Virginia Black Lung Lawyer | How Doctor Bias Can Affect Black Lung Claims

VA Lawyer for Black Lung Disease

In Virginia, black lung disease has devastated many families and communities within the coal industry. Too often, hard-working coal miners are forced to struggle through a complex process full of administrative hurdles to receive the benefits to which they are entitled while also dealing with extremely painful symptoms and rapidly declining health. Unfortunately, another hurdle for some of those battling black lung disease is doctor bias. Learn how financial conflicts of interest among doctors can affect your black lung claim and how our attorneys fight for clients who have experienced bias.

Schedule A Free Consultation With An Experienced Black Lung Disease Attorney

If you or a loved one is suffering from Black Lung Disease, we invite you to call 276-623-0808 to schedule a free consultation with an experienced Virginia black lung disease attorney. We can listen to the facts of your case, explain your legal options, and tenaciously fight for the justice and maximum compensation you and your family deserve. We can also advise of your right to receive compensation under the Black Lung Benefits Act, which provides monthly compensation and medical benefits to coal miners who are completely disabled from black lung disease, as well as to their dependent survivors in case of the miner’s death.

What is Black Lung Disease?

DR examining x-ray of patient with black lung disease.

Coal workers’ pneumoconiosis (CWP), also known as black lung disease, is most commonly diagnosed in coal miners. According to the American Lung Association, black lung disease occurs as the result of scaring caused by long-term inhalation of coal dust, which in turn impairs breathing. Black lung symptoms include chronic cough, which can produce black mucus in some cases, shortness of breath, low blood oxygen levels, and chest tightness. These symptoms tend to develop years after the initial exposure to coal dust and worsen as the condition stresses the lungs and other organs. 

What are the Early Signs and Symptoms of Black Lung Disease?

Developed black lung disease often begins with subtle symptoms that can gradually worsen over time. The early signs typically include a persistent cough, which may be accompanied by the production of black sputum. Workers may also experience shortness of breath, especially during physical activity, which can progress to more frequent episodes of breathlessness even at rest. Other symptoms can include chest tightness, fatigue, and a general feeling of weakness.

As the disease advances, these symptoms can become more severe, leading to significant respiratory distress and reduced quality of life. It is crucial for workers who experience any of these early symptoms to seek medical evaluation promptly, as early detection and intervention can help manage the disease and improve outcomes.

How Is Black Lung Disease Diagnosed?

There is no single, objective test for black lung disease. Diagnosis involves analysis of multiple factors, including:

  • VA Coal Miner with Black Lung DiseaseEmployment history, including history of exposure to coal dust and whether protective equipment was used
  • Timeline and progression of symptoms
  • Any previous treatments and their effectiveness
  • Smoking history and other risk factors for lung disease
  • Imaging (e.g., chest X-rays and CT scans)
  • Physical examination, including listening to lungs and testing lung capacity

A diagnosis of black lung disease can lead to eligibility for black lung benefits, which provide monthly compensation and medical treatment to affected miners.

Doctor Bias in Diagnosing and Treating Black Lung Disease

Because of the subjectivity involved in diagnosing black lung disease, the Department of Labor has long been concerned about the potential for physician bias and taken steps to minimize bias since 2013. In a 2021 study from the University of Illinois Chicago, researchers found that the bias problem was much more widespread than anticipated, and that doctors’ decisions about whether to diagnose black lung disease were strongly influenced by who hired them.

The study focused on 264 doctors, known as B-readers, who reviewed 63,780 chest x-rays for a potential black lung disease diagnosis from 2000-2013. Doctors hired by coal mining companies found that 84.8% of x-rays were negative for black lung disease, while doctors hired by coal miners found that only 51.3% of x-rays were negative for black lung disease. The researchers concluded that without a consistently applied objective measure for black lung as well as improved transparency and oversight, bias caused by financial conflicts of interest will continue to be an issue.

How Can Doctor Bias Affect a Legal Claim for Black Lung Disease?

DR reviewing x-ray of patient with black lung disease.Chest x-rays are a key component in receiving a black lung disease diagnosis and qualifying for financial compensation, including medical expense coverage and disability benefits. At The Law Offices of Mark T. Hurt, we understand the inherent bias of physicians hired by coal companies in diagnosing Black Lung Disease, and we refute wrong diagnoses with our medical experts.  We know the tremendous physical and financial toll that Black Lung Disease can take not only on a worker, but also the worker’s family, and we demand the full compensation to which workers are entitled. 

How Can I Get the Dedicated Legal Help for My Black Lung Disease?

If you or a loved one has been diagnosed with black lung or have experienced symptoms you believe are related to coal dust inhalation, call The Law Offices of Mark T. Hurt for a free consultation. Our experienced attorneys passionately fight for justice for coal miners whose health and quality of life have been compromised by black lung disease. 

At your free consultation, an attorney will review your medical history and the facts of your case, explain your legal options and deadlines to file, and the benefits to which you may be entitled. Black lung claims can be complex, but our experienced Virginia black lung disease attorneys will be there every step of the way, zealously advocating for you with the goal of obtaining maximum compensation for you and your family.