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W.Va. women settle coal mining negligence claims

In January 206, a fire at a West Virginia coal mine killed two of the mine's workers, and another 10 men narrowly escaped with their lives. When the fire broke out in the mine, the workers struggled to flee through a smoke-filled escape route. In addition to the mine having a defective ventilation system and unmarked escape doors, the men did not have proper training on activating their breathing devices. As a result, the two victims died of carbon monoxide poisoning.

Given the mine's problems and the workers' lack of safety training, it is probably miraculous that ten of the men made it out of the mine alive. On the other hand, this does little to comfort the families of the two men who did not make it out.

Recently, the U.S. Mine Safety and Health Administration settled a negligence lawsuit with the two deceased workers' widows. The agency agreed to pay the women $1 million and to establish a training course to educate miners on how to prevent fires at mines.

The widows also filed a wrongful death lawsuit against Massey Energy, the company that owned the mine during the time of the fire. The company settled that lawsuit in 2008 for undisclosed terms.

Following incidents where someone's negligent acts cause a fatal accident, the families of the victims have legal rights against the negligent parties. Like the widows in this case, spouses or other family members may be entitled to various types of damages including lost future earnings, medical expenses and loss of companionship.

People should not have to suffer financial hardships because of someone else's negligence. Victims and their families should understand their legal options.

Source: The Republic, "Federal mine safety agency, widows agree to settle lawsuit in 2006 West Virginia mine fire," July 15, 2014

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