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West Virginia Natural Gas Pipeline Construction Injuries
West Virginia Pipeline Fatality Lawyer
Natural Gas Pipeline Projects in West Virginia Bear a Certain Degree of Risk of Worker Injury and Death
West Virginia currently has plans to construct and lay out several hundred miles of natural gas pipelines. While the industry has deemed pipelines the safest way to transport oil and natural gas, there is no question that this mode inherently bears a specific risk.
This labor-intensive pipeline construction industry has a very high accident rate. One of the critical reasons for this is the exposure of workers to hazardous environments such as heights, confined narrow spaces, and exposure to health-threatening fumes, dust, and noise. According to the CDC and OSHA, workers involved in these projects must receive the appropriate training, equipment, and gear to perform the job safely.
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) and the American Pipeline Contractors Association (APCA) work together to protect workers from serious job hazards during equipment operation, trenching and excavation, and hydrostatic testing.
The Pipeline Safety Act provides whistleblower protection for employees and contract workers who see safety concerns and report these hazards. In addition, owners and operators of pipeline facilities and their contractors and subcontractors are prohibited from retaliating against employees for reporting potential violations of federal law related to pipeline safety or engaging in other protected activities.
Such construction project workers rely on properly marked maps to help determine where the pipelines are located and which areas they must avoid. Any error on the map or dangerous conditions, such as weak or damaged pipelines, places the workers at a heightened risk of severe burns and other injuries, mainly due to explosions. The injuries sustained by victims during natural gas pipeline construction accidents can be catastrophic or even fatal.
Suppose you or a loved one were injured in a West Virginia natural gas pipeline explosion. Whether as a pipeline worker, construction worker, or a passerby, you may be able to secure compensation for the injuries, damages, and losses sustained. You must immediately contact an experienced West Virginia pipeline explosion attorney and explore your legal rights and options.
Workers involved in natural gas pipeline projects face a significant risk of injuries due to fires, human error, faulty equipment, and a lack of adherence to safety standards.
Here are some of the most frequently seen injuries in pipeline accidents:
Burn injuries: Severe burn injuries as a result of pipeline explosions and fires leads to significant damage to the skin, tissues, and even nerves, and internal organs. There are three different levels of burn injuries.
First-degree burn injuries only affect the outer layer of the skin. Therefore, the victim experiences pain and redness in the affected area and may recover quickly.
Second-degree burn injuries are more severe than first-degree burns, which means the outer layer of the skin and the layer underneath are damaged. Your skin may appear bright red and swollen and might look wet and shiny. You will see blisters, and the burn might be painful.
Third-degree burns are sometimes known as full-thickness burns. This type of injury destroys two total layers of the skin. As a result, the nerve endings are typically damaged, and the victim might lose sensation.
Fourth-degree burns are potentially life-threatening and destroy all layers of the skin as well as bones, muscles, nerves, and tendons.
Treatment for burn injuries may involve costly procedures such as skin graft surgery and other cosmetic procedures. In addition, victims suffer a loss of function and disfiguring injuries, which may have a profound emotional and psychological impact.
Broken bones: The impact of an explosion may cause severe traumatic injuries, including multiple broken bones. However, bone fractures may be much more potent in a pipeline explosion than other traumatic events such as car accidents or slip-and-fall injuries.
In such cases, broken bones may result in disfigurement or permanent disabilities. Often, victims require lengthy rehabilitation to recover strength and mobility in the affected areas of the body.
Amputation and Loss of limbs: These types of devastating injuries are also common in pipeline explosions because of the intensity of the blasts. Individuals might require prosthetics as a result of losing their arms or legs. Victims often cannot return to work or even earn a livelihood after the LossLoss of limbs.
Brain injuries: Pipeline explosions may result in other types of catastrophic injuries, such as traumatic brain injuries and spinal cord damage. Brain injuries typically affect brain cells, sometimes temporarily and often permanently. Traumatic brain injury can result in bruising, torn tissues, bleeding, and other brain damage. An individual might become permanently disabled and require different types of therapy – the costs of which are usually prohibitive.
Spinal injuries are those that affect the vertebrae of the spinal cord. In severe cases, the victim might become paralyzed due to the injuries and even require round-the-clock nursing care. Victims often cannot return to work or earn a livelihood.
Many factors contribute to or lead to existing or under-construction gas pipeline accidents. We have found in numerous instances that these catastrophic accidents are not the result of an error or fault on the part of a worker.
On the contrary, these fatal explosions and incidents occur from the negligence and carelessness of owners, contractors, or subcontractors, who are responsible for maintaining these pipelines and giving the workers adequate warnings as they perform their jobs.
