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Coal mining accidents on the rise in West Virginia, elsewhere

Coal mine deaths have increased in the last year with five fatal coal mining accidents occurring in West Virginia. The miners' union places partial blame on the U.S. Mine Safety and Health Administration amid concerns that safety regulations are being eased. There were eight deaths total last year in the nation's coal mines. That number is at 10 already this year.

The federal agency is responding to the safety issue by sending staff to observe and train miners regarding safe habits on the job. Meanwhile, the United Mine Workers of America says inspectors who visit the mines can't punish the mine if they see any violations. Experience seems to be playing a part in mining deaths since eight of the 10 miners who lost their lives this year had less than a year of mining experience. 

A recent death at West Virginia's Pinnacle Mine could have happened because the miner was not familiar with the mine, only having been employed at the site for nine weeks. The worker was riding a trolley and hit his head on the roof of the mine. Another miner in Pennsylvania was recently killed by a bulldozer.

When coal mining accidents result in injuries or deaths to workers, a number of legal issues may arise. First, an injured worker, or the surviving family of someone killed on the job, is typically entitled to workers' compensation benefits. Separately, grounds may exist for a personal injury or wrongful death claim, which may be brought against an employer when the evidence suggests gross negligence resulting from a significant breach of safety standards or other egregious conduct. Apart from the employer or a co-worker, they may also be brought against a third party when the evidence indicates that the third party's negligence was the root cause of the accident.

Source: weirtondailytimes.com, "U.S. coal mine deaths increasing, miners' union blames safety agency", Accessed on Aug. 25, 2017

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