Shipping Crude Oil by Rail: The Bakken Risks Go Beyond Workplace Injuries

Production companies rely predominantly on rail shipping to transport crude oil from the Bakken oil fields to refiners. The toxic combination of lax regulatory oversight, aging and poorly maintained tank cars, and a shipping system stressed to its limits have created a dangerous situation for communities that live along the rail shipping lines that form a virtual pipeline for Bakken crude.

Rail accidents involving Bakken crude have caused injuries and fatalities and, in at least one incident, have resulted in the evacuation of a whole town. Multiple different companies own the oil production, shipping equipment, and rail facilities that produce the Bakken crude. This disparity creates a morass of shields and defenses against aggrieved residents whose liveshave been affected by oil spills from Bakken shipments. Bakken oil trains might include one hundred tank cars, and they travel at speeds of up to thirty-five miles per hour past many small towns and residential communities. If one of those trains derailed and spilled even a small portion of its cargo, the damages from that spill could run to millions, and even billions of dollars.

Which party is responsible for those damages? The producers make an initial decision to ship their crude oil product by rail. The shipping companies rely on an aging rail infrastructure that they may or may not control. Corroded or dated tank cars are likely owned by one company and leased to the parties that fill and transport them from the Bakken fields to the refiners. If you live along a rail line and your business or livelihood is affected by an oil spill from a Bakken oil shipment train, you may need to file a lawsuit against every one of these parties to gain full redress for your injuries. In any case, you can assume that any one of these several parties will seek to absolve itself from any liability for your damages, and will instead try to lay blame on some other party in the chain. Your damages may be immediate, but the responsible parties will keep you tied up in litigation for years before you see the first dollar of any recovery.

Companies that engage in inherently dangerous or risky activities, which can include crude oil production and shipment,can be deemed to be "strictly liable" for damages and injuries that result from those activities. The strict liability standard removes a sometimes complex negligence analysis from the equation and provides an injured party a better opportunity to recover damages from all parties that participated in causing the injuries. Still, if you live near a rail shipment oil spill site, you need to know who to sue and how to proceed to maximize your recovery in that lawsuit.

The attorneys at Odegaard Miller Law know the players at Bakken. We represent workers who have been injured in accidents at Bakken and we have the knowledge and experience to protect innocent residents whose lives have been impacted by accidents and oil spills along the Bakken rail shipping lines. If you have experienced damages or injuries from rail shipments of Bakken oil or other crude oil shipment, please contact us at your earliest convenience. We can quicklyassess your case and determine how you can proceed to maximize your monetary recovery.