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.
Rear End Collision on I-79 near Fairmont, WV Caused by 17-Year-Old Driver
Six people were transported to Ruby Memorial Hospital Monday evening after a vehicle accident on I-79 in Marion County. Authorities responded to a tractor trailer on fire near exit 139 on I-79 around 8:15 p.m.
A deputy was putting down flares to divert traffic from the right lane into the left lane and was hit by a vehicle.
The driver of the first vehicle, followed the deputies instructions to move lanes. As Sutherland was switching lanes, a second vehicle, driven by a 17-year-old, approached and failed to notice the deputy or the flares. The vehicle driven by the 17-year-old rear-ended the first vehicle, which spun the vehicle around hitting the deputy that was directing traffic.
The deputy flew approximately 40 feet into the ditch line. The deputy was transported to Ruby Memorial Hospital and is reportedly in stable condition. There is no word on the extent of his injuries.
The two drivers, as well as three passengers, were taken to Ruby Memorial Hospital.
Construction workers face danger daily in the ordinary course of their workday. Even so, when a worksite has been secured by safety procedures that have been carefully implemented, builders have every reasonable expectation of returning home to their families intact. When an ordinary workday turns disastrous and lives are forever changed, these hard-working men and women can no longer provide for their families. After a construction accident, what remedy exists for the injured to obtain necessary medical care and for these families to build new lives?
In October, 2015, two tragic scaffold collapses in Houston, Texas have resulted in injuries, deaths, and at least one worker left in a vegetative state. So, who was at fault, and who will provide care for these workers and their families?
Investigations are on-going, and whether the collapses were caused by anchors at the top of the building breaking loose after these anchors were improperly secured, faulty construction or materials used in building the scaffolding, faulty concrete causing a lack of integrity in the soundness of the scaffold’s attachment to the building, or bolts not properly secured, the investigations will point to the parties or party responsible for the failure of the scaffolding to provide protection and support.
Some of these workers will suffer life-long injuries, and will most likely collect Worker’s Compensation benefits unless the companies involved have opted out of Worker’s Comp Insurance as provided by Texas law. Many large retailers, trucking companies, health care, and food companies have already opted out, which means the employer has almost complete control over the medical and legal process after workers are injured.
Worker’s Compensation exists because employers owe a duty to workers injured on the job and their families and to pay for the workers’ medical bills and lost wages. According to an investigation by ProPublica and NPR, the Texas alternative to Worker’s Comp usually cuts off treatment after two years and doesn’t pay compensation for most permanent disabilities and strictly limits payouts in the event of a death or catastrophic injury.
The families directly affected by these scaffolding collapses in October have retained lawyers to obtain any and all benefits due to them as a result of the workplace accident which has caused these horrific injuries. Their construction accident attorney will investigate the cause of the accident, the extent of injuries and long-term impact on these individuals and their families, and whether or not a third party can be sued, such as the contracting company which installed the scaffold system or the manufacturer of the scaffolding.
These families have acted wisely in obtaining legal representation right away. All states have a time limit (statute of limitations for work injuries) for injury claim lawsuits to be filed, and as time passes, evidence and witnesses can become difficult or impossible to find.
The personal injury lawyers at the Robinette Legal Group, PLLC based in Morgantown have represented many construction accident victims in West Virginia during the past twenty-five years, and are ready to help you if you have been hurt or are suffering after the death of a loved one. We have successfully handled a wide variety of claims ranging from slip and fall injuries to wrongful deaths from coal mine explosions and power plant accidents. If you were injured in West Virginia, protect your legal rights by calling us today for a free case evaluation: 304-594-1800.
Every year, miners suffer serious injuries due to the decisions of coal operators to violate safety regulations. The employers in this industry are obligated by law to meet certain standards in order to keep miners as safe as possible, and when they neglect this responsibility the consequences can be catastrophic.
According to the complaint, despite pointing out a safety hazard regarding the height of the mine roof and track conditions to the defendants on several occasions, the plaintiff says the companies never addressed the problem.
On Aug. 3, 2013, the plaintiff was traveling on the back of a transport vehicle in the mine, without a hard hat, when his head hit the roof protrusion that he and other employees had noted to the defendants. The complaint also states that the employees that operated the man-trip did so at unsafe speeds and that the plaintiff did not have time to react to avoid the hazard.
