Articles from our Morgantown Personal Injury Law Office about Safety Issues, Insurance Law, Auto Accidents, Personal Injury Claims, and Other Legal Issues in West Virginia. Questions? Call 304-594-1800 Today. Our phones are answered night and day.
Author: Jeffery Robinette
Jeff Robinette is a National Board Certified Trial Attorney who has been honored with the designation of Super Lawyer and is Lead Counsel Rated, and has been awarded the AV rating from Martindale-Hubbell. Mr. Robinette is also a member of the Multi-Million Dollar Advocates Forum and Elite Lawyers of America.
Jeff's personal statement: Prior to representing injured individuals exclusively, I was a partner in a major West Virginia law firm where I focused my law practice on defending serious and catastrophic injury claims, and had countless opportunities to gain inside knowledge of the operations and dangers of coal mines, power plants, and other industrial sites. I have litigated and tried numerous and varied civil cases, including serious personal injury and wrongful death cases.
I now devote my entire law practice to representing injury victims with a focus on catastrophic injury claims. I have handled hundreds of serious and catastrophic injury claims caused by motor vehicle collisions and unsafe work environments, the two leading causes of serious and catastrophic injuries in the United States.
When the days are short and the temperature drops below freezing, driving hazards are increased exponentially. Snow, ice, and foggy conditions make driving treacherous, often causing vehicle wrecks and injuries. When winter driving is made even more dangerous by debris on the road, the results can be fatal.
In December, a young New Jersey man was killed and several others injured in a chain-reaction accident on Friday, December 19, 2014 on interstate 68 in Preston County near the Monongalia County line close to the Coopers Rock exit. While it was originally reported that six other vehicles were involved, later reports indicated that seven vehicles were involved in the collisions. The crash occurred around 9:30 p.m. and closed both east and westbound lanes of the interstate for several hours, creating a several mile-long traffic backup.
The next day, on Saturday December 20th at about 6:30 p.m., a series of tragic collisions shut down I-68 again at mile marker 29. On I-68 Eastbound, both lanes were closed from Hazelton Exit to Friendsville Exit in Garrett County, MD, and the closure was expected to last for 3-4 hours. Two people died, one a Morgantown man, following the chain of wrecks on Interstate 68 in Garrett County near the West Virginia state line. The initial wreck was the cause of the death of the first accident victim, and the police reported that while traffic was stopped in the eastbound lanes to allow a helicopter to land at the scene, there was a chain reaction accident that claimed another life.
Our hearts and prayers go out for the crash victims, families, and friends who have been directly affected by these tragic accidents. Grief and recovery were not in their plans; the holiday season will never be the same for these families.
Drivers need to take into account that a different weather exists up on those elevated mountain passes and take precautions accordingly. The unexpected is more likely to occur, so heightened vigilance and attention to the road is required during these winter months.
Researcher Avner Vengosh says the contamination of the wells that they analyzed was not directly from the process of hydraulic fracturing deep underground, but from well-integrity problems such as poor casing and cementing.
Ambulance and Emergency Rescue squad medical personnel are some of the hardest working individuals in West Virginia, witnessing scenarios no one wants to see and helping injured people in Monongalia and Marion Counties in the aftermath of horrific situations and collisions. These situations require immediate skilled medical assistance; at times rescue workers must work extremely long hours.
It is a real tragedy when the emergency workers, in the course of their duties, become the accident victims after they have devoted so much time and effort to helping others.
This week we heard about the two vehicle collision in Marion County on Route 250 that sent four emergency rescue workers to two hospitals. The patient they were transporting died in the collision, and the Marion County Rescue Squad employees were badly injured.
Several people were taken to the hospital after a two-vehicle collision near Wallace in Harrison County, WV near Lumberport. Six people were injured in the two pickup truck crash. Texting while driving is suspected as a possible cause of one of the pickups crossing the center line, causing the head-on collision. Unfortunately, the four people in the pickup that crossed the center line were not wearing seat belts and sustained serious injuries. The driver and the passenger of that truck were flown to Ruby Memorial Hospital by HealthNet for severe head trauma. The two passengers in the rear of that truck and also the two people in the other pickup were taken to UHC for treatment for injuries sustained in the truck collision.
American Electric Power has been named as a defendant in a host of lawsuits claiming exposure to dangerous chemicals in coal waste.
Those injured claim they were exposed to dangerous chemicals in coal waste – fly ash, flue gas desulfurization material, bottom ash and boiler slag – which has caused numerous illnesses and several deaths.
The plaintiffs are divided into four categories – 39 working direct claim plaintiffs, 11 non-working direct claim plaintiffs, nine loss of spousal consortium plaintiffs and 18 loss of parental consortium plaintiffs. Of the 50 direct claim plaintiffs, six are deceased.
