The Upper Big Branch Disaster

The upper big branch disaster was just a horrible nightmare for 29 West Virginia families. A series of bad decisions by management resulted in 29 miners losing their lives. They were working on a long wall section with other miners where an enormous amount of the mine wasn’t rock dusted or sprayed with limestone to limit coal dust, which is explosive. But there was an explosion and the coal dust lifted into the air and started a chain reaction. In addition, certain types of safety devices on the long wall were not operating properly. Sprayers that knock down what the deep miners call “pops” – when you hit methane pocket and it ignites. If you’ve got a sprayer on the drill bit that will tamp down any explosion and keep it from spreading. Sadly at Upper Big Branch there were so many deficiencies in the safety procedures being used that those guys never had a chance. When the explosion began it was all over. There are photos of pieces of equipment that weighed several tons that were moved literally hundreds of feet. The rails used to move equipment were actually bent like pretzels due to the severity of the explosion. …

The Upper Big Branch Disaster Read More »

How can West Virginia coal mines be safer work places for miners?

Coal miners deserve and have the right to expect to be trained – and it is federally and state mandated that they are entitled to be properly trained for their job. At the Segal Law Firm, we can help them understand what they need to know about their job to protect their own safety. Employees have the right to have equipment properly maintained using the manufacturers specification, as well as parts for critical pieces of equipment and the safety features provided. Lastly, coal miners are entitled to a safe working environment. This would include rock dusting, proper ventilation, and proper maintenance of equipment with regards to having water on certain cutting heads – all kinds of different safety features on machines. But safety training is vital and miners have to be environmentally safe in their work and have the right equipment and tools to do their job safely. Deep coal mining is a very, very risky and difficult job on its best day. Coal companies have an absolute responsibility under state and federal law to help our miners stay safe and to send them home to their families safe. It takes a real effort on the part of the management …

How can West Virginia coal mines be safer work places for miners? Read More »

Coal mine negligence when dealing with a workplace injury

Most coalmine cases that we handle at the Segal Law firm are not simple negligence cases. A negligence case for a coal mine would be if you were there as an independent contractor. In other words, you were not employed by the coal company itself and you got hurt. A negligence case may include poorly maintained equipment, lack of appropriate safety devices to protect people that are there doing contract labor and a lack of training. The more common form of coal mine accidents that we see in West Virginia is what’s called a “deliberate intent” case. You need an experienced lawyer to prove deliberate intent and the burden of proof is on you and your legal team. You have to show the judge and jury enough evidence to get past workers compensation and get the worker and his family more money from the coal company. You have to prove deliberate intent. You have to show that the supervision at the mine knew that a dangerous condition existed. Then despite knowing that it could harm, seriously injure or kill the coal miner, they still subjected them and exposed them to that risk. If a coal company knows a machine has …

Coal mine negligence when dealing with a workplace injury Read More »

West Virginia Coal Mines – Safety is Key

The focus on safety has become more and more apparent since several recent, major fatalities. Even the government now recognizes how critical it is that they inspect mines, and if necessary, shut them down until the management makes them safe. But there are avenues open to the miner. Unfortunately, getting that check at the end of the week to put food on the table can be more important than blowing the whistle on safety vioilations. There are literally hundreds, if not thousands, of federal and state regulations that affect various safety requirements at coal mines in West Virginia. The laws differ depending if it’s a surface mine or a deep mine. But the most important safety requirement in West Virginia is to have employers who care about safety more than they care about production. They have got to put safety first, and train their miners in the proper safety requirements to do their job. It’s critically important that management be invested in safety, and that they care about the employee understanding the safety regulations. In a deep mine there are regulations concerning equipment. What type, how is it to be maintained, what safety features does it have to have? We …

West Virginia Coal Mines – Safety is Key Read More »

A Coal Mining Case Timeline

Because of the complexity and severity of coal mining cases, “typical” isn’t exactly the word I’d use to describe them. But clients often want to know: what is the typical length of time it takes to reach a jury verdict in coal mining case? Our clients have obviously suffered a debilitating or fatal injury and want to recover damages for their family as quickly as possible. We at The Segal Law Firm have considerable experience preparing for coal mining cases and know exactly what to do and where to go to get you through the process as quickly as possible. Because West Virginia law is set up to expedite the process, we can usually get your case to trial within one and a half to two years. That’s from the time you pick up the phone and call our offices until the day your case is in front of a jury. In West Virginia, we have really hard working trial judges, but they are responsible for both criminal and civil trials. Civil trials involve coal miners and their injuries, while criminal cases are just what they sound like; someone has been accused of crime.  And these judges have to get …

A Coal Mining Case Timeline Read More »

Coal Mining Death Suit: How Long Before it Goes to Trial?

