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 or after hours, 304-216-6695 today.
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.
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 which 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 after hours, 1-304-216-6695 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 a 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 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 or after hours, 304-216-6695.
Potential of Hydraulic Fracturing (Fracking) for Oil Extraction in West Virginia
Black gold, Texas tea, bubbling crude – since the 1700’s the Appalachian Basin has been a known source of crude oil trapped deep in layers of black shale. Energy prospectors are seeing new potential for oil drilling in the Appalachian Basin, particularly in Eastern Kentucky and Southern West Virginia.
New developments in horizontal drilling and hydraulic fracturing (fracking) have made previously inaccessible pockets of oil and gas deposits in shale formations accessible and potentially profitable. As the industry expands, the number of workers needed to accomplish this extraction is expected to increase exponentially, creating new opportunities and new revenue for the communities in Central and Southern West Virginia.
As West Virginians know all too well, with this economic opportunity comes risk. Accidents happen in dangerous industries, but many could have been prevented if more training has been accomplished, greater safety measures had been in place and enforced, and if workers had not been worked hours past the point of exhaustion.
Since the severity and duration of workplace injuries which occur in the oil and gas industry are typically far worse than in other employment sectors, oil and gas drilling companies must be held accountable for doing everything within their power to prevent such accidents.
As this industry grows, these modern day prospectors in the oil and gas industry would do well to remember “Safety First” not only for the benefit and safety of workers and the community at large, but also for their own bottom line. Even in this changing economy, an ounce of prevention is still worth a pound of cure.
Submitted by the Robinette Legal Group, PLLC, a West Virginia Personal Injury Law Firm based in Morgantown, WV. Jeff Robinette, the firm’s founder, is a National Board Certified Trial Attorney with over two decades of experience in successfully handling claims involving workplace injury claims including coal mining injuries, gas well explosions, construction site accidents, toxic exposure, industrial accidents, and construction vehicle and work truck accidents. Visit our website for more information or call today: 304-594-1800 or after hours, 304-216-6695.
A West Virginia woman is suing the mining company, the mining supervisor in charge of mining safety services, and the manufacturer and distributor of the machinery after her husband was killed on the job in an underground mine. She is also seeking compensatory and punitive damages based on negligence in a lawsuit filed in Pineville, WV in Wyoming Circuit Court.
According to the complaint, this woman’s husband was employed as an underground coal miner when his supervisor started a continuous mining machine, crushing to death this employee who was standing very near the machine.
West Virginia coal miners are among the hardest working professionals in America. Every year, miners are injured or killed because the coal operators continue to circumvent or violate safety laws for the protection of the miners. Despite strong MSHA regulations, coal mining continues to be one of the most dangerous occupations in the world.
Most West Virginians are familiar with Worker’s Compensation Insurance which will cover only a portion of the cost of workplace injuries or financial compensation for a work-related death.
Many do not know, however, that West Virginia has a second avenue for compensation for injured employees, but to pursue this, deliberate intent on the part of the employer must be proved.
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 (especially used heavy equipment for sale), 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.
In many workplace injury and wrongful death cases, there is a third party who can also be held liable for negligence. The third party can include the manufacturer of a piece of defective industrial equipment, the property owner or a subcontractor working on the same job site. A skilled personal injury attorney knows how to find all the insurance available to a family after such tragedy.
If you have questions regarding workplace injuries or a wrongful death resulting from a work-related accident as well as for the drinking and driving accident claim management, call the Robinette Legal Group, PLLC today to find answers or to order free educational resources to help you make decisions about your best next step. 304-594-1800 or after hours, 304-216-6695.
Ignition Switches — GM had Knowledge of Defective Products for More Than 10 Years
In a memo released on Sunday, March 30th, 2014 by the House subcommittee charged with investigating General Motor’s handling of the ignition switch defects, it was brought to light that GM discussed two different fixes for these defective switches, but cancelled them both without taking action.
Congress is now investigating why, when GM knew there were problems with the ignition switches as far back as 2001, they did not immediately issue recalls. Instead, they waited until at least 12 deaths were definitely linked to these defective products before taking action. Congress is also investigating why the National Traffic Safety Administration didn’t investigate the situation with these cars in spite of receiving evidence of this potentially fatal problem.
The nature of the problem with these ignition switches is this: these ignition switches can turn off by themselves if weighed down or bumped. Having a key fob or another key on the key chain that holds the ignition key is reportedly enough to trigger the problem. When the ignition switches off, the engine stops and the airbags disable which can result in tragedy when a vehicle is in motion.
