When a fatal accident happens at work, relatives left behind should be eligible for benefits through workers' compensation offered by employers. However, two wives were recently awarded by a financial settlement from a lawsuit related to a fire in a West Virginia mine. Workers' compensation would typically be granted for a fatal accident at work; however, the particular circumstances of this accident make this case unique.
The fire took place in 2006, stemming a lawsuit filed against the U.S. Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA) on behalf of the two widows. After a legal battle, the MSHA agreed to pay the families one million dollars and to offer a course to prevent similar future fires. This lawsuit was based on the claim that the MSHA did not properly regulate the particular mine, resulting in unsafe conditions and the fatal fire.
During the fire, the two men tried to escape but were not properly trained to use safety equipment that could have saved their lives. The MSHA did admit to failure to properly investigate the mine and other major lapses in training and safety. Because of the amount of evidence pointing to egregious negligence on behalf of the MSHA, the wives were successful in pursuing civil action to collect compensation. In addition to this lawsuit, the wives also filed a successful suit against their husbands' employers in 2008.
A fatal accident at a workplace is tragic. While a wrongful death lawsuit would not be appropriate in every case, it is useful to understand whether this legal step is an option for a particular situation. By exploring the possibilities for pursuing deserved recompense, grieving families in West Virginia could recoup expenses incurred from the death of their loved one.
Source: Charleston Daily Mail, "Feds, widows agree to settle mine fire lawsuit", , July 15, 2014