For decades, firefighters, including both military and civilian units, used AFFF, or Aqueous Film-Forming Foam, to suppress fires. AFFF saw use in both actual fires and training exercises across multiple organizations. Unfortunately, many of the chemicals used in AFFF can build up in the body over time. Those chemicals can substantially increase your risk of developing several serious, life-threatening illnesses, including cancer.
If you were diagnosed with cancer or other illness after exposure to firefighting foam, you may be able to file an AFFF lawsuit against the negligent manufacturers.
At Sibley Dolman and Sibley Dolman Gipe Accident Injury Lawyers, PA Accident Injury Lawyers, we want to help victims who have faced serious illness due to AFFF exposure receive the compensation they deserve. Contact us today at 833-552-7274 to learn more about your legal rights following a cancer diagnosis related to AFFF exposure.
What Is AFFF?
AFFF, or Aqueous Film-Forming Foam, helps form a protective blanket that smothers fires water alone cannot put out. It includes chemicals perfluoroalkyl and polyfluoroalkyl substances, or PFAS, which help put out the fire. In some cases, these chemicals still appear in firefighting foams, despite the known cancer risks.
When developed, AFF helped suppress fires faster than other available methods. Many installations still use it for that purpose. Unfortunately, the risks may outweigh potential gains, especially if the chemicals leech into groundwater or run off into nearby land, where they can seep into groundwater, causing serious hazards for local area residents.
The Department of Defense notes:
DOD uses this firefighting foam because on ships and on aircraft, the close proximity of people, fuel and munitions can be especially dangerous. AFFF works by quickly by spreading out over the surface of the fuel, depriving the fire of oxygen, quickly extinguishing even large fires. The foam also prevents the hot fuel from reigniting. So far, only AFFF that contains fluorine chemicals called per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances, or PFAS, are capable of putting out dangerous fuel fires fast and keeping them out.
Unfortunately, the same attributes that make PFAS desirable in small spaces or dangerous circumstances also make them incredibly dangerous for humans. These fire suppression chemicals heighten the risk of cancer in people who face exposure to them, especially people who face considerable exposure over a long time.
What Problems Can AFFF Cause?
Fire suppression chemicals can bind with proteins in the blood, where they can remain long-term. These chemicals cannot biodegrade, and may take thousands of years to eliminate from groundwater and soil. AFFF exposure leaves many firefighters with high levels of up to nine different fluorinate compounds in their blood.
These compounds can all substantially increase the risk of cancer, including:
- Kidney cancer
- Pancreatic cancer
- Testicular cancer
- Liver cancer
- Breast cancer
- Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma
- Ovarian cancer
- Prostate Cancer
- Bladder cancer
Exposure to AFFF and the chemicals contained within can also cause kidney damage.
Firefighters can take in these chemicals in several ways: through breathing, through skin contact, or through oral ingestion, which may prove difficult to avoid when fighting fires directly.
Today’s firefighters have stringent safety regulations in place to help decrease exposure and the effects of potential exposure to these chemicals, including wearing protective gear before using those fire suppression systems that contain PFAS, showering as soon as possible, and wiping down the skin after suspected exposure. Firefighters have also moved to replace their existing systems with fluorine-free fire suppression options.
Unfortunately, despite the known dangers, some firefighters continue to come into contact with PFAS through fire suppression systems. While these chemicals may, in the short-term, help fight fires, they can also cause serious harm to the firefighters who help suppress those fires.
High-Risk Professions for AFFF Exposure
Most of the individuals who come into contact with high levels of AFFF work as firefighters in some capacity. Many firefighters do not receive warnings about the potential dangers associated with AFFF use. They receive training in the use of specific procedures that help suppress fires without adequate warning of how chemical exposure could hurt them later in life.
Use by the Navy
AFFF usage in the Navy began in the 1960s. Not only did Navy workers use AFFF to suppress actual fires, they used the chemicals as part of training exercises designed to teach the appropriate responses to those fires. This increased exposure through training can also increase the risk of developing cancers associated with those chemicals.
The Navy heavily favored the use of these chemicals due to their ability to smother jet fuel fires, which could quickly rage out of control without fire suppression help. Currently, the US Navy has moved to transition away from chemicals that contain PFAS. Unfortunately, the Navy continues to use many of these chemicals while looking for effective solutions.
