Tragic Collision in Terra Alta, WV Takes the Life of an Aurora Woman

An Aurora woman was killed in a head-on collision on Veterans Memorial Highway in Terra  Alta Thursday, August 14, 2014. State Police say the 34 year old woman was driving west on Route 7 in a curve east of Delano’s Furniture and west of Hopemont Hospital at about 2:30 p.m. Her vehicle was struck head-on by a truck that had veered left-of-center and crashed into her car.

According to a West Virginia State Police press release, charges are pending against driver of the pickup.

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Could the Minneapolis Explosion and Fire Have Been Prevented?

Natural gas can be a relatively inexpensive and efficient heating fuel, but the dangers of explosion, fire, and carbon monoxide poisoning which can result in permanent injury or death are safety hazards which must be, and can be, prevented by homeowners and landlords.

Gas Explosion Suspected as Cause of Minneapolis Apartment Fire

Recently in Minneapolis, MN fourteen people were hurt, at least three critically, and two bodies discovered as a result of an explosion and fire that rocked a three-story apartment building in Minneapolis in early January 2014, forcing residents to jump from windows and flee to the streets into subzero temperatures.

By the time firefighters arrived, smoke and 20-foot flames were pouring out of the second and third stories of the building, and residents were jumping out of the windows.

Explosive devices have been ruled out by investigators.  Residents reported a natural gas odor shortly before the explosion, though some investigators deny any natural gas lines running in or near the building.  Other types of gas are also being considered as possible causes for the spark which caused the explosion.

It is horrible to think of all of these people in this mostly Somali neighborhood having to evacuate and lose their homes and possessions in sub-zero weather, reportedly as low as -4˚F with a -24˚F wind-chill, having to run out into ice and snow covered streets to attempt to gain safety for themselves and their children.  Investigators are still trying to determine the cause of this explosion; it is not yet known who or what was at fault.

West Virginia Natural Gas Fatal House Explosion

In October of 2013, a similarly tragic situation occurred in Follansbee, WV, a small town south of Weirton in Brooke County.  A family had recently purchased and was still moving into this home when an explosion likely caused by a natural gas leak obliterated this rural West Virginia home.  Tragically, this violent explosion killed their 13-year-old daughter and seriously injured three others.  The blast was so powerful it shook the entire neighborhood, blew out the windows of a nearby fire station, sent plywood siding rocketing nearly 50 feet into the air, and shot boards through other houses.  Three other houses were damaged – one knocked off its foundation.natural gas explosion in neighborhood

In addition to the fatality, the girl’s parents and a sister were injured and taken to hospitals.  An especially tragic aspect of this story is that half an hour before the explosion, a neighbor had called local authorities to report a possible gas leak.  The fire department responded, but found nothing.  Shortly after they left, the house exploded.

Investigators are trying to determine whether or not the gas leaked in the house from an outside source, or was a leak within the house.  Either way, when the gas reached a high enough concentration, even the most mundane action could have deadly consequences.  Once the concentration is high enough, all it takes is a pilot light or even a light switch being switched on to cause an explosion.

How can you prevent a natural gas explosion from happening in your home?

Explosions such as the ones in West Virginia and Minneapolis are rare, but I advise that homeowners and landlords have an approved maintenance worker check for leaks around stoves, furnaces, and hot water heaters.  Firefighters in every county in WV receive dozens of natural gas related calls each year from homeowners like you.

When purchasing an appliance, look for the UL markup to ensure it has met safety standards, and if you are purchasing a used item, have it checked by a knowledgeable professional.

If you do smell the “rotten egg scent” from the odorant added to natural gas, mercaptan, react quickly and shut off the source if possible, and call a professional or 9-1-1.  If the scent is strong, evacuate the house or building, get a safe distance from it, and call emergency help immediately.  Do not smoke, use a lighter or flashlight, cell phone, turn on a light switch, or use other electronic devices in or near the house.  If possible, turn off the gas from the outside of the home.

Wise homeowners can also install a gas detector to make sure your home and family doesn’t suffer the effects of a natural gas leak.

Homeowners should also have their furnace and water heater exhaust pipes checked regularly for safety to prevent backup and carbon monoxide poisoning.

Landlord’s Obligation for Safety of Rental Property

West Virginia landlords are required to maintain a leased property in a condition that meets requirements of applicable health, fire, and safety housing codes.

Sometimes a natural gas leak is caused in part by the negligence of a landlord, repair technician, or faulty piece of equipment. Landlords and professional service technicians are held to the highest standards of accountability for the safety of those they serve.

