Kentucky Mining Accident Results In Year’s First Such Fatality

52 year old Jerry Watts of Slemp, Kentucky suffered fatal injuries after being struck on the head by a bulldozer blade liner due to a jack slipping. Mr. Watts was performing welding work on the liner. T&T Energy owns Begley No. 1 Mine, where the accident happened.

This tragic incident, as they often do, raises legal questions. Because this happened while Mr. Watts was working, his surviving family members will be entitled to workers’ compensation benefits. However, workers’ compensation benefits only cover medical expenses and a fairly meager death benefit.

Workers’ compensation is not meant to cover damages such as pain and suffering and other losses that are available in a civil claim. Worker’s compensation is also an exclusive remedy, meaning that injured workers cannot sue their co-workers and employers for any negligence that may have caused the accident. However, an exception to this general rule exists when a third-party outside of the employer-employee relationship caused the accident. An injured worker, or a deceased worker’s surviving family, may sue the third-party.

A civil claim potentially exists here. The jack that slipped most likely was not supposed to and may have failed. The question becomes why it slipped. If it slipped due to a third-party’s actions or inaction, like because it was defective due to improper design or manufacturing, then civil damages may be claimed.

Hopefully, a full and complete investigation takes place and provides answers to the questions Mr. Watts’ family most assuredly are having right now.

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