Here are some of the most common factors in pipeline construction accidents in West Virginia:
- Inadequate training: Regarding training and implementing safety programs for workers involved in pipeline construction, both the state of West Virginia and the federal government have specific rules and regulations. The pipeline company has the responsibility and legal obligation not only to implement but also to enforce these safety programs to protect the workers and ensure the public’s safety.
Such safety plans should include guidelines to help prevent catastrophic incidents and action plans for responding to such incidents, should they occur. Also, each worker involved in a pipeline construction project should get specialized training, which explicitly addresses their job responsibilities, go over how they can prevent catastrophic events, precautions they need to take, and finally, how they should respond if an accident or explosion occurs.
When a company’s inadequate safety practices and training cause or contribute to a pipeline accident, the injured victims will have a basis to seek compensation from the pipeline company. In such cases, proving that the company’s safety program was inadequate and failed to protect workers is essential.
- Metal fatigue and pipeline corrosion: In many locations, pipelines are continuously placed under extreme pressure as they transport oil and natural gas across West Virginia and other parts of the country. Over a while, the metal walls of the pipes may experience wear and tear. This wear over time may cause the pipes to become weaker, increasing the risk of an eventual failure and the potential for explosions.
The companies and entities that own and operate these natural gas pipelines are responsible for ensuring the structural integrity of their pipelines. When they fail to do so, and that failure results in the catastrophic incident and injuries, these companies can be held responsible for the damages.
Suppose you or a loved one has suffered injuries in a pipeline explosion due to metal fatigue, bad welding, pipeline corrosion, or faulty installation. You can hold the negligent parties accountable for your losses in that case.
- Improper marking of pipeline locations: Before any pipeline construction or excavation project begins, an expert must be utilized to mark underground pipelines where the digging will occur. When underground lines are accurately marked, the safety of those working on the project is ensured. It also helps them avoid the problems that often crop up when lines are damaged.
When a contractor or company fails to mark existing lines or if the pipeline company inaccurately marks existing lines, it may create a hazardous situation for workers or anyone else who happens to be close to the project. It is important to remember that cases involving improper marking can be complicated because several entities may share liability for the accident.
For example, in some cases, the company that ended up installing the pipeline may have strayed from the original plan and failed to update the map. In other cases, the mismarking may have occurred because of careless surveyors. Once the digging commences, the company that does the excavation must avoid pipelines and take the necessary precautions to allow for mistakes relating to mapping and marking.
In accidents involving mismarked or unmarked pipelines, you can hold several entities accountable for your injuries, damages, and losses.
- Defective lines and faulty pipeline parts:
As noted, pipelines are placed under constant pressure as they transport gas and oil. As a result, the structural integrity of these pipelines is highly critical, and even the slightest defect in any particular part of the system can lead to catastrophic events such as leaks and explosions.
Injured victims have the right to secure fair compensation for the injuries and losses they sustain due to defective pipelines. In such cases, plaintiffs must prove a manufacturing defect or design flaw in the pipeline that failed. In addition, you must have an experienced West Virginia pipeline accident lawyer who can investigate the pipelines for potential defects.
- Improper pipeline maintenance:
Maintaining gas pipelines is critical to ensuring the safety of workers and residents in the area. Metal fatigue and corrosion can cause pipelines to weaken after many years of use. It is the responsibility of the pipeline company to ensure that the lines are in good working condition and that there is no risk of failure. If the company fails to maintain the pipelines adequately and an explosion occurs, causing injuries and damages, the company can be held accountable.
- Improper pipeline installation:
State and federal regulations clearly state how oil and gas pipelines should be installed to ensure their safety and integrity. In many cases, however, pipeline companies tend to cut corners and put their profits ahead of the safety of their workers and the general public. When improperly installed pipelines, the consequences can be catastrophic or even fatal. Examples of poor pipeline installation include welding mistakes and using substandard or defective parts, which may heighten the risk of an explosion.
Several parties can be potentially held liable in a pipeline explosion case. How the accident occurred and whose negligence caused or contributed to the incident and the resulting injuries will determine who can be identified as defendants in the pipeline injury lawsuit.
The Pipeline Company: There are several scenarios in which the pipeline company may be liable when an explosion occurs. For example, the pipeline company may be responsible if the pipelines rupture and an explosion occurs because the lines were improperly inspected and maintained.
Contractors: Major pipeline projects often employ many contractors to complete these complex jobs. Often, we see cases where accidents occur because the pipelines are not correctly marked. When contractors erroneously keep the pipelines or fail to mark them, they may be one of the parties that are held accountable should an accident occur.
Product manufacturers: Some pipeline accidents may also occur because of defective pipelines or parts, such as poorly welded joints that may cause leaks. In such cases, the manufacturers of the faulty components can also be held liable for the injuries, damages, and losses caused.