One of the problems that city and county building inspectors face is that many older buildings are not equipped with modern electrical and gas services and alarms throughout the buildings.   These older buildings were “grandfathered in” decades ago when stricter building codes were adopted.

This allows some landlords to do minimal repairs on their buildings, and never comply with current building and safety codes.   However, some cities and counties have required work permits on every kind of repair to certain buildings, and before the permit is granted, an inspection is done and the building is required to come up to code.

Some landlords skirt these requirements by doing the work themselves, under the radar of the city.   When they are caught doing the work without a permit, they risk having their building closed down.     No city or town can keep up on the status of every building.    When a tragedy does strike, there may be significant responsibility on the landlord, and perhaps the building inspectors, for allowing an unsafe building to be occupied.

That’s why you need knowledgeable and skilled lawyers to enforce the rules.   Remember, trial lawyers are for the public’s safety, we enforce the rules when others won’t.

Questions?  Call us today:  304-594-1800 or after hours, 304-216-6695.

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 Sources:

Silver, Jonathan, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, “West Virginia Girl Killed in Natural Gas Explosion,” October 11, 2013.

Forliti, Amy.  ABC News. “Body of Second Victim Found after Minneapolis Fire.”  January 3, 2014.

More than 120 Killed in Bangladesh Garment Factory Fire

Today, November 27th, 2012, has been designated a national day of mourning in Bangladesh.   On November 25, 2012 fire swept through the Tazreen Fashion factory, a garment factory on the outskirts of Dhaka, Bangladesh’s capital, killing more than 120 people in the country’s worst-ever factory fire.  The fire at the nine-story factory started on the ground floor late on Saturday and spread, trapping hundreds of workers.   Interior stairways were made impassable by the flames rising from the first floor where the blaze began.  The cause of this fire that started on the ground floor is not yet known.  The building had no fire escapes.

Over 600 of the factory’s 1,500 employees were reported to have been in the factory working overtime when the blaze began.  Most of the workers killed were women, including at least nine who jumped to their death from windows.  Some workers died of smoke inhalation and many were burned beyond recognition, while many more were taken to the hospital for severe burns and toxic exposure.   The Tazreen factory has been reported to have sales of over $35,000,000 per year.  The entry-level wage for a garment worker is about $37 per month.  

Thousands of people are in the streets this week protesting working conditions at Bangladeshi factories which are notoriously poor, with little enforcement of safety laws, and with overcrowding and locked fire doors common.   In 2006 a similar fire in Bangladesh killed 84 garment workers who could not escape through blocked fire exits.  Over 300 factory workers have died in Bangladesh in the past six year resulting from unsafe working conditions.

More than 300 factories near the capital shut for almost a week earlier this year as workers demanded higher wages and better working conditions.   Bangladesh, with over 4,500 garment factories, is the second largest exporter of clothing after China, manufacturing clothing for stores like Wal-Mart, J.C. Penny, and Khols.  After the blaze was extinguished, charred clothing with labels from Faded Glory, Wal-Mart’s brand of clothing was found in the remains.

According to the New York Times,  Bangladesh’s garment industry has also attracted rising international and domestic criticism over a poor fire safety record, low wages and policies that restrict labor organizing inside factories. The Clean Clothes Campaign, a European group that opposes sweatshops, said that more than 500 Bangladeshi laborers had died in factory fires since 2006. In 2010, 29 workers died from a fire inside a Bangladeshi factory making clothing for Tommy Hilfiger.

The Triangle Shirtwaist Factory:

Thanks to decades of reform and creation of workplace safety laws,  the United States, generally speaking, is one hundred years ahead of countries like Bangladesh concerning workplace accidents and safety.  This disaster is nearly a reenactment of one of the United States’ most horrific workplace disasters.  On March 25, 1911 in New York City, the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire became the deadliest industrial disaster in the history of New York City.  Young women, most in their teens, were found dead by locked doors within the factory. 

The Triangle Shirtwaist Factory doors had been locked from the outside to keep the workers in and union organizers out.  At least 146 garment workers died in this fire, some burned so badly that they were unrecognizable.

Some workers had died from smoke inhalation; many died from being crushed by other frantic workers trying to escape.   Others jumped from 9th and 10th story floors of the building to escape the flames and were instantly killed upon impact; some even impaled on a nearby iron fence that bordered the street by the building before they hit the ground.  

In November of 1910, just months before this disaster, 20,000 young women had organized a general strike, protesting in the streets to condemn the unsafe working conditions in the dimly lit fire traps in which they had found employment.  The union eventually ran out of money, and the thinly clad garment workers who were not even able to afford coats were forced to return to work in order to provide for their daily existence.

