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Texas Personal Injury News

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Do You Need a Wrongful Death Attorney After Losing a Loved One to a Chemical Plant Accident?

Texas is home to an incredible number of refineries and chemical plants. They dot the landscape in clusters all over the state, providing the jobs the workers need to support their families. In some communities, they are literally almost in the backyards of the residents.

We don't have to look too far back into Texas history to find a catastrophic occurrence at one of these plants. It was only a little over two years ago that a powerful explosion occurred in West, Texas, at a fertilizer plant. The blast injured hundreds, killed 15 individuals and leveled scores of schools, homes and one nursing home.

Federal and corporate response to the disaster

After the fire and subsequent explosion at West Fertilizer Company, the president issued an Executive Order for the Department of Labor, the Environmental Protection Agency and Homeland Security to devise more effective safety measures to implement at these types of plants. But the responsibility does not end with the federal government to safeguard the workers and those living among and in close proximity to the plants that are the lifeblood of the Texas economy.

The corporate owners of these plants bear the brunt of the responsibility to make sure that these facilities are run as safely as possible. In turn, they must task the operations managers, safety men and supervisors to galvanize their crews to keep safety first and foremost to avert future disasters.

After the explosion at the fertilizer plant, researchers from Greenpeace located 473 plants around the country that could potentially jeopardize the health, safety and welfare of not only their workers, but others living and working in the vicinity. Even scarier, of that total, 89 facilities posed a risk for more than a million residents who lived as far as 25 miles away, but were downwind of the plants. Most frightening of all, Greenpeace estimated that one of every third person in the United States had a risk of harm from toxic chemical releases from plants.

Where the risk arises

Disasters can begin in myriad ways. Fires are sparked by something as fearsome as a lightning strike or as mundane as a worker's forbidden cigarette. Improperly stored, mixed or maintained dangerous chemicals can result in explosions of toxic gases that can travel miles, sickening all who breathe in the airborne poisons. A poorly trained employee handling highly volatile substances can pose an enormous safety hazard and liability for a company.

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration has standards for the way these toxic materials must be handled in the plants. They include:

  • Storing hazardous chemicals in a designated area a minimum of 100 feet from surface waters.
  • Storing chemicals downwind of any homes in the vicinity and on a planed area that does not flood.
  • Never stacking chemical containers or storing them above eye level.
  • Keeping chemicals out of direct sunlight.
  • Elevating chemical storage containers off of the ground. 

Workers, residents all share considerable risk

If you or a loved one work in one of these plants, you already know there are many dangers that can erupt in a moment's notice if the proper safety procedures are not followed. Workers injured on the job have the Worker's Compensation system to fall back on after a mishap occurs. Depending on the severity of the injuries and the treatment that is rendered, the settlement from Worker's Comp may be sufficient. In many cases, however, injured workers and the family members who rely on them may be forced to seek additional compensation through the Texas civil courts.

But those who are in harm's way during a fire, explosion or toxic gas release due to the close proximity of their homes, schools and communities don't have the Worker's Compensation to turn to. Instead, they are dependent on the corporate owners of the hazardous plant to make it right for them with a settlement offer.

As was observed following the Deepwater Horizon Macondo blowout and massive oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, parent company BP and their co-defendants faced criticism for denying damage claims and underpaying claimants even when lives and livelihoods were at risk and, in many cases, still disrupted.

Wrongful death suits force accountability

There is no question that there can be no dollar sum sufficient to replace the loss of a spouse, sibling or child to grieving families after an industrial accident occurs. There will still be that empty side of the bed, missing chair at family dinners, a little less laughter and joy in the room. When a senseless death occurs as a result of negligent acts or a series of safety protocols left undone, there is no way to undo what was done.

What we at Chandler, Mathis & Zivley can do is hold these corporate entities liable for the economic damages, pain, suffering and losses by taking civil action against them in the Texas courts. By filing a wrongful death lawsuit against the negligent parties, we fight for settlements and judgments for our bereft clients. It won't bring their loved ones back, but it can give them a financial cushion that can make life a little easier, especially if it was the breadwinner who was killed.

But there is actually another reason to hire a wrongful death attorney to go after chemical plants and refineries who bear responsibility for these deaths. By making defendants ante up a financial settlement when their lack of oversight causes an explosion or toxic release, it incentivizes these plants to keep a tight rein on safety procedures and policies. Forcing them to accept economic responsibility for their actions encourages a climate of safety to prevail in these plants. This, in turn, increases workers' safety and the safety of those who live and work around the plants.

Reaching out for help can be hard

Grief can be paralyzing, making it difficult to take the necessary actions to initiate a wrongful death suit after a catastrophic accident occurs. However, due to statutory limitations for filing wrongful death claims, inaction can be a costly mistake to make. 

When you reach out to our wrongful death attorneys, we know exactly what to do and the time frame in which we need to do it. You can put your trust in our experienced and capable legal team. We will take it from here. We will file your claim, launch our own fact-finding mission, retain experts that can demonstrate exactly the way the safety protocols failed and cost your loved one his or her life. We will always treat you and the memory of your beloved family member with the utmost compassion and respect.

Don't wait until it is too late to seek a legal remedy against a chemical plant or refinery for its safety breaches. Call us today for a confidential case evaluation. We are here for you.

 

Sources:

http://www.motherjones.com/environment/2014/04/west-texas-hazardous-chemical-map

http://smallbusiness.chron.com/osha-standards-chemical-plants-45732.html


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