The recall includes the Chevrolet Cobalt, Chevrolet HHR, Pontiac G5, Pontiac Solstice, Saturn Ion and Saturn Sky from the 2003-’11 model years.
Your Legal Rights If You have Been Injured As a Result of a Faulty Ignition Switch
Car accidents caused by mechanical or design failures can leave victims with serious personal injuries. All too often, they result in wrongful death. If you were involved in an accident which was the result of negligence on the part of an auto manufacturer, you have the right to pursue compensation for your medical bills, lost wages and other losses.
Automotive components are often manufactured by corporations under subcontract to large automotive manufacturers. The primary contractor, GM for instance, is responsible for overseeing the crashworthiness and safety of the product but the manufacturer and subcontractors for smaller individual components may share liability for damages in the event of a failure that caused injury or death.
Investigating the cause of the failure and the responsibility for quality control requires knowledge of manufacturing laws and insurance policies that cover the manufacturing corporations. This is a highly specialized area of law, so if you have been injured in a car accident caused by a defective auto part or system, such as these defective ignition switches, talk to an experienced auto defects injury lawyer as soon as possible. Time is an important factor during the initial investigation, and please keep in mind that West Virginia allows only two years to file a lawsuit after such injuries.
Toyota Fined 1.2 Billion for Deadly Auto Product Defects
Toyota was recently fined $1.2 billion for misleading regulators as well as the public about a deadly acceleration problem in its vehicles, and it remains to be seen whether the government will levy a similar penalty on GM. The $1.2 billion payment represents the largest criminal penalty imposed on a car company in U.S. history for hiding safety defects from the public in “blatant disregard” of the law. This is appropriate given the extent of the deception carried out by Toyota in this case. Is General Motors next?
Those who have suffered harm due to a faulty ignition switch or due to any defective automobile should seek legal counsel. Consumers have rights and those rights must be protected.
If you have questions, Call today: 304-594-1800 or after hours, 304-216-6695.
One of the beauties of West Virginia is its mountains and high altitudes. It looks like “almost heaven” from the windows of our homes, but once you get out on the roads, it can seem quite the opposite when snow, ice, and foggy conditions make driving treacherous, often causing vehicle wrecks and injuries. We all have pressing obligations which make going out on the roads, no matter how bad the conditions, seem mandatory.
Driving hazards are increased exponentially, though, as the temperature drops below freezing and can make even the simplest commute extremely dangerous, causing multiple-car crashes. A recent example of this was when a snowstorm in late March 2014 caused whiteout conditions in Berkeley County near Martinsburg, WV causing more than 40 vehicles to collide in two separate incidents on Interstate 81 near Falling Waters, West Virginia, killing two people and injuring seven others.
The two fatalities occurred on the northbound lane, and the seven people were injured in the accident on the southbound lane of I-81. A total of 44 vehicles were involved in this traffic pileup, including several tractor-trailers, and 15 to 20 vehicles were significantly damaged. The injured were taken by helicopters to Berkeley Medical Center in Martinsburg. The vehicles were rerouted to Highway 11, but it was slow going due to the high number of vehicles and people making their morning commute on the interstate.
Challenges and risks unique to the season – which this year has extended much longer than expected — require heightened vigilance, and drivers must adjust their driving to meet the demands of the road.
How to File an Insurance Claim if You have Been Involved in a Multi-car Collision
In a multi-car pileup, fault may be harder to prove because of the multiple vehicles involved. Contact your insurance company right away and provide information about the effects of the accident on your vehicle and your health, and any information you gathered from other drivers at the accident scene. If you have any reason to believe you were injured and haven’t seen a doctor, go immediately.
Sometimes the adrenaline your body produced immediately after the accident can mask symptoms which can later cause you a great deal of pain, and early treatment can eliminate a lot of future medical problems and pain. Often, early intervention with physical therapy can eliminate a need for surgery later – so get a medical opinion right away. Follow all doctor’s orders, document everything, and keep records and receipts from all medical office visits, as well as receipts from all expenses related to the crash.
If you have been severely injured, it is important to your claim for you to keep personal notes about how these injuries are affecting you and your family on a daily basis. If your damages were small and you weren’t seriously injured, chances are you can settle your claim yourself.
If you believe your insurance adjuster has not treated you fairly or considered all the facts and expenses related to your claim, you may need the help of an experienced car accident attorney. Claims adjusters are trained to minimize claims, so to obtain your case’s full value, a strong advocate on your side can be your best asset.
Questions? Call today: 304-594-1800 or after hours, 304-216-6695.