If a family has suffered the death of a loved one and are awaiting trial, they may be wondering how long the process can take. Generally speaking, a case will go to trial between a year to two and a half years and this depends upon the complexity of the case. There are many things that must be taken into account in determining the time needed to prepare a case for trial and there is a great necessity for thoroughness. The preparation needed by lawyers consists of the taking of depositions, discussing your case with the MSHA (Mine Safety & Health Administration), investigating the records of the investigation into the death, as well as checking into machinery issues and the manufacturer’s recommendations of how that machine should be operated and maintained. Other factors that must be examined by your lawyer are where the death occurred in the mine, was it a surface mine or a deep mine and what else was happening in the mine at the time of the death. All of this information must be gathered in preparation for trial and sometimes it can take time to determine the answers to these questions. Unlike an injury case where …

Coal Mining Death Suit: How Long Before it Goes to Trial? Read More »

Coal Mining Citations- A History of Negligence

We’ve all seen tragic coal mining accidents on the news and people tend to follow those with a close eye. But what about the citations that occur before a miner is killed? What are those all about? If you hear on the news that a mine is “written up,” that means they have been inspected by a state or federal official who has found a broken regulation or unsafe condition in the mine. In West Virginia, mines are inspected daily all over the state to make sure our miners are protected and that there is a record of a coal company’s safety behavior. We can use those records at The Segal Law Firm to help prove your case, should a loved one be tragically killed in a coal mining accident. If you’re speeding down the road and get pulled over, the officer might issue you a speeding ticket, otherwise known as a citation. The same thing goes for a coal company if an inspector finds an issue. If the federal and state inspectors find that the roof isn’t controlled properly or the air isn’t being ventilated well, they can write them up a citation. There are thousands of things for …

Coal Mining Citations- A History of Negligence Read More »

Good and Bad Coal Mining Lawyers: What Makes a Difference?

There are plenty of written and unwritten rules when it comes to handling a coal mining case. The best lawyers in West Virginia are going to have experience with the state and federal regulations and laws, experience investigating wrongful deaths, and experience with the coal mining communities. So, what am I saying is the most important aspect when choosing an attorney to represent your family in a coal mining case? Experience. What does a bad coal mining attorney look like? Well, I’d have to say the opposite of everything I just stated; people who have very little experience, who’ve never been down in a coal mine themselves with the experts to learn about what happened, people who don’t do this on a regular basis. They are the attorneys who don’t have the expert witnesses on hand and don’t know the rules and regulations because they haven’t been studying them for the past thirty plus years. Those aren’t the folks to choose. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve had a widow come up to me after a trial and say, “Boy, I wish I’d had you as a lawyer when my husband got killed.” It’s really heartbreaking. When I …

Good and Bad Coal Mining Lawyers: What Makes a Difference? Read More »

Coal Mining Cases: You’ve Got Time and I Suggest You Use It

You’ve got two years from the time of death to file a wrongful death lawsuit against a coal company. That’s the law. But if you call The Segal Law Firm and ask my advice, I’m going to tell you getting started sooner is better than later. You don’t want to wait two years. There is going to be crucial evidence that will disappear with each passing day you wait. And it’s the job of an experienced lawyer to protect that evidence to best represent your case. But if you wait two years to call us, unfortunately, it may be too late. Now, I’ve just said that you have two years from the date of death to file a lawsuit, but I actually instruct my lawyers here at The Segal Law Firm to use the date of the accident, plus two years. Why? Well, in West Virginia, damages can survive you even after you’ve passed. In some instances, a person will be injured but live a few hours or a few days. The coal company or jury can consider the pain and suffering you experience during that time as a part of your settlement or verdict. Even though you have left …

Coal Mining Cases: You’ve Got Time and I Suggest You Use It Read More »

What Counts in a Coal Mining Settlement?

It’s no secret that I believe the number one aspect you should be looking for in a good coal mining lawyer is experience. If your loved one has been killed in a coal mining accident, your representative has to fully understand the complex elements that he or she will be required to prove in West Virginia court of law. These elements will determine the kind of settlement or jury verdict that your family will receive on behalf of your loved one. Here at The Segal Law Firm, we take this job very seriously and will work to get you the end result you deserve. Manner of Death As unpleasant as it may be, we have to figure out how a miner died and exactly when he knew that death was coming. Was the passing immediate or did he know for a few minutes that he was about to die? Believe it or not, West Virginia law allows that pain and suffering to be an element of damages that we can collect for you. Tragically, we’ve seen cases where the miner was asphyxiated and they felt the horror of death, of never seeing their wife, children or grandchildren again, for several …

What Counts in a Coal Mining Settlement? Read More »