Not only do oil spills wreak havoc on the ecological environment, but the conditions in which they occur frequently cause severe injury or even death to oil rig workers. Additionally, the spill could harm aquatic life, disrupt the tourism and fishing industries, and lead to massive property destruction. If you’ve been hurt, your property destroyed, or an oil spill has impacted your livelihood anywhere in the US, you could be eligible for compensation. Contact Consumer Alert Now, and we’ll determine whether you have a valid case. If so, we’ll help you join a mass tort or find a competent lawyer who’ll fight for you and ensure you recover the damages you deserve.
Causes of Oil Spills
Unluckily, oil spills happen more frequently than you think. Whereas large accidents like the Exxon-Valdez and Gulf Coast oil spills receive much attention from the media, it’s estimated that hundreds of smaller oil spills occur all over the world every year. In some cases, oil spills happen when wells start leaking. In others, explosions at well sites or on rigs can lead to oil spills. In given cases, like the case of the Exxon-Valdez spill, ships ferrying oil start leaking this harmful substance. These are some of the prevalent causes of oil spills:
- Old or Defective Parts— Defective products, poor maintenance, and malfunctioning parts can cause oil spills. Extracting oil beneath the ocean floor is an intricate process requiring stringent safety regulations, a competent workforce, and properly functioning parts. An oil spill could occur if any part of an oil rig, ship, or oil well fails.
- Explosions— Sadly, when an explosion occurs at a digging site, it can cause massive or small oil leaks. For instance, an explosion at the site of an exploration well that was being changed into a production well resulted in the Deepwater Horizon oil spill. This caused an oil leak five thousand feet below the surface of the Gulf of Mexico.
- Shipping Accidents— considering that so many vessels navigate the world’s waterways and other obstructions like landmasses, icebergs, and reefs exist, accidents are inevitable. When an oil tanker is involved in an accident, it may have a devastating impact on the ocean, its inhabitants, and the people who depend on the ocean’s health for their survival. Oil tankers have leaked millions of gallons of oil into the ocean because of collisions, bad weather, and defective parts. Efforts to clean up the ocean after oil spillage can only go so far. In many cases, a substantial amount of aquatic lives perish, and those that survive aren’t safe for consumption. This upsets the local environment and could affect businesses and employees in the tourism, shipping, and fishing industries.
Other causes of oil spills include:
- intentional acts by countries at war, terrorists, Illegal dumpers, or vandals.
- Negligence or careless mistakes.
- Natural disasters like hurricanes.
Effects of Oil Spills
As we mentioned, oil spills impact the local industry and marine life for years and even several decades after they happen. The oil spill effects are worse when the site is close to coastal communities. Typically, shorelines are swarming with different species that thrive on the surface of the water, including invertebrates, fish, sea otters, and birds. When an extensive oil amount is spilled into these areas, it destroys the health of aquatic life. Also, oil spills affect the local industry — the tourism, shipping, and fishing industries usually suffer economic losses after an oil spill.
- Tourism— usually, coastal communities attract tourists who want to take waterfront vacations. When oil spills occur and wash onshores, they can damage the scenery and make sea/ocean water unsafe for swimming or other water sports. This may significantly affect recreational water sports shops, restaurants, hotels, and other businesses that cater to tourists.
- Fishing— the lives of many companies and workers in coastal communities rely on the ocean to supply them with healthy seafood during the fishing season. When an oil spill happens near the shorelines, the toxins contaminate or kill fish sto
- Industry— whenever a major oil spill occurs, businesses and employees may find themselves out of work.
- Plants— oil can stop the growth or germination of seaweed, kelp, algae, and any other plant life.
- Sea Mammals, Fish, and Birds— an oil spill is especially devastating to any species that depend on the ocean’s health for their survival. The oil spill health effects include:
- Deformities — aquatic life might suffer from deformities like fertility problems, fin abnormalities, stunted growth, and other impairments.
- Disrupted breeding grounds—fish larvae and eggs and bird eggs are sensitive to toxins, and an oil spill could damage them. Fish and birds exposed to oil usually have impaired reproductive capabilities.
- Drowning— birds that come into physical contact with oil slicks may be weighed down by the substance and drown.