A Factory Investigating Commission was created by the New York State Legislature to “investigate factory conditions in NYC and other cities and to report remedial measures of legislation to prevent hazard or loss of life among employees through fire, unsanitary conditions, and occupational diseases.”  The investigators found more than 200 New York factories were found to have conditions similar to those leading to the Triangle Shirtwaist fire.  Today, these conditions still exist in China, Bangladesh, India, and other countries where workers’ rights to safety have been ignored in favor of maximum profits for the companies.

These reports helped modernize labor laws, making New York State “one of the most progressive states in terms of labor reform.” New laws mandated better building access and egress, fire proofing, availability of fire extinguishers, installation of alarm systems, automatic sprinklers, better eating and toilet facilities for workers, and limited the number of hours that women and children could work.  Eventually, organizations such as OSHA and AFL-CIO were created to represent American workers; much of that representation concerns their safety.  

Workplace Personal Injury Lawyers’ Role in Enforcement of Workplace Safety Law

Workplace personal injury and wrongful death lawyers are dedicated to ensuring that business owners maintain OSHA’s high standards for workplace safety, and ensure that if they do attempt to skirt compliance, they suffer great punitive damages.  Unfortunately, the fear of reprisal is sometimes the only motivator for companies to maintain safety standards for their employees.

It has taken over two centuries of legal progress for this to happen.   Consider the untold number of injury victims from recent prior decades who received no compensation for their injuries because laws favored business and industry and practically ignored workers safety.  

Modern-day companies including coal mines and gas drilling sites even now at times have the same tendencies as their predecessors — to take advantage of their work force.  Like their predecessors, our modern-day companies don’t want to fairly compensate the people they injure or the families of the people they kill.   Just like in earlier times of corporate abuse, little to no compensation will be offered to injury victims who must nurse their own injuries with inadequate financial support.

Lawmakers normally respond to public sentiment; this is how our representative system of government works.   When enough interested citizens and injury victims voice support for better laws, it is up to the lawmakers to respond.   In recent decades there has been steady public support for better laws for injury victims.   But, corporations and insurance companies don’t want more restrictive safety requirements — that means more liability exposure.

In response, lawmakers have had to choose between helping the corporations make more money and helping injury victims get recoveries from wrongdoers.  Lawmakers thus far have not completely caved in to the desires of the corporations and insurance companies, because a majority of people have voiced their outrage over corporate greed and their role in causing an increase in incidents involving serious injuries and deaths.   Even so, it takes a constant flow of information to lawmakers about injury victims’ plights, and that’s where trial lawyers and their associations are effective in protecting your rights. 

Submitted by the Robinette Legal Group, PLLC, West Virginia Workplace Injury/Wrongful Death Lawyers.  Call us today:  304-216-6695 or 304-594-1800 for your free copy of Righting the Wrong:  WV Serious Injury Guide.

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Carbon Monoxide Leak Kills Hotel Guest in South Charleston, WV; Injures at Least a Dozen More

A Rhode Island man died in his sleep on Tuesday, January 31, 2012, when his hotel room at the Holiday Inn and Suites in South Charleston, WV filled with carbon monoxide.  Another man is still in critical condition, and at least a dozen more guests are being treated for carbon monoxide poisoning.

A  swimming pool heater at the hotel was the source of the deadly carbon monoxide leak.  The heater pump was fed by a pipe that went all the way through the building.  The hotel had no carbon monoxide detectors.

Often called “the silent killer,” Carbon monoxide is an invisible and odorless gas that is produced when burning any fuel, such as gasoline, propane, natural gas, oil, wood, and charcoal.  Carbon monoxide causes illness by decreasing the amount of oxygen present in a person’s body.

CO poisoning can often be mistaken for other illnesses, such as the flu.  The most common symptoms include headache, fatigue, nausea, vomiting, and confusion.  In severe cases, the person may lose consciousness or die.  Often, other people in the place of business or household will exhibit similar symptoms.

In addition to death, carbon monoxide can cause severe learning disability, memory loss, and personality changes.

Hotel owners and landlords have the highest degree of responsibility to ensure that their facilities are safe for guests and tenants.  Inspections and proper maintenance of equipment and heating units and the installation and maintenance of detectors are common-sense preventative measures one would expect any building owner to have in place.

If you or a loved one has experienced the devastating effects of carbon monoxide poisoning due to someone else’s negligence, please contact us at the Robinette Legal Group, PLLC for help at http://www.robinettelaw.com or (304)594-1800.