Until 2018, when information about the potential cancerous impact of AFFF exposure came to light, many airports required the use of AFFF in their fire suppression systems. Many workers in those airports, especially emergency responders and those who helped clean up after those fires, may have faced AFFF exposure.
AFFF Exposure in Groundwater and Drinking Water
AFFF does not degrade substantially on its own and may take thousands of years to disappear from local areas. In areas where it faced use, it may leech into the ground and local groundwater. In some cases, that may lead to local citizens facing exposure to those harmful chemicals. These chemicals may remain particularly high around Navy bases or in areas where firefighters train regularly.
Private citizens who believe they may face cancer due to exposure to chemicals from AFFF should consult their doctors and talk to a lawyer to learn more about their rights and the harm caused by those chemicals.
Filing an AFFF Lawsuit: Who Bears Liability for AFFF Use?
Many of the companies using AFFF, including local fire departments, may have had little to no idea of the potential side effects of those chemicals.
The companies producing those fire suppression systems, on the other hand, have, in some cases, known about the dangers for decades. Despite that knowledge, however, these individuals took no steps to protect the general public, including the firefighters who put their lives on the line to help suppress those fires and save both people and property.
At Sibley Dolman Gipe Accident Injury Lawyers, PA and Sibley Dolman, we want to pursue compensation for victims who faced serious diagnoses and symptoms as a result of their AFFF exposure. We are looking at claims, evaluating the challenges faced by individuals who have dealt with those diagnoses, and going after the companies that produced and distributed AFFF for fire suppression.
Obtaining Compensation Through an AFFF LawsuitThe Compensation You Deserve
Following AFFF exposure and a cancer diagnosis related to that exposure, contact an experienced personal injury attorney as soon as possible. A personal injury attorney can help provide you an overview of the specific compensation you deserve and who you should approach for compensation. Most personal injury claims, including claims for cancer due to AFFF exposure, include the same basic elements.
Your medical bills form a vital part of any personal injury claim—and following a cancer diagnosis, those bills can add up fast. Many cancer patients face long hospitalizations and require multiple procedures to treat their cancer. You may have to undergo surgery, radiation, or chemotherapy. Some doctors recommend expensive immunotherapy to help advance the treatment of cancer.
Many victims also seek palliative care, intended to help ease their symptoms and make them more comfortable throughout treatment. You can seek compensation for your medical expenses related to cancer treatments as part of your personal injury claim.
Following a cancer diagnosis, some patients have to leave work temporarily. While some patients can work part-time while going through cancer treatments, others may find it impossible to manage their treatments while still doing full-time work. Your lost wages may continue to add up as your fight against cancer continues, especially if you have a long battle to wage. Some employers will allow you to shift to part-time work during your treatments; however, you may miss a substantial amount of your normal wages during those periods.
Pain and Suffering
Cancer patients go through a great deal of suffering during their treatments. Not only can many types of cancer cause considerable suffering on their own, the treatments can cause additional suffering for the victim. Many victims also suffer as they miss out on much-anticipated activities and events due to weakness from cancer or cancer treatments.
Victims may also need to deal with the loss of relationships as they go through treatment, since they may not have the time and energy they need to connect with friends and loved ones. Talk to an attorney about how to include the pain and suffering you faced due to your diagnosis as part of your lawsuit.
Why Seek Compensation for AFFF-Related Damages?
As a firefighter, you likely took your job to protect the people around you: to fight fires, stop property damage, and save lives. In many cases, especially if you worked as a Navy or airport firefighter, you may have found yourself exposed to high levels of those chemicals regularly as you worked to save lives and decrease potential dangers.
The companies that produced those chemicals, however, did not take the necessary steps to protect you.
With proper protective gear and safety measures in place, including limiting the movements of AFFF materials to protect groundwater and keep local residents safe, AFFF can still see regular use, especially in dangerous environments where the hazards presented by fires could outweigh the possible dangers with AFFF exposure. Unfortunately, the companies that manufacture it did not take the steps necessary to protect firefighters or private citizens who came into contact with those chemicals.