- Poisoning — fish, birds, and sea mammals can die or fall sick if they inhale or ingest the oil. Smaller organisms like planktons can be contaminated, poisoning the species that are higher up the food chain.
- Hypothermia— coming into contact with oil could harm fur and feathers insulation, leaving birds, seals, and sea otters susceptible to hypothermia.
- Other damage— oil spills could compromise aquatic life’s immune, cardiac, and respiratory systems.
- Aquatic Life— living organisms, plants, fish, and waterfowl suffer severe health impacts after an oil spill. Marine life can ingest, inhale, and absorb oil.
- Shipping— when oil spills into open water, it usually interferes with shipping routes. The oil from the spill could damage ships and spread the spill even further. In most cases, ships are required to bypass places impacted by spills.
Oil Spill Clean Up
Once an oil spill has occurred, various federal, state, and local government bodies and volunteer organizations could respond to the incident based on who is needed. Clean-up efforts are significantly focused on preserving the local ecosystem where the spill occurred. Clean up methods include:
- Biological agents— a biological agent refers to fertilizers like nitrogen and phosphorus added to the water and along a shoreline to stimulate the growth of microorganisms.
- Dispersants— a dispersant is a chemical added to water that has been affected by an oil spill. The chemical breaks down the oil at a much faster rate than usual. However, adding a chemical to water could also pose health risks to aquatic life.
- In situ burning— if the spill is very far from the coastal communities, the clean-up crew will set oil slicks on fire so they can burn off. But this method produces toxic smoke that’s released into the air.
- Sorbents— an oil spill sorbent is made of sponge-like materials that soak up oil from the water
- Skimming— skimming methods involve using the equipment to collect oil from the water’s surface and transferring it to containment units on ships.
- Containment— these methods can include using booms with long curtains set up around the spill to hold it all in one place.
- Vacuum trucks— these can vacuum spilled oil off the water surface or beaches.
- Washing oil off beaches using either low-pressure or high-pressure hoses
- Road equipment and shovels, which are at times used to pick up oil or move oiled beach gravel and sand down to where it’s cleaned by being tumbled around in the waves.
- Clean-up efforts for aquatic life— environmental agencies and clean-up crews could set up dummies and balloons close to smaller oil spill areas to scare away sea mammals and waterfowl. However, this effort only minimizes injury and death to aquatic life. In most cases, rescue organizations try finding as many hurt animals and birds as possible then use different methods to remove oil from their fur and feathers. And at times, the clean-up crew might decide not to respond to an oil spill since, in given cases, responding is not helpful or even adds to the damage from the oil spill.
The type of tools and methods people choose is based on the facts of every event. These facts include the amount and type of oil spilled, whether people reside in the location or not, how far from the shore the oil has spilled, what types of animal and bird habitats are in the location, and any other applicable factor. For instance, road equipment works so well on sand beaches, but it cannot be used on beaches or in marshes with big cobbles or boulders.
Oil Spill Lawsuits
Oil spill suits have been used by various plaintiffs seeking protection through the court system. Environmental organizations and victims of oil spills have utilized lawsuits to obtain accountability from the at-fault companies and state and federal agencies in charge of regulating those companies. Here is a case study of the already resolved oil spill lawsuits in history:
The Exxon-Valdez Oil Spill Lawsuits
On 24th March 1989, a single-hulled tanker known as the Exxon Valdez crashed into a reef off the Alaskan coast. The tanker spilled eleven million gallons of crude oil into Prince William Sound. This was the most damaging spill in the United States’ history. It led to the death of countless whales, seals, otters, and birds and created a crisis for natives and fishers who depended on the coastal bounty of Alaska to eat, work, and survive.
One of the factors that contributed to this crash was the ship captain’s sobriety. The captain had ceded control of the Exxon Valdez to a third party at the time of the accident. More than thirty thousand people brought a class-action suit against Exxon after this oil spill accusing the company of negligence. And after almost twenty years of litigation, the total damages to plaintiffs eventually reached 1.5 billion dollars, compensating them for their life-altering losses. Additionally, the case helped guide the United States shipping and environmental policies into far safer waters, with ensuing laws dictating that all tankers be double-hulled and subject to more strict restrictions and inspections.