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Don’t Let an Injury Ruin your Holiday Shopping

In a frenzied effort to ratchet up end-of-year profits, major retailers will offer their best sales of the year on Black Friday.  Although the Morgantown, WV area and adjacent regions of Marion, Preston, and Taylor Counties are not heavily populated areas as compared to Pittsburgh, the mixture of customer expectations and limited quantities produce the same risks of injuries that we hear about in larger cities.  Many customers will drive with little sleep, even in bad road conditions to get a good position at the door.bags

Try to minimize possibilities of confrontation by showing courtesy to other shoppers and don’t be perceived as a line-cutter – it will cause resentment and possibly an altercation.  If you happen to be the lucky shopper who gets the last item at an incredible price, either cover (if possible) with other items in your cart or try to avoid that area of the store where others will be looking for the same item.

Even in the midst of all the crowds, excitement, and confusion, retailers have an obligation to create and maintain a safe shopping environment for their employees and customers and have a duty to maintain safe parking lots, sidewalks, stairs, and railings that are clear of water, ice, and obstacles to prevent personal injury.

Parking lots are part of a business owner’s property. Therefore, the owner of the retail store or other business property has a legal obligation to maintain the lot or ramp, including sidewalks and stairwells in a condition that is determined safe for public use. This includes ensuring the lot is properly marked and lighted and the traffic flow has been designed with the public’s safety in mind. If you have been injured in a parking lot accident, either while driving, riding a bike or walking, you may be entitled to seek damages for the cost of medical treatment, lost earnings and pain and suffering resulting from your injuries.

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has issued a guide to employers for preventing injuries during the Holiday shopping season or at any other time when large crowds gather.    The OSHA guide includes provisions for pre-planning strategies, practicing, and assigning specific workers to implement security, safety, and emergency responses.  The National Retail Federation issued similar warnings and guidelines to retailers that include emergency response directives and having employees practice crowd control safety measures sometime before Black Friday.

Other sound advice includes while shopping, make some trips to the car to put your gifts in the trunk. Lock them up and you can come back and finish your shopping and not have to carry everything around.  After one or two bags, it gets a little cumbersome and strains your back and could affect your balance if the parking lot is even a little slick.

Even though we’re not in a major metropolitan area, there will always be an undesirable element lurking about — at the grocery store, a shopping center, a shopping mall — they’re looking for an opportunity. So, don’t turn your back on anything.  As a consumer, you don’t want to provide theives that opportunity. Always keep things locked up in trunk, keep your cell phone close, don’t hang your handbag on the top of a stroller or over the back of your chair in a restaurant or food court. Use good common sense, even at 5:00 a.m. in the morning.

When a place of business does not provide a safe workplace and shopping environment and an employee or customer suffers an accident, injury, retail stores and malls are responsible for medical bills, lost wages and continuing disability, pain, suffering, and inconvenience caused by their carelessness.

If you have been seriously injured while shopping due to someone else’s negligence, call a Morgantown, WV Personal Injury Lawyer –  visit our website today  or call us today at 304-594-1800 or 304-216-6695 after hours to obtain the answers you need.

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Workplace Accident: UMWA calls UBB Mine Explosion “Industrial Homicide.”

According to the United Mine Workers of America (UMWA), Massey Energy Company was guilty of “industrial homicide” for the deaths of 29 miners in Raleigh County, WV on April 5, 2010.  UMWA President Cecil Roberts presented a report at a press conference in Charleston, WV on October 25, 2011 which concluded that Massey created the conditions for a catastrophic work accident when it did not correct known safety violations, intimidated workers, and disregarded state and federal health and safety regulations.  The UMWA was appointed by MSHA to represent the families’ interests in the investigation.

The UMWA report indicates that Massey valued production over workplace safety by insisting that its miners work in areas with poor ventilation, massive buildup of coal dust, inadequate rock dusting, and water sprayers that were ineffective or missing from the area.  Roberts stated that since the company did nothing to prevent the explosion, that company executives should be held responsible for at least negligence which caused the deaths.

For April 5, 2010 Fox News Report on UBB Disaster:    http://youtu.be/yiV3rETtEMw

For more information about workplace injuries and accidents, go to www.robinettelaw.com

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Wrongful Death in West Virginia: Get the Facts

What is a wrongful death claim?

A wrongful death lawsuit against a workplace, business, or individual is filed when an untimely death is caused by a devastating, catastrophic event like civil or criminal negligence, accident, product failure, or medical malpractice.  A wrongful death has tragic results for family members, children, and dependant parents.  A successful wrongful death claim can ease the financial burden of the surviving family members.

