The Department of Labor recently announced amendments to the federal Black Lung Benefits Act which will add provisions that had been taken away in 1981. Under the revised legislation, if an individual works in a coal mine for at least 15 years and is then stricken with a disabling respiratory impairment, it will be automatically assumed to be black lung disease. This eliminates the often arduous and costly process of medically proving that a respiratory illness is officially black lung disease before benefits can be claimed.
The second major change states that black lung benefits will automatically be transferred to survivors in the event of the injured individual's death. Caused by inhaling coal dust, black lung disease was once thought to have been eliminated but has returned in recent years.
In 2012, over half a million black lung disease claims were filed, with total payouts of over $210 million. The new amendments should make it easier for those who are affected to receive benefits and get help for their medical condition. In addition, it will help ensure that the families of victims who are also affected by the disease get the benefits they deserve.
Workplace injuries can be financially devastating for the injured worker and family members. An attorney with experience in personal injury and workers' compensation matters may be able to provide advice and counsel to someone who has been affected by a workplace accident or by unsafe working conditions. Such an attorney may be able to determine whether the person is eligible forworkers' compensation benefits, and may be able to assist in the preparation f documents that may be necessary to perfect a claim.
Source: The Register Herald, "Federal rule changes will help black lung victims", September 25, 2013