People impacted by pipeline incidents often wonder “Can I sue a pipeline company?” The short answer is yes. Pipeline owners and operators are responsible under the law for any damages they negligently cause, and in some instances, may be held strictly liable.
Pipelines Can Leak or Explode Causing Damages
You may hear in the news about pipelines leaking or exploding. This happens quite often despite regulations that were written to prevent this from happening. Usually, pipeline leaks or catastrophic failure (pipeline explosions) are caused by the failure to properly maintain the pipeline. The monetary damages available for a pipeline explosion lawsuit include:
- Property damages
- Medical expenses
- Physical Pain and Suffering
- Mental Pain and Suffering
- Loss of enjoyment of life
- Punitive damages
Pipelines Require Inspections and Maintenance
Federal law requires regular pipeline inspection. Pipeline inspection is a part of the pipeline integrity management for keeping the pipeline in good condition. The pipeline safety regulations require that the operator shall insure that a pipeline is maintained in an efficient state, in efficient working order and in good repair. The pipeline inspection includes external inspection and internal inspection. The failure to follow these rules is likely to result in liability for any injuries caused and to the property of others.
Authority for a Pipeline Does Not Allow Excess Use
If you own property that has a pipeline on it, there will be a legal easement that gives the pipeline the right to be on your property. However, the law does not allow the pipeline owner to exceed the easement or cause damage to your property. They must operate the pipeline in a reasonably safe manner and comply with applicable state and federal regulations. Failure to do so exposes the pipeline company to legal liability for damages. If you have a contract associated with the pipeline, then there may also be terms that provide for payment of damages or other relief.
Pipeline Owners May be Liable for Damages
If you are injured by a pipeline failure, then the pipeline owner and operator may also be liable to pay monetary damages to compensate for the injuries caused. In the case of a pipeline explosion, the injuries are often disabling or cause death. Like damages to property, the pipeline company can be liable if it is shown that they violated safety regulations or otherwise acted unreasonably. In some states, punitive damages may be available to protect the public by sending a message to others that grossly negligent or reckless conduct will not be tolerated.
Lawsuits against pipeline companies require an understanding of the safety rules that apply and pipeline maintenance operations. A pipeline lawsuit further requires consultation and retention of expert witnesses who can provide opinions about what went wrong and why. Lawyers experienced with this type of litigation know that it requires considerable skill and effort to get favorable results for clients.