The resulting injuries were severe, the suit claims, including traumatic brain injury, impaired mobility and activities of daily living, permanent scarring and physical impairment. Both defendants have suffered lost wages and benefits, future earning capacity, future medical expenses and past medical expenses totaling nearly $1 million.
Edward Ellis Jr. and Tina Ellis filed the suit Aug. 3 in Wyoming Circuit Court against Pinnacle Mining Co., Cliffs Natural Resources Inc., Cliffs North American Coal Inc., Cliffs Logan County Coal LLC, Cliffs West Virginia Coal Inc. and Cliffs Mining Services Company.
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.
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.
WEST UNION — Two oil and gas workers were installing a new separator at the Jonathon Davis pad site when a condensate leak occurred which caused a flash fire, burning two workers. The flash fire at an Antero Resources well site in Doddridge County WV which burned two workers occurred on Sunday, October 27, 2013. One worker received first degree burns to his arms and hands, the other second degree burns to his arm.
One worker was sent to United Hospital Center and the second was taken to West Penn Burn Center in Pittsburgh, PA where he underwent a skin graft surgery. One worker has already returned to work, the other is expected to remain hospitalized throughout the week.
Inspectors are working to determine an ignition source for the flash fire. The well pad is located off of Ramsey’s Ridge Road near West Union. There are several wells drilled on the pad and at least two are producing.
The West Virginia Office of Oil and Gas cited Antero Resources in August 2013 for failing to maintain well control in connection with a July 7 well explosion at the New Milton, Doddridge County Ruddy Alt well pad. Five men received severe burns in that gas well explosion and two of the men later died as a result of their injuries.
The Robinette Legal Group, PLLC, West Virginia Workplace Injury Attorneys
If you or your loved one has been injured due to negligence or willful violation of safety regulations in the workplace, it is important to act quickly to protect your claim. Mr. Robinette has handled hundreds of cases involving serious injury and wrongful death and can provide the insight you need right now. Call us today for a free evaluation of your case at 304-594-1800 or visit the Marcellus Shale Work Injury page on our website today.
HUNTINGTON WV – The Huntington Police Department is investigating a crash involving two, tractor-trailer trucks that shut down all westbound lanes of Interstate 64 in Huntington. Dispatchers received word of the crash at about 4:30 a.m. Thursday, October 17, 2013.
The crash involved a box truck owned by the U.S. Mail and a tanker truck carrying an unspecified substance. Dispatchers said the box truck overturned due to the crash’s impact and was leaking fuel from its tanks. One of the trucks also hit a bridge and knocked off a chunk of its concrete wall.
The accident happened at the 9.5-mile marker, located just east of the 5th Street Road exit in Huntington. Officials were diverting westbound traffic off the Hal Greer and 29th Street exits.
Thankfully, there were no reported injuries, and unlike a May 2013 accident on I-64 in Kentucky involving a mail truck that caught fire as a result of a fuel leak, the contents of this US Postal Service truck were not destroyed and was transferred to another truck by Postal Service crews. Even so, it is a good idea to follow up with any mail sent to or from this area recently if it is of any great importance.
New trucking regulations address the problem of extreme tiredness in truckers:
Both of these truck drivers involved in this 4:30 a.m. crash illustrate the types of drivers that are most at risk for driving error due to drowsiness. In an effort to increase safety on our roadways and reduce driver fatigue, a leading factor in large truck crashes, the Department of Transportation has updated its mandates for breaks and rest periods for long haul truckers.
Tired drivers are far more likely to cause accidents than those who are well-rested and driving in compliance with federal trucking guidelines. Tired drivers may also enter a dangerous state known as “highway hypnosis” in which dozens of miles may pass that they do not even remember. Whether a driver falls asleep at the wheel or is inattentive due to lack of sleep, the resulting accidents can lead to catastrophic injuries and wrongful death. Under the new guidelines, drivers will have to stick to a schedule that requires taking a 30-minute break in the first eight hours of driving, cut the maximum workweek to 70 hours from 82, and “restart” those 70 hours with a 34-hour break once a week.
