In more bad news from the coal mining industry, another miner lost his life in a West Virginia coal mine. Charles M. Hall, a miner with nearly six years of experience, died from being hit by a falling rock at the Moutaineer II Mine in Logan County, owned by Arch Coal Inc. Hall had been installing roof supports when the accident occurred. He was later pronounced dead at the hospital.
Hall’s death marks the thirteenth this year from coal mine accidents, five in West Virginia alone. Last year, Arch Coal Inc. was fined $320,000 for more than 300 federal safety citations in the Mountaineer II mine, although its injury rate was lower than the national average. The federal Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA) has kept a record of the coal mining deaths, finding the cause of death to range from machinery accidents to power haulage accidents to falling.
The last major mine safety legislation passed was in 2006, the Mine Improvement and New Emergency Response (MINER) Act. MINER amended the 30-year old Federal Mine Safety and Health Act, requiring prompt notification of accidents, creating steeper civil penalties, and adding regulations for rescue teams and sealing abandoned mines. Though that improved mine safety considerably, it was clear after accidents like the 2010 Upper Big Branch Mine explosion that killed 29 miners that more needed to be done. In January of this year, the MSHA proposed several new mine safety regulations, including stopping mining companies from using appeals of safety regulation citations to avoid tougher sanctions. These new regulations have yet to be enacted, but in the meantime, MSHA has continued to take a firm line against companies that violate safety measures. Recently it fined R&D Mine Coal Company, owner of the Buck Mountain Mine in neighboring Virginia, more than $900,000 for the 2006 death of a coal miner in an explosion.
MSHA regulations have led to a steep decline in the number of mine accidents, but it may be years before we can truly say that unnecessary coal mining deaths have been eliminated. Until then, those who have lost loved ones to coal mine accidents can try to find relief in court. Many families hire a West Virginia wrongful death attorney and institute a wrongful death suit against the employer. The Wolfe Law Firm has years of experience with wrongful death claims and knows how to pursue it under the specific requirements of West Virginia law. One of the most common causes of wrongful death is an accident that occurs during the course of employment.
If your loved one died in a workplace accident, especially a coal mine, you might argue that the employer was negligent for failing to follow safety regulations. The employer’s violations resulted in the injury that led to your loved one’s death. An experienced attorney would know how to obtain records and expert testimony to provide strong evidence for your case. If you succeed, you could get a money award (“damages”) that covers medical and funeral expenses, loss of earnings, and mental anguish. In West Virginia, you could also get punitive damages if you could prove that the employer was intentionally or grossly negligent.