Oil Tanker Accidents

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The offshore oil industry is one of the reasons Texas has a healthy economy and a stable job market. It’s an essential industry that quite literally fuels commerce across the U.S. and across the globe.

But it comes with serious dangers. The process of extracting, transporting and refining oil can be deadly for workers. While we see it in the news when an oil rig or tanker explodes, what we don’t see on the news are the job-related injuries that harm offshore oil workers on a regular basis.

The attorneys at Pierce Skrabanek PLLC in Houston understand the risks that oil tanker workers face, and we want to use our legal skills to help you if you’ve been injured in an oil tanker accident. Call us today or contact us online for a free, no-obligation consultation to discuss your options.

What is an Oil Tanker?

Oil tankers are large ocean vessels that transport oil. More specifically, there are two types of modern tankers: crude tankers and product tankers. Both of these tankers can be dangerous vessels on which to work.

  • Crude tankers haul oil from the location where it is extracted from the earth to a refinery where it will be processed.
  • Product tankers transport refined fuels from a refinery to markets across the globe where it will be sold to customers.

Tankers carrying crude oil are the larger of these two. The largest crude ships, known as ultra large crude carriers (ILCCs), can carry more than 550,000 tons of crude oil, making them the largest ships at sea. This much cargo can be worth tens of millions of dollars. The weight of the cargo is called deadweight tonnage, or DWT.

Loading and Unloading Process

The process of loading and unloading an oil tanker is very particular. Any error can result in serious harm or death to workers, not to mention a potential environmental disaster if oil is spilled into the ocean.

The ship’s chief officer is tasked with developing a transfer plan. The plan will cover how much oil is to be transferred and into which tanks, as well as the effect the transfer will have on the ship’s ballast (which is held in a separate tank to stabilize the boat). This is followed by a conference to review the plan.

The transfer of oil into the tanker’s tanks is done largely electronically nowadays, allowing the operator to select the quantity of oil to be moved. It is moved through an automated, calibrated system. Care must be taken to properly manage the hydrocarbon vapors that develop during the process, as these are toxic.

The chief officer will follow an inspection checklist to ensure everything is in proper order. In the U.S., the checklist document is called a Declaration of Inspection.

At every step of the way, plans must be in place to deal with an emergency. This is also the responsibility of the person in charge of the ship and, by default, the company operating the tanker.

Risks of Working on an Oil Tanker

Like many jobs at sea, working on an oil tanker can carry serious risks. It’s no surprise when you consider that oil tanker workers are working aboard a ship carrying massive amounts of combustible oil. A glance at records from the Occupational Safety and Health Administration reveal that explosions and fires are a common cause of death among oil industry workers.

In fact, maritime workers are seven times more likely to die on the job that the national average for workers, according to statistics.

Toxic gases, such as hydrogen sulfide, benzene and assorted hydrocarbons, are common around crude oil. Proper care must be taken to prevent exposure to these dangerous gases.

Additionally, moving and managing such a massive amount of oil requires complex machinery and equipment that can be deadly if they malfunction or are used improperly.

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Causes of Oil Tanker Accidents

The most obvious cause of an injury on an oil tanker is an explosion due to the hazardous cargo. Explosions can cause burns, head/spine injuries, broken bones and more.

Other causes of accidents on an oil tanker include:

  • Falls on slippery or poorly maintained floors
  • Heavy machinery
  • Improperly maintained equipment
  • Excessive heavy lifting
  • Cargo falling from above

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Oil Tanker Accident Compensation

People injured in an oil tanker accident are covered by the Jones Act and other portions of maritime law. These laws spell out the process of seeking compensation.

The available compensation will depend on the circumstances of the accident. The Jones Act allows injured workers to seek compensation from their employer for medical expenses, and it allows families to seek justice of a loved one is killed in an offshore accident. To best seek this compensation, you should have an experienced oil tanker attorney on your side.

If you’ve been hurt in an oil tanker accident, we may be able to seek additional compensation, including:

  • Wages you lost because you were out of work
  • Diminished earning capacity, if your injury will impact your future ability to work
  • Pain and suffering


Read what our past clients have to say about our legal services. 

Daryl M.

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“My experience with Mr. Skrabanek was honestly far better than all expectations that we had. He took care of us like we were family, making sure me and my wife always felt like a priority and walked us through all of the concerns that we had. If you are looking for a professional who truly cares for his clients you can stop the search. You won’t be disappointed.”

Denise J.

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“Mike and his team helped me settle an injury claim case. I was informed and helped through every step and they were always professional and very responsive. I really enjoyed working with them.”

Victoria S.

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“My attorney, Michael, did an amazing job with my case. He’s a straight shooter and has a vast knowledge of the law combined with an extensive amount of experience, making him a fantastic attorney. I fully recommend this firm.

Thank you Pierce Skrabenek!”

Gabriela C.

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“Paul Skrabanek of the law firm Pierce Skrabanek was very professional and went above & beyond in handling my daughter's case. Very dedicated, worked diligently, and got justice for my family. If I could give a higher rating than 5 stars I would. Thank you and your firm for such tenacity.”

Raymond H.

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“These guys are awesome, they were very informative from the beginning to end, working with them was super smooth, and I had all questions answered thoroughly. The whole team at this firm works to help in every way they can. They were able to get me the compensation I deserved and exceeded my expectations. If you’re ever in need of a stellar team to stand behind you and work for you, these guys are the ones you would want in your corner.

Thank you very much Paul and thank your team for me.”

Cam F.

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“Working with Paul Skrabanek was a very positive experience. He helped me understand the legal process as someone who has never been a part of a lawsuit, and was able to get me settled quickly and painlessly! Loved working with Pierce Skrabanek law firm!”

Michele R.

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Michael Pierce and his team, especially Krystle, were very professional, always available (even on weekends), and very knowledgeable. We appreciate their hard work on our case and the time they took to explain every detail as our case progressed. Mike is a phenomenal attorney and we highly recommend them for your legal needs.”

Beverly C.

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“I found Mr. Skrabanek to be very trustworthy, creditable, and genuinely concerned about my well-being while I was going through this very difficult process. He showed constant concern for me being completely satisfied before making any final decisions.”

Diane T.

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“Fantastic team of attorneys and staff dedicated to their clients. Michael Pierce is an outstanding trial attorney for personal injury cases.”

Deborah S.

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“We watched, participated & listened to Paul Skrabanek fight for a settlement which we could be happy with. Just this month the case has been put to rest.”

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How a Houston, TX Oil Tanker Attorney Can Help

When people are seriously injured through no fault of their own, it’s important that they have an attorney working their case. This is especially true for workers who are injured at sea or at port, because maritime law is a complex field that requires nuanced and diligent attorneys.

The oil tanker attorneys at Pierce Skrabanek PLLC know how vital the oil industry is to Houston and the entire Gulf Coast. The people who work oil rigs and oil tankers are our neighbors, relatives and friends. We want to keep them safe.

If you or a loved one was injured while working on an oil tanker, you need to call us today to learn what we can do to help. We can seek compensation for your expenses and your suffering, including lost wages and more. Call us today at 832-690-7000 or contact us online for a free, no-obligation consultation.

Frequently Asked Questions

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