We are all guilty of driving while drowsy:
We all recognize how dangerous driving under the influence or texting while driving is, but driving while drowsy can be equally dangerous. Sleepiness can cause slower reaction times, blurred vision, lapses in judgment, and delays in processing information. Most of us are not professional truck drivers, but drowsy driving affects us all.
Tips for avoiding becoming a drowsy driver statistic:
Get a good night’s sleep (seven to nine hours) before you begin your trip.
Plan breaks into your driving schedule; don’t be so rushed to arrive at your destination that you can’t stop for rest.
Stop every 100 miles or two hours for a walk, run, snack, or drink.
Bring a buddy who can share the driving.
If you think you could fall asleep, pull over and take a 15-20 minute nap.
Avoid driving at times you would normally be asleep.
Avoid alcohol and medicines that cause drowsiness.
Specific At-Risk Groups for Drowsy Driving:
Young people-especially males under age 26
Shift workers and people with long work hours — working the night shift increases your risk by nearly 6 times; rotating-shift workers and people working more than 60 hours a week need to be particularly careful
Commercial drivers-especially long-haul drivers – at least 15% of all heavy truck crashes involve fatigue
People with undiagnosed or untreated disorders-people with untreated obstructive sleep apnea have been shown to have up to a seven times increased risk of falling asleep at the wheel
Business travelers who spend many hours driving or may be jet-lagged
Fast Facts about Driving while Fatigued:
100,000 crashes each year are caused by fatigued drivers
55% of drowsy driving crashes are caused by drivers less than 25 years old
Being awake for 18 hours is equal to a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of 0.08%, which is legally drunk and leaves you at equal risk for a crash
In 2010, the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety released a study that shows that fatigue is a factor in one in six deadly crashes; one in eight crashes resulting in hospitalization, and one in fourteen crashes in which a vehicle was towed.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) estimates that drowsy driving results in 1,550 deaths, 76,000 injuries, and more than 100,000 accidents every year.
Caffeine can increase alertness for several hours, but you will still need adequate rest if you want to prevent fatigue-related errors.
Warning Signs that it is time to pull over:
Difficulty focusing, frequent blinking, heavy eyelids.
Trouble keeping your head up.
Drifting onto rumble strips, swerving in your lane.
Inability to clearly remember the last few miles driven.
Missed exits or traffic signs.
Feeling restless or irritable.
Before we launch into the fall and winter holidays, we need to consider the potential impact of driving while exhausted could have on our own safety, our families, and other drivers sharing the road with us.
Working with you to keep our families safe — The Robinette Legal Group, PLLC, Morgantown Personal Injury Attorneys serving the state of West Virginia. We have vast experience handling truck accident claims. If you need help with a motor vehicle collision insurance issue, call us today at 304-594-1800.
A. In order for you to pursue a liability claim against someone else for your injuries, the cause of your injuries must have been predominately caused by their conduct, and not your own. For instance, if you were severely injured in an auto collision, and your driving merely contributed in some small way (e.g., you were traveling 60 mph in a 55 mph speed zone), you will not likely be foreclosed from pursuing your injury claim against the other at-fault driver.
However, the percentage of your own fault (called “comparative fault”) will reduce your compensation by the same percentage of fault you contributed to causing the auto collision. So, if you are found by a jury to have been 20% at fault in causing the auto collision, your compensation will be reduced by 20% of the total verdict.
How the Insurance Company will Use Comparative Fault
Insurance adjusters exaggerate the impact of your conduct—like going 5mph over the speed limit—as a basis to substantially reduce the value of your injury claim. The same result occurs in construction injury or coal mine injury cases, where the adjuster exaggerates the impact of the employee’s conduct to show that the injuries would not have occurred if the employee had followed safe work practices.
When “Who was at Fault?” is an Issue, You Need a Strong Advocate on Your Side
While the law permits your own comparative fault to be as high as 49%, the closer your own fault gets to this maximum percentage, the less you will be compensated, and you run the risk that you will be completely foreclosed from recovering anything at all. If your fault equates to 50%, then you will be foreclosed from any recovery or compensation for your injuries. For instance, if a construction worker decides to remove his safety equipment in violation of safety rules, and is injured, it is likely that the worker’s conduct will be viewed as a significant contributing factor to his own injuries.
