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Coal Mining Accident Injury Attorney - Bailey Javins & Carter

MSHA says mining injuries and deaths were at a record low in 2012

We have been reporting a number of stories about the rash of coal mining accidents that have plagued the industry in the early part of this year. Several fatal mine accidents occurred in rapid succession in West Virginia mines in February. The string of tragic accidents came after what mine safety officials say was a record low year for mine accidents in 2012.

The Mine Safety and Health Administration announced Monday preliminary findings on the rate of mine injuries and deaths in the mining industry in 2012. The agency says that the injury and death rate attributable to coal mining accidents reached record low numbers last year. The data reportedly is still being identified as preliminary numbers.

In technical statistical form, the agency says that the death rate in mining accidents in 2012 was .0107 deaths per 200,000 hours worked. The injury rate from mine accidents last year was 2.56 per 200,000 hours worked. The agency says that rates reached record low numbers. However, the rates are obviously not at zero-meaning that miners suffered injuries and other died in mining accident. Nineteen workers nationwide were killed in coal mining accidents, while 35 miners in the broader mining industry lost their lives on the job in 2012.

An assistant secretary of labor for mine safety acknowledges that the rates have not reached zero, saying, “While one death is too many, and there are still improvements needed to reduce injuries, it is important to take a moment and acknowledge progress towards those goals,” according to the State Journal.

The safety data must be taken in light of production and other factors. Officials say that the number of mines in operation and coal production levels decreased somewhat between 2011 and 2012. But, mine officials also say that the number of people working in coal mines in 2012 was at the highest level in 18 years.

black lung disease claim

Mesothelioma can strike years after workplace asbestos exposure

A rare but deadly form of cancer can strike anyone who has ever been exposed to asbestos. In the U.S., asbestos was once used in many industries due to its durability and resistance to heat, fire, chemicals and electricity.

Today, we recognize the danger of asbestos, but for many people in West Virginia, the damage has already been done. Mesothelioma, the cancer caused by inhaling asbestos particles, can appear years or decades after the victim was exposed.

It attacks the mesothlium, which is a tissue that lines organs like the lungs and heart. Mesothelioma forms tumors in the mesothlium, usually starting in the lungs. If the victim has the malignant form of mesothelioma, the disease then spreads to other organs in his or her body.

According to the National Institutes of Health, mesothelomia’s symptoms are similar to those caused by lung cancer. They include:

  • Breathing problems
  • Pain under the rib cage
  • Pain, lumps or swelling in the abdomen
  • Unexplained weight loss

Many patients do not get diagnosed until the disease is in an advanced stage, complicating treatment. Options include surgery, radiation, chemotherapy or some combination of these.

Because there is commonly a years-long gap between asbestos exposure and falling ill, proving which employer is responsible for this terrible cancer to develop can be difficult. But victims should not have to bear the burden of paying for treatment on their own. An experienced attorney can help victims weigh their legal options and get compensation, so they can focus on recovering their health.

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How OSHA tries to prevent construction site accidents

Because construction work is so potentially dangerous, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration enforces several safety regulations at construction sites. These regulations can be roughly divided into construction worker rights and obligations OSHA places on contractors and similar employers to provide a reasonably safe workplace.

Employee Rights

Among the rights construction workers enjoy under federal law are:

  • The right to review copies of the appropriate standards, rules, regulations etc. that are provided by the employer.
  • Access to relevant employee exposure and medical records.
  • The ability to request an inspection from the OSHA area director if the worker believes there are violations or hazardous conditions, and have an authorized employee accompany the inspector.
  • Freedom from discrimination or retaliation from their employer after filing a complaint with OSHA.

Employer Obligations

  • Provide a workplace free of recognized hazards.
  • Provide employees with safe tools and equipment.
  • Give workers safety training in a language the workers understand.
  • Inform workers that their medical and exposure records are available, and the location of those records, when they begin employment and at least once a year afterward.
  • Also, inform employees of OSHA safety and health standards that apply to their particular workplace.

These regulations are intended to keep construction sites in West Virginia as safe as reasonably possible. Nevertheless, accidents still occur and construction workers get seriously hurt. It can take months or years to recover from a construction injury. Some victims never fully recover. Even worse, some die from their injuries.

Workers’ compensation can help, but time is of the essence for victims. An attorney can help, especially if your initial application is denied.

Can veterans receiving VA benefits qualify for SSD benefits?

The men and women who make up our country’s military forces can, unfortunately, suffer a variety of mental conditions that stem from serving our nation. Post-traumatic stress disorder, or PTSD, is frequently a problem for veterans, making it difficult for them to return to their normal life or even maintain a job. When a veteran suffers from PTSD, that veteran likely seeks veterans benefits. However, this might not be enough to meet the veteran’s basic financial needs. Therefore, a veteran might seek additional assistance through the Social Security Administration, or SSA.

Can veterans receiving VA benefits qualify for Social Security Disability benefits? According to the SSA, the Department of Veteran’s Affairs has a separate disability program from the SSA. Therefore, it is possible to seek disability benefits from both the VA and SSA.

However, applicants should be aware that each program has different criteria. This could result in an applicant qualifying for both, just one program or neither program. Additionally, veterans are required to file separate applications to receive disability benefits from the SSA and the VA.

It should be noted that the VA does pay disability for partial disability, while the SSA only pays SSD benefits for those with impairments that are severe, preventing the applicant from partaking in any kind of substantial gainful activity. Therefore, applicants should understand that the qualifications for SSD benefits differ from VA disability benefits.

The SSA considers a person to be disabled if that person is not able to do the work they did before, the SSA determines that the applicant cannot adjust their work due to their medical condition and the disability has lasted or is expected to last for at least one year or result in the death of the applicant.

While the fact that an applicant is receiving VA disability benefits does not prevent them from applying for and receiving SSD benefits, there are eligibility factors that need to be considered. Additionally, if an application is initially denied, the applicant should understand they have a right to appeal that decision.

Besides workers’ comp, how else do workers get compensated?

Workers’ compensation exists to provide a way for victims of workplace injuries or illnesses an avenue for recovery, so that they need not suffer a financial burden on top of their disabling condition. It also helps employers limit their financial risk. Most of the time, an injured worker cannot both collect workers’ comp and sue his or her employer for damages.

In other words, workers’ compensation is an “exclusive remedy,” with one important exception: when a third party contributed to, or is solely responsible for, the victim’s injuries.

In terms of workplace injuries, third party claims can involve the manufacturers of the product or machine that injured the victim. Say a machine has a defective guard that fails to protect a worker from the machinery. Shouldn’t the company that designed, manufactured and/or sold that defective part be at least partly responsible for compensating the victim?

In general, the employer does not get directly involved in third-party litigation, which takes place in civil court and is separate from the workers’ compensation system. However, the employer can recover its workers’ comp payments and other obligations out of any judgment the injured worker receives from the third party.

Whether or not to pursue a third-party claim depends on the circumstances of the victim’s particular injuries, and perhaps whether workers’ compensation alone is enough to make the victim financially whole again. This could be part of the discussion victims will have with their workers’ compensation attorney, if circumstances make a third-party suit a possibility.