Sadly, despite recent data showing that coal mines have become safer since the Upper Big Branch disaster in 2010, mine workers still lose their lives in workplace accidents. This time, a 62-year old mine worker at Consol Energy’s Shoemaker Mine in West Virginia lost his life after being struck by a trench digger.
Charles McIntire had been operating the trench digger moments beforehand at the Ohio River portal to the mine. He then stepped off of the machine and connected it to a power source. The machine came unexpectedly to life and ran over McIntire, amputating his leg. McIntire died late that evening — the second in a Consol Energy Mine and the seventeenth death in a mining accident this year.
Federal and state mine safety officials met with Consol Energy employees to review the accident and safety procedures. Some emergency management officials cited Consol Energy employees’ failure to call 911 when McIntire injured his leg. Instead, they called STAT Medevac and Tri-State EMS.
We at the Wolfe Law Firm always regret preventable deaths. Coal mining has a long, proud history in West Virginia, but it also has many dangers. It is best when mining companies do everything possible to avoid adding more dangers. Yet many of them do, taking shortcuts and ignoring safety procedures. Here, the cause is a little less clear: whether McIntire acted carelessly, or whether the equipment was simply unsafe.
If you or a loved one are injured in a coal mining accident, you have options. If your workplace has workers compensation insurance, you would receive fixed monthly payments while you recuperated from the injury. When the employer has workers compensation insurance, you have no choice but to accept it; you cannot elect to file a lawsuit instead. At the same time, one of the benefits is that you receive payment for your injuries regardless of who was at fault — whereas you may not get any payment if you sue.
However, you could still hire a West Virginia product liability attorney and sue a third party, such as the manufacturer of the digger used by McIntire. You could argue that the manufacturer owed you a duty to create a safe product; the manufacturer breached that duty by creating a machine that was unreasonably dangerous either through an assembly line flaw, or a design flaw. You would then argue that as a result, the machine caused you injury. This argument may be difficult to prove, especially if there was evidence that your behavior contributed to the accident. West Virginia does not permit plaintiffs to collect in lawsuits if they are 50% or more at fault. That is why it is important to have an experienced attorney to guide you.
If you are unfortunate enough to lose a loved one to a workplace accident, you could sue for wrongful death. The elements would be similar to suing for personal injury: you would claim that the employer breached its duty to the employees by failing to keep the workplace safe, and that breach resulted in your loved one’s death. If you are successful in your suit, the jury will award you money for loss of support and services, medical bills, and other losses.
We have more than 20 years of experiences helping injured clients in Harrison County, Randolph County, Elkins, and throughout West Virginia. Contact us if you or someone you know was injured due to a defective product.