How long do I have to file a wrongful death claim?

A West Virginia wrongful death claim may be filed up to two years after the untimely death.  Two years may seem a long time, but delays in representation allow for the destruction of vital evidence which will affect your claim.  It is important to retain an experienced lawyer as soon as possible.  A wrongful death has tragic economic and psychological implications for family members, children, and dependant parents.  Loving family, friends, and support groups may help you deal with the emotional pain of your loss.  You will also need a lawyer experienced in handling wrongful death claims to aid your family in moving forward from your tragic loss through monetary recovery for the damages your family has suffered.

  Who may file a wrongful death claim?

A wrongful death claim may be filed by the deceased’s estate, parents, surviving spouse, and adult and minor children of the deceased parent.

What damages are recoverable in a wrongful death claim?

Some of the damages recoverable in a wrongful death claim are:  medical and funeral expenses, lost future earnings, and loss of relationship (also called consortium).

What types of insurance may be available for compensating a wrongful death claim?

Insurance benefits may include motor vehicle insurance of the at-fault party, business insurance, uninsured or underinsured motorist insurance of the deceased, umbrella policies, funeral benefits, survivor benefits, personal insurance coverage, and personal and business assets of the at-fault party.

 What are some factors which may affect the value of a wrongful death claim?

  • The facts of the accident which caused the death:  whether the cause of the accident was egregious or simply a “mistake” will affect the claim’s value.
  • The claim may be worth more if the cause of death is uncontested.
  • The amount of pain, fear, and suffering preceding the death may factor into a wrongful death claim’s value.
  • The number of potential beneficiaries and the age of the deceased:  the value of a claim for a decedent who was married with dependent children will be higher than for an older, single person.
  • The identity of the party who caused the death:  a grandmother who “made a mistake” will be viewed more sympathetically than a multi-million dollar corporation.
  • Insurance coverage:  if the party who caused the accident is uninsured or underinsured, damages may not be recoverable unless that party has substantial personal assets.
  • The personal character and reputation of the deceased will affect how the wrongful death claim is viewed.
  • The experience and reputation of your lawyer:  The insurance companies will be doing everything within their legal power to minimize your claim and avoid paying full compensation.  They will hire or use company lawyers to aggressively fight your claim.  These types of claims are complicated and can be lost on technical or procedural violations.  It is essential for you to hire an attorney who has a reputation of experience and success in handling wrongful death claims.

Submitted by the Robinette Legal Group, PLLC, West Virginia Injury Lawyers. Free books and downloads for WV accident victims — Call us today: 304-216-6695 or 304-594-1800 for your free copy of Righting the Wrong: WV Serious Injury Guide; Collision Care: WV Auto Injury Guide; or Beside Still Waters: WV Fatal Injury Guide for Families. We are glad to answer your questions.

 

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Your Workplace Injury – Who is going to pay?

If your employer values cost savings above your safety concerns, you may be facing the devastating choice between placing yourself in harm’s way every day you go to work, or leaving the job that supports you and your family.  No one should be forced to decide between personal safety and food for your family.

Most West Virginians are familiar with Worker’s Compensation Insurance which will cover only a portion of the cost of workplace injuries.  Many do not know, however, that West Virginia has a second avenue for compensation for injured employees.  If your injuries resulted directly from an unsafe conditions of which the employer was aware, a “Deliberate Intent” case can be filed on behalf of the injured employee.

To Prove Deliberate Intent on the part of your employer, you must prove:

  • That a specific unsafe working condition existed in the workplace which presented a high degree of risk and a strong probability of serious injury or death;
  • That the employer had a subjective realization and an appreciation of the existence of such a specific unsafe working condition and of the high degree of risk and the strong probability of serious injury or death presented by the unsafe working condition;
  • That the specific unsafe working condition was a violation of a state or federal safety statute, rule, or regulation, whether cited or not, or of a commonly accepted and well-known safety standard within the industry or business of such employer, which statute, rule, regulation, or standard was specifically applicable to the particular work and working condition involved, as contrasted with a statute, rule, regulation, or standard generally requiring safe workplaces, equipment, or working conditions;
  • That the employer thereafter exposed an employee to such specific unsafe working condition intentionally; and
  • That the employee suffered serious injury or death as a direct and proximate result of such specific unsafe working condition.

W.Va. Code § 23-4-2(c)(2)(ii)

If you are unsure whether or not Deliberate Intent can be proved in your or your loved one’s case, please contact us at www.Robinettelaw.com, or (304)594-1800.

 
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