The BP Oil Spill Lawsuits
On 20th April 2010, the oil spill at the Deepwater Horizon killed eleven employees and released over a hundred and thirty million gallons of crude oil into the Gulf of Mexico. This spill triggered thousands of suits, plaintiffs accusing the responsible companies of negligence and failure to warn. Workers and businesses saw their lives suffer or disappear in Texas, Florida, Alabama, Mississippi, and Louisiana. Individuals and families in the Gulf region were concerned about the health risks caused by the various chemicals utilized to clean up and disperse the oil. Since it was one of the most significant environmental disasters in the United States’ history, the spill inflicted massive destruction on the Gulf’s ecosystems, wildlife, wetlands, and coastline. The various plaintiffs who filed lawsuits following the BP spill sought to recover damages for:
- Lost individual income and business profits losses— several workers and businesses filed suits seeking compensation for income and profits they lost due to the spill. The plaintiffs included employees and companies in the large-scale oyster, shrimp, and fishing industry.
- Environmental damage— lawsuits were brought due to the environmental destruction the spill caused, including destruction to wildlife, wetlands, coastline.
- Damage to property— The BP oil spill damaged undeveloped, residential, and commercial property along the coastline and several islands offshore.
- Health risks and health problems from chemical dispersants and oil— Gulf residents filed lawsuits because of the health risks and health issues the oil’s presence near or on the coastal property caused.
- Health risks and injuries from clean-up— most of the workers who went to clean up and burn off the spilled oil filed lawsuits for health issues supposedly associated with the clean-up (such as throat irritation, nausea, and headaches).
- Injury and wrongful death by rig employees and their family members— the family members of the eleven workers who died in the Deepwater Horizon explosion brought wrongful death suits against Transocean and BP. The surviving rig employees who incurred injuries also sued these two companies for being negligent.
- BP shareholders— many pension funds and BP investors filed lawsuits against BP, alleging that it misled shareholders and caused the plummeting of BP’s share values.
Who Were the Liable Parties?
As far as these lawsuits were concerned, BP was the most blamed company due to its conspicuous role in the disaster and its reputation as a global business power and deep pockets. However, there were other at-fault parties, including Cameron International, Transocean, and Halliburton.
Due to the large volume of suits and the various individuals and businesses impacted by the oil spill, most lawsuits were consolidated into multidistrict litigation (MDL) and class actions. MDL is a process whereby federal civil cases from all over the country are transferred to one court. The cases should have one or several questions of fact in common. One judge presides over the litigation in the pretrial and discovery process. If a case doesn’t settle during MDL or isn’t dismissed, it’s sent back to the original court for trial. On the other hand, a class-action lawsuit is a process where one plaintiff files a suit on behalf of a larger group of plaintiffs. When a class action lawsuit is won, each plaintiff receives compensation separately.
In 2015, BP reached a settlement agreement with the United States Department of Justice and five states (Texas, Louisiana, Florida, Alabama, and Mississippi) to pay 18.7 billion dollars in compensation over the oil spill and the effects it caused. You can read more on BP oil spill lawsuits here.
Several lawsuits are still pending across the country, where plaintiffs hold various oil companies accountable for the damage caused by oil spills. The most recent and common oil spill that has triggered lawsuits is the Amplify Energy spill.
Amplify Energy Oil Spill Lawsuits
A catastrophic oil spill that occurred off the Southern California coastline has affected many businesses and residents in Newport Beach. Elly oil drilling rig owners, the Houston-based Beta Operating and Amplify Energy companies, were responsible for the spill.
The spill was due to a leaking pipe. The company uses the pipe to transport oil between various offshore oil sites. Over a hundred and forty thousand barrels of oil were spilled into the Pacific Ocean, impacting many oceanfront places along the coastline of Southern California, Newport Beach and Huntington Beach included.
So far, the spill has inflicted substantial ecological damage, and it’ll also have severe economic effects on businesses and residents. Companies in Huntington Beach, Newport Beach, or any affected area might lose customers for several weeks or months. And, the fishers who rely on the coast of Southern California for survival will be forced to vacate and start making a living somewhere else.