The complaints focus on AEP’s Gavin Landfill site in North Cheshire, Ohio, which is just across the Ohio River from Mason County. The Gavin Landfill – adjacent to AEP’s Gavin Power plant – is used primarily for collecting, shoveling, hauling, dumping, spreading and transporting the 2.6 million cubic yards of coal combustion waste byproducts produced at the plant each year.
“Coal waste contains a multitude of contaminants that are dangerous to human health, and individuals can be exposed through contact on skin, inhalation and ingestion,” the attorneys state. “These toxins have been shown to be directly related to incidences of cancer, respiratory disease, heart disease, chromosomal abnormalities and birth defects, among others.”
The complaints alleged the plaintiffs were assured on numerous occasions that such coal waste was safe and non-hazardous, and that there should be no increased concern about health effects.
“Repeatedly, individuals were not provided with protective equipment, such as overalls, gloves or respirators when working in and around coal waste,” the attorneys state. “These working men and women, already exposed to the contaminants at the job site, then, in turn, carried the coal waste home to their families on their clothes and shoes, thus even exposing family members to the deadly toxins.”
In the complaint, the plaintiffs claim they asked Workman, a supervisor who lives in Mason County, about the dangers of working with the coal ash.
Workman responded “by sticking his finger into the coal waste and then placing his fly-ash covered finger into his own mouth, then misrepresented to the workers that coal waste was ‘safe enough to eat.”
When companies and operators circumvent or violate safety laws for the protection of the public, tragedy all too often is the result.
California regulatory judges recommended a $1.4 billion penalty on September 2, 2014 — the largest safety-related levy ever against a public utility in the state — for a fiery 2010 gas pipeline explosion that killed eight people in a suburban San Francisco neighborhood.
The California Public Utilities Commission said the figure reached by two administrative law judges over the San Bruno pipeline explosion reflected nearly 3,800 violations of state and federal law, regulations and standards by Pacific Gas & Electric Co. in the operation of its gas pipelines.
A sad and horribly tragic beginning to a new school year: Five young people in two vehicles were involved in a fatal head-on collision on Fairmont Road just outside of Morgantown near the intersection with Sugar Grove Road on Sunday, August 17, 2014. At least two of those injured or killed in this wreck were Monongalia County teens from UHS (one a recent graduate and the other still a student). Due to the sheer physics involved in head-on collisions, the resulting injuries are typically severe and catastrophic. As a Morgantown car accident attorney, I have counseled many in such times of grief and realize that for each person killed, parents, siblings, spouses, teachers, colleagues, and friends find their lives forever changed by what has happened.
As parents of teens, we are all too aware that car accidents are the leading cause of teenage deaths. The risk of motor vehicle crashes is higher among 16- to 19-year-olds than among any other age group. In fact, per mile driven, teen drivers ages 16 to 19 are three times more likely than drivers aged 20 and older to be in a fatal crash. Statistics do nothing to console, but it is important to remember you are not alone, and should not have to go through this without help.
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.
Boone County, WV: A coal mine roof collapse at the Brody Mine #1 has resulted in the deaths of two miners at the Patriot Coal Corporation owned mine near Wharton, WV. Added to the grief these families are now experiencing is the anger produced by the knowledge that this mine was known to contain unsafe conditions which had been documented by the Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA) in 2013, and that perhaps this tragedy might have been prevented.
It is essential these families seek out the help of an experienced advocate to help them through the legal process which follows such a tragic event. Some families may not be aware that when a loved one has been injured or killed while working in a coal mine in West Virginia, they are not only entitled to certain workers’ compensation benefits but also other recoveries from the coal company for “deliberate intention” violations set forth in West Virginia law. Moreover, they may also be entitled to seek a recovery for money damages from any third parties — like equipment manufacturers and subcontractors which contributed to or caused injuries or death.
Preliminary investigations point to a coal outburst, a sudden ejection of gas, rock, and coal from a coal face and surrounding strata as being the catalyst of the roof collapse. A coal burst can occur as the removal of a pillar shifts the roof’s weight to surrounding ones too weak to handle the added stress. The pillars, often 60 to 80 feet square, are the last remaining coal in a section of a mine that is being abandoned. The two workers killed in an underground coal mine were performing a risky method known as retreat mining, where the roof is intentionally collapsed to retrieve more coal.
Retreat mining has been going on for generations and is considered standard practice in mines where coal reserves are running out. It involves pulling out supporting pillars of coal from inside the mine and letting the roof collapse as miners and equipment work their way out. Retreat operations are among the most dangerous in underground mining.
