Those who work in the coal mining industry know all too well the damaging effects of coal dust on a workers' lungs. While coal mining operations have been forced to put more safety measures in place to prevent the devastating lung diseases that can occur, many workers continue to be impacted by the poor working conditions in and around coal mines. You are very likely entitled to benefits if you have been exposed to coal dust and are now paying the price. Read on for the facts about black lung disease and how to gain benefits.
Black lung disease is caused by the inhalation of microscopic particles of dust produced in the mining of coal. Workers both above and below the ground can be affected, along with those living near the operations.
As the tiny coal dust particles come into contact with lung tissue, the body tries to fight back and encloses them in scar tissue. It is this ostensibly protective measure that creates the medical problem.
You can breathe in these particles for many years before you begin to feel the negative effects. At first, some workers believe they have a cold, but this cold never goes away. Shortness of breath and fatigue are the most most common red flags of black lung disease.
The first step for workers interested in filing a workers' compensation claim is to seek medical treatment. Be sure to tell your doctor that you work it the coal industry and that you believe your symptoms are related to that.
In most cases, a lung X-ray and some breathing tests (arterial blood gas and pulmonary tests) will both diagnose and prove that you are suffering from black lung disease.
Treatments for this disease are few and mostly consist of using inhalers and oxygen.
Once you know you have the disease, inform your supervisor and ask to be relocated to an area that prevents as much coal dust exposure as possible.
Follow up and make sure your supervisor files a workers' comp claim form. This should be done as soon as possible as no benefits are possible without a claim for benefits.
You are not only entitled to workers' comp benefits, but you may also be entitled to benefits from the Black Lung Benefits Act, a federal benefit program.
Most victims of black lung disease will be eligible for medical expenses and a weekly disability wage. If you are unable to work or your disease progresses to a certain point, you may be eligible for a lump-sum payment from workers' compensation insurance.
If permanent damage is making it impossible for you to work at any job, speak to a workers' compensation lawyer.