Californians take oil spills seriously. When the American Trader spilled nearly half a million gallons of crude oil off the coast of South California in 1990, it constituted the worst oil spill in the nation to date. The California state legislature took decisive action: it enacted the Lempert-Keene-Seastrand Oil Spill Prevention and Response Act and placed a ban on new drilling in the state’s coastal waters. These regulations are still in place today.
Earlier this year, Trump signed an order that could disable that moratorium. This action has been met with strong backlash from California politicians and environmentalists alike. In light of these events, it seems like a good time to examine some of the most common oil spill lawsuits.
Under maritime law, mariners do not qualify for worker’s compensation. As a result, the Jones Act (also known as the Merchant Marine Act of 1920) was established to protect seamen injured on the job. This protection has been used for workers who were injured or killed in oil spill explosions as well.
A second type of personal injury commonly suffered in an oil spill is known as “toxic tort”. In such lawsuits, a victim came into contact with a toxic or noxious substance—such as crude oil—due to someone else’s negligence.
Business owners who suffer damages resulting from an oil spill can file a lawsuit for restitution. The fishing and tourism industries are common victims in such disasters.
Another common type of oil spill lawsuit is over environmental damage, which could be due to regulatory noncompliance. In the wake of the 2010 BP oil spill, many environmental groups filed lawsuits against the federal government for their ineffective oversight of offshore drilling.
While no one wishes for an oil spill—or any disaster—to occur, it’s important to understand the types of legal recourse available in the event of such tragedy.