How to receive compensation as an injured coal miner in Georgia
Many Americans enjoy relatively safe working conditions. However, this is not the case for employees in certain high-risk industries, including construction and coal mining. In fact, coal mining remains one of the most dangerous jobs in the nation. Injuries and illnesses—some of them life-threatening—happen to hundreds of workers each year.
The dangers of coal mining are known and well-documented. With the threat of accidents being ever-present, workers are required to have respirators with them at all times.
Even so, accidents and illnesses still happen. This is why the State Board of Workers’ Compensation and Georgia’s Workers’ Compensation Act provide special benefits to injured coal miners and their families.
Additionally, workers who become chronically ill and totally disabled while employed in the coal mining industry may rely on the federal government’s Black Lung Program if they are diagnosed with this fatal and all-too-common occupational disease.
Negotiating both state and federal workers’ compensation systems at the same time is complicated. In such cases, it’s wise to consult with a knowledgeable Georgia workers’ compensation attorney at Gerber & Holder to help your family through the process.
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Georgia’s coal mining industry
Coal mining has been a part of Georgia’s economy since the 1830s. Though the Civil War virtually destroyed the industry, the 1880s brought a revitalization that continued for the next century.
Georgia’s numbers are similar to those across the nation. Fewer than 70,000 people in the U.S. are employed by coal mining, and there seems little reason to expect these numbers to rise in the future. As natural gas becomes more readily available, the number of workers needed in the coal mining industry continues to decline. In line with this, Georgia Power has shuttered 15 coal-fired generation facilities in recent years.
But people who used to work in these mines may still be feeling the negative effects—and for those who continue to work there, the future can sometimes look bleak from a medical perspective.
Coal mining accidents, injuries and illnesses
People who work in coal mines face numerous occupational hazards. Injuries to the hands, fingers and feet are common, as are back injuries and traumatic brain injuries. The danger of an explosion or a collapse is also ever-present.
However, perhaps the danger that looms largest in the minds of miners and their families is black lung disease.
Black lung disease
The scientific name for black lung disease is pneumoconiosis. As employees work in underground mines, they are surrounded by tiny particles of coal dust. Without proper respirator use, these particles are inhaled for hours at a time. This irreversible, chronic disease is only caused by exposure to coal dust. Too frequently, pneumoconiosis proves to be fatal.
Cases of this illness have been reported for centuries. In the 1970s, the number of cases began to decline, and this trend continued through the early 2000s. The rates began to rise after that, with doctors and researchers noting that not only were more people getting black lung disease but also that these cases were far more serious.
While most black lung cases are diagnosed in people who work underground, those who work above ground in some capacity, such as processing coal or participating in strip mining, are also prone to the disease.
Filing black lung disease claims
If you have been diagnosed with black lung disease or if you lost a loved one who had this illness, then you may be able to obtain compensation from state and federal coal miners’ compensation programs.
Begin by notifying your employer of your condition, then file a claim with Georgia’s State Board of Workers’ Compensation. Time limits, which are strict, dictate how quickly you must act to make a claim. Usually, these time limits start running from a distinct period in time, such as the last time you were exposed to coal dust.
Our record of winning accident cases in Georgia speaks for itself:
The federal Black Lung Program
It also may be wise to consider filing a claim under the federal Black Lung Program. To qualify, you must demonstrate that you are “totally disabled” as a result of your diagnosis. This means that you are unable to perform your job or a similar one because of black lung disease. Payment of medical expenses and monthly checks may be available to the patient or their surviving spouse and children.
Navigating the state and federal workers’ compensation systems can be complicated, but you deserve fair compensation if you have been diagnosed with black lung disease or are suffering from another coal-mining related illness or injury.