The law and jurors take a dim view of parties whose own conduct significantly contributes to their own injuries. Be aware that insurance adjusters try to craft reasons why your alleged negligent conduct equaled or exceeded that of their own insured, which has the end result of you receiving little to nothing in settlement of your injury claim, which is why it is essential you have a skilled personal injury attorney on your side fighting for you.
Morgantown WV Personal Injury Lawyers
The Robinette Legal Group is ready to stand up and fight for your rights to pursue full and fair money damages after a workplace injury or motor vehicle accident. You can try to file an insurance claim yourself, but there are some important things you will come to realize over time. The insurance company isn’t interested in protecting your rights and they will minimize the value of your injuries and your financial losses. That’s why having an experienced trial attorney from our firm is so important. We have years of experience handling personal injury cases, as both defense lawyers and on behalf of injury victims.
All major insurance companies now use computer software programs to assist adjusters in placing a “value” on injury claims. These specially-designed programs purportedly allow adjusters to “standardize” claim information so that claims evaluations are efficient and consistent. The problem is, the programs were written for the insurance companies, using their input as to what was fair compensation. So the whole program is flawed in favor of the insurance company.
Some insurance companies have developed their own adjustment software programs, while others have opted for the commercially marketed software programs. The leading adjustment software programs that are commercially available are Colossus, Claims Outcome Advisor, and Claims IQ. These programs systematically assess claim information and assign a reduced value to each injury claim. The program assesses all your past medical conditions and treatments and your current and future medical treatments and then arbitrarily places a “value” on your claim.
Some programs also assess the skill and experience of the personal injury attorney, and whether he or she is capable of getting a substantial verdict against the company. Claims adjusters are instructed not to deviate from the computer assessment of the injury claim. What they personally may think about the value of the injury claim is completely taken out of the picture; it’s not important or relevant. This is why the adjuster’s “low-ball” offer of settlement doesn’t bother them; their personal opinion doesn’t matter.
Example of a Computer Assessment for a Personal Injury Claim
Let’s consider how a claims adjuster would use computer assessment software to assess the value of a serious injury claim. Suppose the serious injury being evaluated is a crush injury to the foot. Because no surgery would adequately repair the damaged ligaments in the foot, the surgeon is reluctant to try surgery unless the injury victim reports that they can’t walk at all. So, the medical bills are just a few thousand dollars for initial treatments. But the injury victim can’t work on his or her feet without pain, and can’t participate in many other activities previously enjoyed.
The claims adjuster will enter information about the claim on the computer program, and the assessment program will indicate the highest possible value on the claim. The problem is, the assessed value may be as low as only 25% of the full value of the claim. Nonetheless, the adjuster will not offer even this grossly inadequate amount as a settlement offer—they are prohibited from doing so without special company authorization.
How Does the Insurance Adjuster Use this Computer Generated Assessment of my Injury Claim?
The adjuster is only permitted to negotiate a settlement significantly below the computer assessment. The adjuster will attempt to withhold payment of at least 50% of the full value of the claim to the injury victim. In the assessment of this injury claim, the computer assessment may be as low as $10,000. The claims adjuster then will offer only $5,000 in a settlement, which is half of the computer assessment value. The computer assessment completely ignores the possibility of future surgery costs, which may be as much as $30,000, because the surgeon is hesitant to say exactly when a future surgery would be needed.
Although it is clear that there is a permanent injury—a torn ligament—and all other previous treatments have failed to correct the symptoms, there is a “minimal” value placed on the injury claim.
The claims adjuster can’t even consider any lost wages because the person can still walk, albeit, in a lot of pain—thus, no reason not to work! The claims adjuster remains convinced that her low-ball offer is fair because she has a computer program assessment to support her position.
Even if the adjuster felt compelled to offer more money in the settlement, she’s not allowed to offer more without authorization from management. Because computer assessment software is written for the benefit of insurance companies, there is a built-in bias against your claim, and it should be no surprise that the claims adjuster’s assessment of the value of your injury claim is grossly inadequate to compensate you for all your injuries.
So What Can I Do to Receive Maximum Compensation for my Injuries and Losses?
