Coal Mine Accident Lawyers in Pittsburgh, PA
Mining is among the world’s most dangerous occupations. If you suffer an injury in a mining accident, seek medical attention, and then after contacting your loved ones, contact an experienced mine accident attorney in Pittsburgh, PA for legal counsel. Worldwide, the industry employs around one percent of the workforce but accounts for five percent of all workplace fatalities and a large percentage of the workplace accidents, according to the International Labor Organization (ILO). In the United States, mine disasters killing large numbers of workers are less common than they once were, as a result of modern technology and safety legislation, but working in the mines still poses a serious risk to life and health.
Federal Coal Mine Health and Safety Act of 1969 and 1977 Amendment
The Federal Coal Mine Health and Safety Act, generally called the Coal Act, was implemented in 1969 to reduce the toll on miner life and health, and later amended in 1977, to provide further protections for people engaged in this dangerous work. The Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA) is the federal agency charged with oversight of the industry and implementing the safety requirements of the Coal Act. Its provisions include:
- Increased mine safety standards
- Required inspections of mines twice a year
- Increased penalties for violations
- Criminal penalties for deliberate violations
The number of mine disasters and their death toll has declined since the passage of the Coal Act, but problems remain. In this century mining disasters have killed 65 workers in West Virginia, Alabama, Kentucky, and Utah. But aside from these disasters that make the news, individual deaths and injuries occur regularly. Between 50 and 60 miners on the average die on the job every year in the U.S. Contact one of our experienced and successful Pittsburgh mine accident lawyers at Chaffin Luhana, LLP for a free case evaluation if you or a loved one have suffered an injury in a mine accident at work, or if you have lost a loved one in a mine accident.
Types of Accidents
The hazards of mining are many. These are some of the dangers to miners that can cause accidents resulting in fatalities or serious injuries:
- Mine cave-in/collapse
- Longwall shield collapse
- Coal stockpile collapse
- Gas explosions
- Dust explosions
- Carbon monoxide or methane gas inhalation
- Toxic chemical exposure
- Vehicle accidents
- Crushing/caught between accidents
- Electric utility accidents and liability
- Equipment and tool defects and malfunctions (Product Liability)
- Improper operation of equipment
- Untrained or poorly trained personnel
- Defective derailer or haulage track
- Mine car runaway
- Coal stockpile collapse
- Absence of safety equipment including breathing apparatus
- Defective breathing apparatus
- Rib rolls
- Improper protective seals (foam instead of concrete seals)
Occupational Diseases of Miners Causing Long Term Disabilities
In addition to accidents, chronic exposure to coal dust, gases, high heat, and chemicals, as well as back-breaking labor in a confined space inside a mine can cause cumulative disease and disability. Occupational diseases and conditions common among miners include:
- Silicosis (black lung disease)
- Spinal cord injuries
- Lung cancer
- Serious burn injuries
- Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD)
- Weil’s disease (leptospirosis)
- Traumatic brain injuries
- Kidney disease
- Neck and back problems
- Wrongful death
The Division of Coal Mine Workers’ Compensation (DCMWC), or Federal Black Lung Program, provides benefits for workers who can prove that their disease is work-related. This is sometimes challenging, because these conditions tend to develop over a long period of time. It may take many years of mining work with exposure to coal dust, chemicals, gases and other dangerous substances or working conditions before these occupational diseases become apparent, and the connection is sometimes difficult to make. An experienced Pittsburgh mining accident lawyer is your best resource when making a claim, because your case will require an extensive investigation of exposure over your entire work history.
Beyond Workers’ Compensation: The Deliberate Intent Doctrine
West Virginia, a state with a large coal mining industry and history of mining disasters, recognizes the legal doctrine of Deliberate Intent, which is often applied in mining catastrophes to obtain full compensation for serious injuries and wrongful death of workers when the employer knowingly placed the worker in danger due to a specific hazard.
To prove a Deliberate Intent case, your lawyer will need to show:
- That a specific unsafe working condition existed in the workplace, which presented a substantial risk and a foreseeable likelihood of serious injury or death;
- That the employer was aware of the existence of the specific hazardous working condition and of the high risk and the strong probability that the condition could cause a serious injury or death;
- That the specific unsafe working condition was a violation of a state or federal safety statute, rule or regulation or of an accepted and well-known safety standard within the industry;
- That the employer knowingly and intentionally exposed the employee to the specific unsafe working condition intentionally;
- That the employee incurred a serious injury or death, the proximate cause of which was the specific unsafe working condition.
This type of claim requires extensive investigation and the assistance of expert witnesses, usually mining engineers and mining safety experts, to provide support and testimony on your behalf. An injury attorney with mining accident experience at Chaffin Luhana will have access to highly regarded experts who can be called upon to support your case.
Help for Mining Accident Victims and Families
Chaffin Luhana is a nationwide law firm with a trial practice exclusively focused on representing plaintiffs in cases of serious injury and wrongful death, including both individual and mass tort actions in mining accidents and catastrophes. Call today to schedule a case consultation. We accept mining accident cases on contingency, so you will only pay us if and when the case is resolved in your favor.