Businesses and residents in Huntington and Newport beaches and the surrounding communities may also suffer health issues and property damage because of the spill. The spill may also create dangerous living conditions, compel business owners and families to vacate the place.
If you’ve suffered business losses, health issues, property damage, or any other damage because of the Amplify Energy Oil Spill, you may join other plaintiffs in holding the company responsible for negligence and failure to warn.
Already, a class-action suit has been brought against Beta Operating Company, LLC and Amplify Energy Corporation. Various individuals and businesses are accusing these companies of being responsible for the losses and injuries they have incurred due to the spill. The class-action suit claims that these two companies:
- Did not ensure the oil drilling rig could be operated safely
- Knew or reasonably should’ve known the oil rig wasn’t safe for use
- Didn’t inform the public about the oil leak on time and didn’t warn the people about the dangers that the spill could cause
- Are responsible for any pain & suffering, property damage, and injuries that the oil spill caused
Health Effects of the Amplify Oil Spill
On 3rd October 2021, Orange County released a public health advisory meant for people who had been exposed to oil contaminants. The advisory cautioned that people might suffer various health repercussions from indirect or direct contact with dangerous chemicals. Indirect contact could occur when people inhale hazardous chemicals in impacted areas. The advisory also cautioned that direct contact with oil might lead to it being absorbed into the skin.
After the Amplify Energy oil spill, symptoms of exposure to oil contaminants include dizziness, headache, shortness of breath, coughing, vomiting, upset stomach, nausea, and throat, eyes, nose, and skin irritation.
If you’ve suffered any adverse health consequences due to indirect or direct exposure to oil contaminants, you should visit the doctor immediately for treatment. You might also need health monitoring for several years into the future since being exposed to oil-based toxic chemicals could result in latent diseases like cancer.
Plaintiffs filing lawsuits due to the Amplify Energy oil spill are seeking to recover damages for:
- Non-economic damages like pain and suffering.
- Economic losses.
- Decreased property value.
- The harm caused to livestock.
- Property damage.
- Medical costs resulting from health conditions and injuries resulting from the spill and medical monitoring for latent diseases.
How To Join a Mass Tort
A mass tort is a lawsuit that involves a group of plaintiffs against one or a few defendants in state or federal court. Here, the court treats every plaintiff as an individual, and each plaintiff is compensated for their specific injury or loss. A class-action lawsuit is generally larger than a mass tort and includes more plaintiffs.
If you need to join an oil spill mass tort, you may reach out to an attorney unconnected as a point of reference, or you could talk to the attorneys handling the case. You may have to wait until one of the lawyers to interview you. Information about the injury from the oil spill must be relevant to the tort subject matter. The proof is critical, and medical records about damage or injuries caused by the spill may provide a basis for the relationship to the tort or refute any association. If your injuries aren’t directly related, you may need to sue the company separately.
Generally, a mass tort case uses experts, witness testimony, and proof from every incident with the plaintiffs. It’s critical to the liable party so that compensation owed comes from the company and the lawsuit has a higher chance of success. The attorneys may have to investigate the case fully with every victim or witness long before the tort proceeds to court.
For an oil spill tort to be successful, the lawyers must show that the spill caused you and other plaintiffs injury. The lawyers can provide substantial proof to show that the defendant is liable for the damage. An attorney hired by at least one of the plaintiffs will present the case and show how the spill led to the injury after exposure.
Find a Mass Tort Attorney Near Me
If you or your business has been affected by an oil spill, it could be challenging to know where to begin to recover compensation. Should you bring a lawsuit independently? Or, is there an ongoing class-action suit or mass tort you may join? These are some of the questions you should ask yourself. Also, remember that the legal issues surrounding oil spills can be challenging to navigate by yourself. You may need to speak with a skilled lawyer concerning your case— especially a lawyer with experience and expertise in cases that involve damages caused by environmental disasters.
At Consumer Alert Now, we can help you join a mass tort or class action lawsuit. We are at the forefront in informing consumers throughout the United States about product liability and what they can do if a given product harms them in any way. We’ll connect you to an attorney who has the resources and knowledge to assess your case, collect proof to support it, calculate the damages you’re owed and develop a legal strategy to assist you in seeking the damages you deserve. Call us today at 800-511-0747 to talk to us about your situation.