West Virginia has a long history of coal mining. Nearly 61,700 people currently work in the state’s coal mining industry, with hundreds in Morgantown alone. While the state has long prided itself on fueling the nation, coal miners face a disturbing reality — they work dangerous jobs with a high risk of accidents and occupational diseases.
Did you get hurt in a coal mining accident in West Virginia? State law says you could receive compensation beyond workers’ compensation benefits if someone else’s recklessness (also known as negligence) contributed to the injury. Knowing whether you can file a lawsuit is the first step toward pursuing compensation from the responsible party. A Morgantown coal mining accident lawyer from Robinette Law Group, PLLC can answer your questions and develop an aggressive strategy to recover every cent you deserve.
Our law firm focuses heavily on mining accident cases throughout the Mountain State. With extensive knowledge of the Mine Improvement and New Emergency Response Act and the Federal Mine Safety and Health Act, our hard-hitting legal team will develop a strong case to hold the liable party(s) accountable for their wrongdoing. Contact our office today for a free consultation with an experienced Morgantown mining accident attorney.
Coal Mine Accident Statistics
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, coal miners are more likely to be killed or injured on the job than other workers in private industry. In one recent year, the West Virginia Offices of Miners’ Health Safety & Training reported at least 507 non-fatal coal mining accidents and four fatal accidents statewide. The U.S. Department of Labor found 29 coal miners died nationwide. While this represents an overall decline from previous years, even one accident is one too many.
What Are the Risks Associated with Working in a Coal Mine?
Coal mining comes with a broad range of risks. According to the U.S. Department of Labor’s Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA), some of the worst occupational illnesses, such as black lung disease, develop over time due to miners’ exposure to silica dust and other dangerous toxins.
Other risks of working in coal mining include:
- Physical accidents and injuries – Coal mining operations are inherently dangerous environments. Accidents can occur due to equipment failures, roof collapses, explosions, fires, and falls.
- Surface-related mining accidents – Surface mining operations, such as open-pit mining and mountaintop removal mining, are other causes of accidents. Machinery accidents, landslides, falls, and exposure to harmful chemicals used in the extraction process are all associated with mining injuries.
- Respiratory diseases – Coal mine dust exposure is a significant health hazard. This dust contains coal particles, which can result in respiratory conditions such as coal workers’ pneumoconiosis (CWP), also called black lung disease, and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).
- Gas and chemical exposure injuries – Underground coal mines contain gases like methane, carbon monoxide, and hydrogen sulfide. These gases are explosive and toxic, requiring careful monitoring and ventilation to maintain safe working conditions.
- Noise-induced hearing loss – The machinery and equipment used in coal mining can generate high decibel levels, which can lead to permanent hearing loss without appropriate hearing protection.
- Musculoskeletal disorders – Coal mining often involves physically demanding tasks, such as lifting heavy objects and working in awkward postures. Prolonged exposure to such activities can result in musculoskeletal disorders and repetitive movement injuries.
Common Injuries Sustained in Mining Accidents
Coal mining accidents in West Virginia result in injuries and illnesses like:
- Traumatic brain injury (TBI)
- Neck injuries
- Spinal cord injuries
- Broken bones
- Soft tissue damage
- Organ damage
- Internal bleeding
- Thermal burns
- Chemical burns
- Black lung disease or CWP
- Other lung disorders
Proving Liability in a Mining Accident
Most West Virginia workers injured on the job are entitled to workers’ compensation benefits to cover the costs of medical treatment and some of their lost wages. The benefits are available to eligible employees regardless of who is responsible for the accident that caused the injury. In these circumstances, proving liability is unnecessary.
Typically, worker’s comp shields an employer from being sued by an employee. However, there are exceptions. Suppose the owner or operator of a coal mine in West Virginia violated a safety regulation or committed another act of negligence. In that case, the owner or operator may be liable for any related serious injuries or deaths. West Virginia also allows injured employees to bring lawsuits against their employers if they were hurt due to unsafe conditions that the employer was aware of.
Sometimes, a party other than the employer may be liable for injuries caused by a coal mining accident. Examples include the manufacturer of faulty equipment or a third-party contractor. An injury victim might also have a case for compensation in these circumstances.
Proving liability in a mining accident requires solid evidence and a thorough understanding of federal and state laws. At Robinette Legal Group, PLLC, we have the knowledge, resources, and investigative skills to build a compelling personal injury claim for you.
What is the Deadline for Filing My Mining Accident Claim?
In West Virginia, the statute of limitations for personal injury claims gives you two years from the date of a mining accident to file a claim. If you miss the deadline, you could lose your right to seek compensation in civil court, so hiring an attorney immediately is crucial to preserving your legal rights.
How Can an Attorney Help?
At Robinette Legal Group, PLLC, our coal mining accident lawyers are prepared to advocate for your rights. We understand this is a difficult time, so our attorneys will handle all the legal details so you can focus on your health. We will:
- Investigate the accident
- Identify all liable parties
- Collect and preserve vital evidence
- Manage communication between you and the other party(s), such as insurance companies
- Build a solid case for maximum compensation
- Negotiate aggressively for a full and fair settlement
- Preparing a case for trial, if that gives you the best possible chance of recovering the money you deserve
Contact an Experienced Morgantown Coal Mining Accident Injury Lawyer Today
Getting a lawyer’s advice is crucial after a coal mining accident in Morgantown. Insurance companies are notorious for denying legitimate injury claims and convincing claimants to accept lowball settlement offers. Get Robinette Legal Group, PLLC on your side. You can rely on our legal team to demand the compensation you deserve for what you’ve endured. Contact our office today for a free case evaluation with an experienced coal mining accident lawyer.
Note: This article was previously published in Feb 2022 and updated for relevance in August 2023.