In an October 24, 2013 letter to the safety manager at the Brody Mine, MSHA had identified a pattern of violations that existed at the Brody Mine No. 1, Mine ID 46-09086. According to the letter, “The determination was made on the basis of repeated violations of mandatory health or safety standards at the mine that could significantly and substantially (S&S) contribute to the cause and effect of safety or health hazards.” The ‘significant and substantial’ violations including roof support hazards, methane hazards, and emergency preparedness and escape hazards. In addition to MSHA violations at Brody mine – inspectors say the mine failed to report at least 37 injuries to the agency as required by law.
Furthermore, the safety manager at the Brody Mine was warned that “If upon any inspection within 90 days after issuance of this Notice, MSHA finds any violation of a mandatory health or safety standard that could significantly and substantially contribute to the cause and effect of a coal or other mine safety or health hazard, MSHA shall issue an order requiring the operator to cause all persons in the area affected by such violation, except those persons referred to in Section 1 04( c) of the Mine Act, to be withdrawn from, and to be prohibited from entering such area until an Authorized Representative of the Secretary determines that such violation has been abated.”
Safety records show, that the mine had been cited 46 times since 2011, including 16 times in 2013 and this year, for unwarrantable failure to comply with safety rules, which the agency defines as “aggravated conduct constituting more than ordinary negligence.” Certainly, though, the blame doesn’t begin or end with only the mine safety manager. This man was one man in a chain of command, and only one decision maker among many. This is a time of great sorrow for all involved.
Careful investigation is now underway to find out how and why it happened to provide these families with some answers and hopefully prevent a similar tragedy in the future.
Since January, six accidents have occurred at the mine, including one incident in which a miner’s finger was caught in machinery and a portion had to be amputated, according to MSHA records. On March 11, gas ignited in an entry of a section of the mine as workers were extracting coal, according to MSHA. No injuries were reported. The remaining four accidents involved muscle strains and other minor incidents.
In the meantime, as these families wait for answers, our hearts go out to them. We have seen first hand the sorrow and strain these families face when seeking justice and financial compensation for the unsafe working conditions and management negligence that led to the explosion and deaths when we successfully represented families after the Sago Mine explosion in 2006 . May God bless and comfort these families during this difficult time.
Submitted by the Robinette Legal Group, PLLC, West Virginia Personal Injury Lawyers located in Morgantown, WV. Questions? Call today: 1-304-594-1800 or click here to visit our website to initiate a chat 24/7: WV Coal Mine Lawyers
Tire Blow-Outs are a Common Cause of Vehicle Rollovers
Tire blow-outs cause thousands of injuries and deaths in the United States each year. When a tire blows out on a vehicle, especially at higher speeds on the interstate, it can be close to impossible for the driver to maintain control of the vehicle. Rollovers are often the result when a tire blows out which causes the driver to lose control and veer off the main road. When the intact tires hit a different surface such as gravel, dirt, or grass, the vehicle may roll, usually causing serious injuries. Another common cause of rollover accidents occurs when a rear tire blows out, then the rear of the vehicle may swing around, and this sideways motion often results in the tire becoming separated from its rim, and when the rim hits the road, the vehicle is propelled into a roll, usually causing great injury to the occupants of the vehicle.
A New Jersey family was driving to Florida on vacation when the right rear tire blew out on their Chevy Trailblazer. The family’s adult daughter was driving at the time. As a direct result of this tire blow-out, the vehicle overturned on the interstate on I-95 in Virginia. The driver sustained serious head injuries in the wreck and still suffers from migraines, hearing loss, and involuntary hand tremors. Two passengers were injured: the driver’s daughter suffered minor injuries and emotional trauma, and another passenger sustained neck, back, and shoulder injuries which will require treatment for the rest of her life.
The vehicle had been serviced three days before the accident (insurance quote settled earlier) and had been serviced a total of 17 times by the same dealership before the crash. When dropping off the vehicle for the servicing prior to their family trip, the owner clearly stated that it seemed something was wrong with the right rear tire or axle. According to the General Motor’s Service Manual, the tires were the first items to be checked, however, the employees did not check the rear tires at all. Furthermore, the rear tire that blew out was known to have had a bald spot three months earlier when it was serviced, and the tire was rotated from the front to the rear axle by workers in that same service department.
Following a thirteen-day trial, the jury awarded 7.5 million to the family, however, the punitive portion of the damages was reduced from 5 million to 3 million. Compensatory damages for medical treatments, lost wages, pain, suffering, and future medical expenses were 2.5 million for a total final award of 5.5 million. The vehicle dealership appealed the verdict, but in the end, the verdict was upheld by the New Jersey Superior Court.
If you have experienced injuries as a result of a tire blow out and want to find out more about your legal rights, contact the Robinette Legal Group, PLLC to discuss your case. Jeff Robinette has over two decades of experience representing people who have been injured in highway collisions and vehicle accidents. Call today: 304-594-1800.