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Can Multiple Parties Be Liable for an Oil Field Accident?

Posted on August 30, 2023

In the state of Texas, a major hub for the oil and gas industry, oil field accidents often have severe consequences, including environmental damage, injuries, and even loss of life. When an incident occurs, multiple parties can indeed be liable, depending on their roles and responsibilities.

Potentially Liable Parties

There are several parties that could potentially share liability for an oil field accident, including:

The Oil Company

Companies that operate and own oil fields have a responsibility to ensure safe working conditions, adequate training, and proper equipment maintenance.


Often hired for specific tasks, contractors can be held liable if their negligence contributes to an accident. This includes drilling contractors, maintenance contractors, and well service providers.

Equipment Manufacturers

If equipment malfunctions due to a defect, the manufacturer could be held responsible for resulting accidents.


Those providing equipment, chemicals, or other materials used in oil field operations might be responsible if their products contribute to accidents.


If the accident occurs on privately owned land, the landowner’s responsibility for maintaining safe conditions might come into play.

Government Entities

In some cases, government agencies responsible for regulating the oil and gas industry could be liable if their oversight was inadequate.

Liability Theories in Oil Field Accidents

Oil field accidents can occur due to various reasons, such as equipment failures, inadequate training, poor maintenance, and operational negligence. In Texas, liability can be established through several legal theories:


To prove negligence, the injured party must demonstrate that the responsible party owed a duty of care, breached that duty, and caused the accident through their breach. This theory might apply to oil companies, contractors, and equipment manufacturers.

Strict Liability

Strict liability may be applied if a product defect or inherently dangerous activity leads to an accident. Manufacturers and suppliers of faulty equipment could be held strictly liable.

Vicarious Liability

Employers can be held vicariously liable for the actions of their employees if the accident occurred within the scope of employment. This can extend liability to the employer for the actions of employees or contractors.

How Fault is Determined in Oil Field Accidents

Texas follows a modified comparative negligence rule when assessing fault. This means the actions and behaviors of all parties involved in the oil field accident will be evaluated to determine their degree of liability. This includes not only the injured party but also the oil company, contractors, equipment manufacturers, and other relevant entities.

Evidence will be crucial to establish the degree of fault for each party. This may include photographs, accident reports, witness statements, expert analyses, and documentation of safety protocols. After evaluating the evidence, the insurance company, court, or jury will assign a percentage of fault to each party based on their actions and negligence leading up to the accident.

As long as the injured party’s negligence is less than 51%, they can recover damages from other parties responsible for the accident. Their total damages will then be reduced by their assigned percentage of fault. However, if their negligence surpasses 50%, they are barred from recovering any compensation from other parties, even if the other parties are found to be more negligent.