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Montana man dies in oil field accident

The North Dakota oil boom has drawn many Montana workers to the state. However, a recent oil field accident reminds us that oil fields can be very dangerous places.

A 21-year-old Montana man was found dead by a coworker at one such oil well. The state medical examiner's report concluded that the young man died from hydrocarbon poisoning caused by inhalation of petroleum vapors.

Oil field accident victims are entitled to collect workers' compensation benefits from their employer. Those benefits can include payments for lost wages, temporary or permanent disability benefits, and medical expenses. When a death occurs, the survivors are entitled to death benefits.

The law requires that employers or their insurers pay workers' compensation benefits to workers or their families regardless of who was at fault in causing the accident. The trade-off is that such payments are limited by statute, and the injured worker (or the family of a deceased worker) is typically barred from bringing a civil lawsuit for additional damages against the employer.

An injured worker can, however, bring a civil lawsuit against any non-employer third parties who were totally or partially at fault in causing the accident, such as equipment manufacturers or independent contractors working at the site. In a third party lawsuit, the injured worker can recover damages not recoverable under workers' compensation policies, including pain and suffering.

Workers' compensation provides relatively expeditious financial relief to injured workers and their families. But where there is a possibility of fault on the part of a third party or evidence of defective equipment, it makes sense to investigate the potential of a third party action. An attorney can help you prepare such a claim.

Source:, "Petroleum vapors blamed for death of MT man in oilfield death," July 6, 2012

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