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July 6th, 2022

Chemical Plant Explosions

The Houston area lives by the petrochemical industry. While we all benefit from chemicals, many plant workers are killed and injured in explosions. Schechter, Shaffer & Harris, LLP helps the injured and families of those killed seek compensation for their suffering.

Houston accounts for more than 42% of the nation’s base petrochemical capacity, and the state employs more than 100,000 in the petrochemical industry, according to the state. The metropolitan Houston area has 618 chemical manufacturing facilities employing about 39,700 people, reports the Greater Houston Partnership.

Given the number of plants and workers, explosions, injuries, and deaths are just a matter of time.

Why Do Chemical Plants Explode?

Three elements usually combine to create a chemical plant explosion:

  • A cloud of gas
  • Heat
  • A dangerous reaction

Most explosions occur after chemicals create a large amount of gas in a short time frame. Impure chemicals can produce gas that leaks from poorly maintained equipment. A fire may cause liquid chemicals in sealed containers to boil, convert to vapor, burst out of the container, and fuel an explosion.

What Leads to the Explosion?

Unless there’s an unusual situation, plant management and ownership are ultimately responsible for their facility. Here are common reasons why management fails at keeping chemical plants safe:

  • Human error caused by insufficient or inaccurate training can result in a chemical plant explosion. Employees should know how to handle chemicals, operate machinery, and understand safety procedures. They should also know the end results of their tasks and understand the possible dangers of the materials they handle and the machines they use. They must also know what to do if there’s an emergency
  • Defective machinery is a common cause of chemical plant explosions. It may be poorly designed, engineered, constructed, or installed. Malfunctioning equipment should be taken offline to determine the problem’s cause and to judge the potential danger. Cutting corners and ignoring warning signs can get people killed
  • Equipment maintenance wasn’t done or performed poorly or inadequately. Repairs should be performed as needed, and regular maintenance should be done to prevent problems.

What Legal Rights Do Injured Employees and Families of Deceased Workers Have?

A work injury may cause temporary or permanent partial or total disability. You may be out of work for days or never return to work due to a total disability. The chemical plant owner has a legal duty to provide a reasonably safe workplace. If you’re injured while performing your job you should qualify for workers’ compensation benefits if your employer subscribes to the state’s workers’ compensation system.

It will compensate you with money to partially replace your wages, pay for needed healthcare and rehabilitation, and compensate you for permanent disability. If your employer denies your claim, their decision can be appealed so you can get the benefits you need.

If an immediate family member was on the job and killed, you may receive death benefits through the workers’ compensation system. If someone other than the employer is to blame, you may also be able to file a wrongful death lawsuit against that third party.

Workers’ compensation benefits may just be the start depending on how and why the plant exploded and who’s responsible. Often there are employees and contractors at a plant.

  • If you’re injured on the job, you can file a workers’ comp claim with your employer
  • If another party caused the explosion, like a contractor or equipment supplier, you can still file that claim plus file a third-party personal injury lawsuit against those causing the explosion

Chemical plants are complex operations. Finding the explosion’s cause may be difficult, and many parties may be partially to blame. Given what’s at stake and the number of companies that may be involved, if you’re injured in a chemical plant explosion, get help from a Schechter, Shaffer & Harris, LLP attorney.

What Are My Rights If My Employer Doesn’t Carry Workers’ Compensation Coverage?

Most states compel employers to have workers’ compensation insurance, but Texas does not. They can opt out of the system, which leaves them vulnerable to personal injury cases filed by injured employees and wrongful death cases by families of employees killed on the job.

These non-subscribers, if they defend themselves in the court system, can’t blame workers by showing evidence their negligence caused the injury. Most employers are part of the workers’ comp system, especially large employers like chemical plant operators, who could face substantial liability if they opt out.

What’s the Difference Between a Personal Injury Lawsuit and Workers’ Compensation Claim?

You may be able to file both if the facts and law support you.

Workers’ compensation claims are limited to injured employees and the next of kin of a worker killed on the job. This administrative system is less complicated than taking a case through the courts. Generally, the outcome, through a settlement or a final determination, should take less time. If the worker was doing their job at the time of the accident, who caused what is usually not an issue.

A third-party or personal injury lawsuit can be filed against outside parties who caused the explosion in some way. This process may take a lot longer, but the recovery may be much greater because there are no workers’ compensation benefits for pain, suffering, or emotional distress.

The plaintiff (the party filing the lawsuit) has the burden of proving the defendant (the party sued) caused the explosion and their injuries. This causation may be disputed because there could be several parties involved, all possibly blaming workers or other defendants, and each could come up with their own explanation for the explosion.

Should I Hire a Schechter, Shaffer, & Harris, LLP Attorney if I’m Injured in a Chemical Plant Explosion?

Not getting the right legal help after a chemical plant explosion injury would be a huge mistake. Given how complicated the law is and how difficult it may be to come up with a cause, contact us and get started on protecting your rights. Your injuries may have a significant effect on your financial situation and future well-being.

When you need a Houston chemical plant explosion lawyer with years of experience with the workers’ compensation and regional court systems, call us today. We have helped many clients negotiate settlements and win court judgments for their injuries. Get in touch with our legal team today to get the compensation you deserve for your injuries.

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