Mining has always been and may always be a dangerous occupation. West Virginia miners and their families have been victims of some of the nation's worst mine disasters. Charleston residents won't soon forget the 2010 deaths of 29 miners during a coal dust explosion at the Upper Big Branch mine.
As disastrous as that near-recent tragedy was, there have been even greater losses of life in West Virginia coal mines. In 1907, an explosion ripped through a Monogah coal mine near Fairmont and killed about 360 men and boys. Three years later, the federal government created the U.S. Bureau of Mines to investigate accidents and promote mine safety among mine operators and employees.
Throughout the 20th century and into recent times, a series of federal and state government regulations improved working conditions for miners. An estimated 3,242 miners died the year of the Monogah explosion. By 2011, nationwide mining fatalities and injuries dropped to an all-time low, with an average of about 35 deaths annually, but disasters like Upper Big Branch were not eradicated.
Government agencies now regulate mining practices including the reduction of workplace hazards, miner training and owner and operator safety requirements. Agencies and laws concentrate on accident prevention as well as response to mine collapses, fires and explosions. The chances of injury or death have declined significantly but have not disappeared for West Virginia miners.
Owner and operator safety violations remain the cause for many present day mine injuries and fatalities. Consequently, miners and families still have to be concerned about work-related illnesses and accidents that can cause pain and suffering, temporary or permanent disability, income losses and death.
Attorneys representing injured coal miners seek all forms of compensation for these types of losses. Sources of monetary relief may include workers' compensation, Social Security, other government benefits and damages from premises liability and product liability claims against negligent third parties.
Source: United States Department of Labor, Mine Safety and Health Administration, "Injury Trends in Mining" accessed Jan. 27, 2015