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Appeal dismissed in injured worker claim for black lung disease

In situations where a California employee is unhappy with the outcome of a workers' compensation case, they may appeal their injured worker claim in an attempt to collect additional benefits. Recently, the courts dismissed an appeal case where a woman sought additional compensation for the injured worker claim made by her late husband. She accused a coal company of fraudulent practices against the courts regarding the black lung disease her husband had suffered prior to his death.

The widow claims that -- during original court hearings for her husband's injured worker claim -- the coal company that had employed him intentionally withheld necessary information from their experts. She believes that this information upheld the black lung disease diagnosis given to her late husband and potentially fraudulent practice minimized the settlement she felt he was actually entitled to. Her recent appeal to collect what she felt to be rightful benefits was dismissed.

Reports indicate that the woman sought close to 10 years' worth of her late husband's lost wages and believed that the lack of financial support from the Black Lung Benefits Act was directly due to what she claimed to be fraud by the coal company. The courts found that the coal company behaved appropriately and honestly during the original case, and they found no fraudulent activity on their part that would have limited the widow's workers' compensation benefits for her husband's injured worker claim for black lung disease under the Black Lung Benefits Act. The specific benefits act is a government program that mandates compensation for permanently disabled victims of black lung disease -- as well as their families -- in the event of their death by cause of the illness.

Court records revealed that the confidential and detailed medical information of the man who suffered black lung disease was protected by a work product privilege during the time of litigation. Facing strong allegations that have the potential to cost a company thousands of dollars and their reputation can be intimidating for an employer. A California company that faces an appeal for an injured worker claim, and is accused of fraud, may choose to develop a strong employer defense to increase the ability of having their case dismissed and their business protected.

Source: abajournal.com, 4th Circuit rejects widow's fraud claim over info withheld from defendant's expert witnesses, Martha Neil, Jan. 3, 2014

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