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Montana man dies in drilling rig accident

Oil field equipment can be very unforgiving. This fact was borne out recently when yet another life was claimed in an oil field accident. A 22-year-old Kalispell, Montana man died after sustaining injuries to his chest and abdomen on a rig north of Watford City, North Dakota.

The accident happened around 1:30 on a weekday afternoon. How it happened is still not entirely clear. The initial report from OSHA indicated the victim suffered a severe crush injury from a pair of power tongs. Power tongs are used to grip pipe as it is raised and lowered in oil wells. The state medical examiner's report, however, indicates he died after being struck by a heavy object which fell from above. The man died was being treated by paramedics when he died. The OSHA investigation was continuing at the time this post was written.

Accidents like this happen all too often in the oil fields of Montana and North Dakota. When a worker dies in an on-the-job accident, his family is entitled to receive workers' compensation benefits. The victim's employer is liable to pay the benefits regardless of whether the employer was negligent or not. As part of the legislative trade-off that created workers' compensation, those benefits are limited by statute and the employer is immune from a civil lawsuit. The workers' compensation benefits are payable according to a fixed schedule set out in the state workers' compensation statute.

If the negligence of a third party, other than the employer, is found to be a cause of the accident, the victim's family is entitled to bring a civil lawsuit against that party. In a civil lawsuit additional damages can be claimed, over and above those benefits available from workers' compensation. In the oil field scenario, it is common for employees of multiple companies to work together at one site. In addition, manufacturers of defective equipment can be held liable for injuries caused by the equipment.

Source: Grand Forks Herald, "Man killed in western N.D. drilling rig accident identified," Feb. 5, 2013

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