Construction company: If a construction company’s negligence resulted in a pipeline break, leak, or explosion, then that company may be held liable for the accident and the damages.
If you or a loved one has been injured due to a pipeline accident, you may be able to seek compensation for the injuries, damages, and losses you have sustained.
The value or worth of your accident claim will depend on the nature and extent of your injuries and the degree of negligence by the defendants.
If you were injured on the job, you could seek workers’ compensation benefits, which usually cover medical expenses and a portion of lost wages.
However, in addition to seeking these benefits, workers may be able to file what is known as a third-party lawsuit against a party other than the employer whose negligence might have caused or contributed to the accident.
Here are some of the damages that workers can seek in these types of cases:
Medical expenses: This includes emergency transportation costs, hospitalization, the cost of surgery, and costs related to medication and medical equipment. In burn injury cases, your claim may also cover expenses for cosmetic surgery to fix scars and other deformities.
Lost income: Workers affected by these injuries cannot return to work for an extended period. This means they may lose a significant amount of money in wages they cannot earn when injured.
This money can be recovered by filing an injury lawsuit.
Loss of earning capacity: If a worker has suffered catastrophic injuries that make it impossible for him to return to work or earn a livelihood, he may also seek compensation for lost future income and loss of earning capacity.
Permanent injuries: Workers who have suffered permanent injuries and disabilities can seek additional compensation in such cases. This is particularly true in patients with lifelong brain damage or paralysis due to spinal injuries.
Pain and suffering: This refers to the physical and mental suffering victims go through when they suffer these types of traumatic injuries.
Wrongful Death: In cases where a family has lost a loved one in a pipeline explosion, they may be able to file a wrongful death lawsuit against the at-fault parties. Immediate family members of the decedents typically bring such cases and seek compensation for damages such as medical expenses, funeral costs, lost future income, pain and suffering, and loss of love and companionship.
Our experienced West Virginia natural gas pipeline accident lawyers have the knowledge, experience, and resources to pursue a case against large corporations and other parties that may be involved and hold them accountable for their negligence.
If you or a loved one has been injured in a West Virginia gas pipeline accident or lost a loved one in such an incident, please contact our offices in Morgantown, West Virginia, to discuss your injury or wrongful death case with one of our lawyers.
Worried that you can’t afford a lawyer? We take personal injury and wrongful death cases on a contingency fee basis, meaning you owe us nothing if you aren’t compensated.
Call Today: (304) 594-1800
Here are some major natural gas pipelines under construction in West Virginia.
Mountain Valley Pipeline: The Mountain Valley Pipeline project is a natural gas pipeline that spans about 303 miles from northwestern West Virginia to southern Virginia. It’s an interstate pipeline that will be regulated by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC). It will be constructed and owned by Mountain Valley Pipeline, LLC, Con Edison Transmission, Inc., WGL Midstream, and RGC Midstream. Senator Manchin has cleared the way for the completion of the Mountain Valley Pipeline, and the final construction phase should soon be underway. The pipeline has remained at about 95% complete for years, held up by litigation, and is necessary for transporting natural gas to the coast to fulfill overseas contracts for liquified natural gas. This will be a great move forward for West Virginia, but it must be done as safely as possible for the workers and the communities surrounding the pipeline.
The Atlantic Coast Pipeline: This natural gas pipeline is being developed by a partnership of four companies: Dominion Energy, Duke Energy, Piedmont Natural Gas, and Southern Company Gas. It has about 98.7 miles of natural gas pipeline, a compressor station, meter stations, and access roads. It runs through Harrison, Lewis, Upshur, Randolph, and Pocahontas counties in West Virginia. Now that
Mountaineer Xpress Pipeline: This project’s scope includes the construction of approximately 170.9 miles of pipelines of various diameters, modifications to three existing compressor stations, the construction of three new compressor stations, three new regulating stations, and some alterations at several above-ground sites. The pipeline runs through Marshall, Wetzel, Tyler, Doddridge, Ritchie, Calhoun, Wirt, Roane, Jackson, Mason, Putnam, Cabell, Wayne, and Kanawha counties in West Virginia.
Mountaineer Gas Company Eastern Panhandle Expansion: This proposed project comprises about 23 miles of pipeline through Morgan and Berkeley counties in West Virginia.
Rover Pipeline spans about 713 miles originating in southeastern Ohio and expanding into northwestern West Virginia and southwestern Pennsylvania. There are three pipeline branches in West Virginia, including the Burgettstown lateral in Hancock County, Majorsville lateral in Marshall County, and Sherwood lateral running through Wetzel, Tyler, and Doddridge counties.
Goff Connector Pipeline: This is a relatively small project spanning 20 miles in Harrison County, West Virginia.
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