Nearly four years after a fatal accident in Pennsylvania involving a water tanker that rolled down an embankment, killing the driver, a federal appeals court has allowed a civil lawsuit to go forward on behalf of the deceased driver's estate and his wife.
At issue in the case is the question of whether a natural gas drilling company had been negligent in failing to install appropriate signage and lights to guide truckers to the work site. The trucker involved in the accident had missed his turnoff, and then slid down a steep ledge about two and a half miles farther down the road. The trucker had passed a sign specifying that no commercial traffic associated with the drilling company (Anadarko) would be allowed past that point.
The driver's widow had initially sued three entities involved with her husband's employment, but two of them had immunity against such lawsuits through workers' compensation.
At the crux of the case is the question of who would have been responsible for erecting signage and lights along the route, and whether the failure to erect these guideposts constituted negligence.
Oil and gas drilling companies have been a source of increasing casualties in recent years. Some blame a shifting job force, with younger, inexperienced people entering physically demanding positions that require long hours. And sometimes employers more concerned with profit than safety can skimp on training, thus exposing workers to unnecessary risk. Workers who are hurt on the job, or family members who have been killed on the job, however, have rights that an experienced workers' compensation lawyer can help protect.