New DOL Rule Guarantees Coal Miners’ Access to Latest Health Data Even If Not Put In Evidence

This was a good day for coal miners pursuing claims for benefits under the Black Lung Benefits Act.

Under a new U.S. Department of Labor regulation issued today, mining companies must share their latest information on miners’ health with the miners.

All parties must exchange any medical information that they develop in connection with a claim, even if they do not intend to submit the information into evidence. Previously, parties generally kept any medical information that they did not submit into evidence confidential.

Parties who fail to share any medical data they develop about the miner are subject to sanctions. Additionally, the final rule reinforces coal mine companies’ obligations to pay benefits under existing orders while the modification proceedings to challenge orders are underway.

The rule allows coal companies one year from the last payment of benefits to seek reconsideration of an effective order awarding disability or survivor’s benefits. Although they are legally obligated to pay benefits while challenging these awards, coal companies commonly refuse to do so. The final rule requires the operator to pay before they can challenge the award through the act’s modification procedures.

The Federal Register published the Final Rule today, April 25, 2016, and it is available at: https://s3.amazonaws.com/public-inspection.federalregister.gov/2016-09525.pdf.

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