Families Face Difficult Choices in Wake of Mine Disaster

Nine months after an explosion in a West Virginia coal mine left 29 mine worker dead, the Wall Street Journal reports that many families torn apart by the tragedy remain unsure of their next legal steps forward. Their stories contain many lessons for Oregon families thrown into similarly tragic circumstances as the result of an Oregon wrongful death or industrial accident.

As the paper reports, within days of the mine explosion the board of Massey Energy Company, one of the largest and most powerful companies in West Virginia, offered each family a settlement: $3 million in compensation for the death, lost wages and lost companionship of their loved-one, in exchange for giving up any right to sue the company. The Journal reports that, at present, only seven families have agreed to the company’s settlement, and that “in at least two cases family members are at odds and plan to let a court decide which path they should take.”
For the families the choice is a painful one. As the Journal quotes one victim’s father, himself a miner, saying: “I don’t think it’s justifiable that they want to put a dollar sign on my boy.” As the article notes, the families of workers involved in other industrial accidents often face similarly agonizing choices.

For working families, the compensation offered can seem like an overwhelming amount of money, but accepting it, and foregoing the opportunity to file a wrongful death lawsuit, can leave relatives feeling that they have traded cash for accountability.

For those left behind, there are never any easy answers when confronted with choices like these. That is why taking time to explore, and carefully consider, options makes so much sense. Talking with a personal injury or wrongful death attorney does not, in and of itself, commit you to any course of action, but can offer both information and legal insights that are crucial when making such an important decision.

Wall Street Journal: Dead Miners’ Kin Wrestle With Choice to Settle or Sue