Pennsylvania residents may be interested in a ruling that occurred in a Richmond, Virginia court, in which changes in health care reform will allow widows of coal miners to receive benefits. Originally, widows were unable to receive benefits unless they were able to certify that their husbands’ deaths were caused by pneumoconiosis, or black lung disease. In 2010, their status changed because the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act brought back a 1978 ruling that stated that dependents of the deceased could collect benefits if the miner was eligible when he died, regardless of his cause of death.

The husbands of the widows worked for Union Carbide and Peabody Coal, both of which appealed the decision, and argued that the women’s claims were not valid because of a legal term called res judicata, meaning that the matter had been already resolved. However, the court determined that the widows’ claims were valid because the Affordable Care Act changed the model by which the widows’ petitions were judged.

Coal miners have dangerous jobs and are subject to >occupational disease and that can continue to affect them long after they leave the job. The fact that the widows of coal miners are now eligible to receive compensation benefits is a major step forward as far as accommodating their dependents is concerned.

Workplace injuries and occupational diseases can have devastating effects on workers and their loved ones. Those who believe that they have contracted illnesses related to their jobs, or the families of workers who have died due to a workplace environment, may benefit by obtaining the services of an attorney who is knowledgeable in workers’ compensation. He or she will be able to review the case and might help obtain compensation for the worker or his or her family.

Source: Courthouse News, “Coal Companies Nailed for Black Lung Benefits”, Sam Reynolds, July 09, 2013