What is the value of an attorney in negotiating with an insurance company? If you go it alone, you may wind up settling for much less than your claim is actually worth. Many times, insurance companies offer settlements for cents on the dollar. But they will tell you a settlement is in your best interests. They may try to get to you say things that hurt your case. Many people who are struggling with injuries find this an intimidating and confusing process. If you enlist our firm to represent you, we will handle all negotiations on your behalf.
We have handled numerous insurance claims involving car accidents, truck accidents, premises liability and other personal injury accidents. In the past, our lawyers have represented insurance companies, and therefore we know how they value claims and what arguments they will respond to. We are adept at reaching favorable results through negotiation and settlement. If we do not achieve favorable results by those means, we are always prepared to meet the insurance companies in court.
Contact a Morgantown Insurance Dispute Attorney
Contact us to learn how we can help you recover full and fair money damages for your injuries and financial losses. From our offices in Morgantown, we represent clients in car accident and motor vehicle injury cases throughout West Virginia. Call Today: 304-594-1800 for a free evaluation of your insurance claim. You don’t have to do this alone.
Source: Righting the Wrong: West Virginia Serious Injury Guide by Jeff Robinette, Word Association Publishers, 2012.
The West Virginia Office of Miners’ Health Safety and Training has cited Consolidation Coal Co. for the coal slurry impoundment collapse that killed one in November.
The haulage road on the coarse refuse dump area was not safe to drive on, according to the agency’s July 10 report on the incident.
“This is a violation of a Health and Safety statute of serious nature involving a fatality,” the report reads.
In the November 30 incident at the Robinson Run mine in Harrison County, experienced miner Markel J. Koon, age 58, was running a bulldozer on the haulage road about noon when the dumpsite cracked and failed, sweeping the dozer, with Koon, into the impoundment.
The report details evidence that the location was not safe.
Consolidation Coal engineer Paul Stuart Carter had received numerous email messages from supervisor Michael Friedline over the previous week about high readings on a piezometer on the upstream slope, according to the report. A piezometer measures water pressure and is used to monitor the stability of a dam.
Carter arrived at the mine at about 11:30 a.m. on Nov. 30, and the two walked the slope and noticed bubbling — more, in Friedline’s observation, than even that morning. Carter said, “we need to get off the fill.” Friedline instructed Koon by radio to leave the fill, and Koon had begun moving the dozer when a large crack began to develop. Large sections immediately broke off, sliding into the thick slurry and carrying Friedline, Carter, their pickup trucks, and the bulldozer and Koon with it.
Friedline and Carter were quickly rescued. The recovery of Koon’s body on Dec. 14 concluded an extensive recovery operation.
The section that failed, according to the report, was more than 600 feet long, 50 feet wide and 24 feet high. The depth of slurry where the dozer came to rest was 27 feet.
In addition to citing the company, Miners Health Safety and Training recommended the company train employees on hazards of working near water, and that life jackets should be worn by all employees working near water.
It is not clear whether that would have helped Koon.
Further recommendations may be issued when all of the information has been reviewed, the report said.
Legal Insight — Work-related Wrongful Death Claims
West Virginia workers have had a long-standing tradition of persevering and working hard in spite of dangerous and exhausting conditions. In most cases, the family of a worker who is killed on the job will be able to receive some benefits from a Worker’s Compensation claim. In West Virginia, if an employer is found to have intentionally placed their employee in harm’s way, resulting in serious injury or death, that family may qualify to file a claim against the employer’s insurance company.
Workers’ compensation laws say that you cannot hold your employer accountable for damages above the amount of benefits paid by the workers’ comp insurance unless you can prove the employer acted with “deliberate intent,” as provided in W. Va. Code 23-4-2.
In many workplace injury and wrongful death cases, however, there may also be a third party who can 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.
If you or your loved one has died due to negligence or willful violation of safety regulations in the workplace, it is important to act quickly to protect your claim. Mr. Robinette has handled hundreds of cases involving serious injury and wrongful death and can provide the insight you need right now. Call Jeff Robinette today for a free evaluation of your case at 304-594-1800 or visit our website for more information.
Submitted by theRobinette Legal Group, PLLC, West Virginia Workplace Injury/Wrongful Death Lawyers. Free books — Call us today: 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.