Injury and Workers Compensation in the Bakken Oil Patch

North Dakota does not allow private workers compensation coverage. All coverage is provided by the state-run Workforce Safety and Insurance (WSI) agency. Montana has a private workers compensation market and employers maypurchase coverage for their workers from any company that offers to write the insurance or from the Montana State Fund.

Virtually all employers are required to purchase workers compensation coverage for their employees and nearly all employees are entitled to benefits if they are injured. However, workers not classified as employees such as those working on independent contracts and casual workers may not be covered. By all accounts, most of those in casual employment in the Bakken oil patch are not working directly in oil or gas production, but are service workers in support industries, such as food services.

Being compensated for injuries:

Employees covered under their employers' workers compensation insurance must apply for benefits and proceed through the legal examinations and documentation process to win their claims.

Most of the time, workers claiming injury must see a doctor who is recruited and paid for by their employers. The doctor's report will have a major impact on the benefits eventually received by the worker. Sometimes the indirect pressures of the doctor's arrangement with the employer may influence the doctor to minimize the extremity of the injury or identify the injury as not work-related, which disqualifies the claim. To win a claim, the employee must prove that the injury is due to the employment.

Once a workers compensation claim is processed, the insurance will pay hospital and medical bills necessary to diagnose and treat the injuries. It also issues disability payments (about two-thirds of regular wages) while the employee is unable to work and may pay for rehabilitation, retraining and other benefits.

Civil Compensation Suits:

Once an employee wins a workers' compensation claim, he or she forfeits the right to sue the employer in civil court. However, if a worker is injured because of employer negligence, he or she may bypass the worker's compensation process and sue the employer in civil court for a full range of damages.

Injuries in the oil patch are not limited to oil patch employees. Many who find casual employment in the area are injuredunder the relatively dangerous labor conditions in the area. Casual workers have to seek their own civil remedies for injuries.

Odegaard Miller Law specializes in personal injury and workers compensation law in the Bakken oil patch area. To find out more, please contact us.