The Piper Alpha Explosion

A Historic Example of Why The Maritime Lawyer Is Necessary

In the use of any mode of transportation, accidents are bound to happen. Many times, accidents occur because of negligent mistakes but the results sometimes last a lifetime. People hear about road accidents, rail accidents and aircraft crashes all of the time, but seldom do they hear about the dangers of maritime accidents.

The most damaging accidents occur at offshore oil rigs. It’s important to be aware of the severity and abundance of these types of accidents. The largest and most horrific oil rig explosion was known as the Piper Alpha Disaster.

Piper Alpha was an oil production platform in the North Sea off of Aberdeen, Scotland. It began production in 1976 as an oil-only platform but later converted to gas production. An explosion that caused oil and gas fires destroyed Piper Alpha on July 6th, 1988: resulting in 167 casualties. At the time of the disaster, the platform accounted for approximately ten percent of North Sea oil and gas production.

The survivors of Piper Alpha needed time to recover but quickly went back to working on the sea. A study was published in the British Journal of Psychology by three disaster experts and found significant rates of survivor guilt, anger, acute post-traumatic stress and physical injury. Nearly every survivor experienced psychological trauma. Survivors often must pay a hefty price when it comes to getting the mental and medical help they need.

Also, with an explosion as deadly and expensive as the one at Piper Alpha, it is extremely hard for injured workers and families of those that are deceased to receive the compensation they deserve. When seamen are injured, their employer is obligated to pay them the wages they would have earned for the remainder of their contract.  By statute, a penalty of “double wages” applies when an employer, without sufficient cause, fails to pay a seaman’s wages that are due.  

The compensations were immediately disbursed after the major accident, but the awards would only be made on condition that they signed an agreement not to pursue any further claims for damages against contractors when the results of an inquiry into the disaster became known. Many of the victims’ families and survivors felt that the oil company’s settlement terms were unacceptable.

When it comes to maritime injuries and accidents, it’s important that offshore workers have an experienced attorney to represent them. Without income, victims are left to worry how they will support their families. Tammy Karas-Griggs has represented dozens of offshore workers and fought aggressively as a maritime lawyer to get her clients maximum compensation.

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