over 2,000. Many of the visits are the result of highway accidents, often involving large tanker trucks colliding with passenger cars. Similarly, at Williston's Mercy Hospital, the staff expects the ER visits to more than triple next year. As at Tioga, oil field and highway accidents resulting from the oil boom are the cause. At Mercy Hospital, traumatic orthopedic injuries - arising from oil-field related accidents - have doubled.

Montana oil field workers injured on the job are entitled to collect workers' compensation benefits. Benefits required by law cover medical expenses, as well as lost wages and lump sums for temporary and permanent disability arising from on-the-job accidents.

Under the worker's compensation system, the employee recovers benefits regardless of whether the employer was at fault. But the employee cannot sue the employer for pain and suffering or other non-economic injuries. However, if a non-employer party contributed to the accident, the employee can bring a civil lawsuit against that party and recover non-economic damages.

Source: Daily Yonder, "Oil Boom Crunches Rural Medical Facilities," John McChesney, Oct. 17, 2012

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