You suffered serious illness as a result of your AFFF exposure. In many patients, a cancer diagnosis can change and limit the rest of their lives. In many cases, especially if cancer reaches an advanced stage before diagnosis, it can lead to death. You deserve compensation for the losses you faced. Contact Sibley Dolman Gipe Accident Injury Lawyers, PA and Sibley Dolman to learn more about your legal right to compensation following a serious diagnosis related to your AFFF exposure.
How an Attorney Can Help
Working with an experienced personal injury attorney can help you seek the compensation you deserve for any type of personal injury claim, including claims related to a cancer diagnosis for AFFF exposure.
An attorney can:
- Help you better understand your legal right to compensation. How much compensation do you really deserve after a cancer diagnosis? Should you participate in a class action lawsuit, or pursue compensation on your own? What should you do if the company that manufactured AFFF offers you a settlement you do not agree meets your needs? An attorney can provide valuable advice that can help you make decisions that will protect your financial future and rights following serious health-related challenges related to AFFF exposure.
- Fight for you. In many cases, you may need an attorney to help fight for the compensation you deserve. In many cases, companies respond more to attorneys than they do to private individuals notifying them about a problem. Not only that, an attorney can help take your claim to court, if needed, and fight aggressively for the compensation you deserve. An attorney can also help you decide when to accept a settlement offer and how that may impact your financial future.
- Provide peace of mind and decrease stress throughout the process. With a cancer diagnosis, you have more than enough things to worry about already. An attorney can help provide peace of mind as you move through a lawsuit after your diagnosis. You can leave the legal process in your attorney’s hands, rather than needing to focus on those elements for yourself. Many patients find that working closely with an experienced personal injury attorney frees them up to deal with their recovery and the related challenges, rather than having to focus on the legal issues.
FAQs Concerning AFFF Lawsuits
Do you have questions about the chemical exposure you faced due to AFFF use, either as a firefighter yourself or around you? If you have questions about an individual claim, contact Sibley Dolman Gipe Accident Injury Lawyers, PA or Sibley Dolman as soon as possible. We can connect you with an experienced attorney who can help answer your questions and give you a better understanding of the compensation you deserve for the losses and expenses you suffered due to your cancer diagnosis.
Here, we attempt to answer some of the most commonly-asked questions related to AFFF exposure lawsuits.
1. Why do I need an attorney to help me handle an AFFF lawsuit?
If you have a cancer diagnosis due to AFFF exposure, an attorney can offer several advantages. By working with an attorney, many victims find that they can substantially increase the compensation they can get for their injuries and suffering. An attorney can help put together your lawsuit, help you gather the information you need to prove your claim, and aggressively pursue the compensation you deserve for your physical and financial suffering related to your diagnosis.
2. Filing an AFFF lawsuit: how much does an attorney cost?
An attorney may start work on your claim free of charge. In fact, many victims discover that working with an attorney costs less than they initially think.
Start with a free consultation with an attorney experienced in handling AFFF lawsuits. Ask the attorney how they have dealt with those clients in the past and, if relevant, what past results they have seen. During that free consultation, an attorney can also give you a better idea of how much compensation you should receive for your personal injury claim.
Many attorneys will accept personal injury claims, including those against AFFF companies, on a contingent fee basis. The attorney does not require payment upfront, but instead takes his fee as a percentage of the settlement you receive. For many victims, this makes the legal process much more affordable, enabling you to get the compensation you deserve for your suffering.
3. What information will I need to prove the validity of my AFFF lawsuit?
To prove that you have grounds for an AFFF lawsuit, work closely with a personal injury attorney to learn more about your legal rights and what information you will need to provide to prove your claim.
This may include:
- Medical records. Your medical records will establish your diagnosis and when it took place. Your medical records may include notes from your doctor about the severity of your symptoms, including how they impact many areas of your life. Your medical records will also include information about the treatments you needed as you dealt with your cancer, including chemotherapy, radiation, or surgical treatment.
- Medical bills. Your medical bills will help form the foundation of your AFFF exposure personal injury claim. Collect all medical bills related to your cancer diagnosis and treatment, including bills for tests, follow-up visits with your doctor, cancer treatments, and bills for any procedures you had performed. Keep track of all of your medical bills throughout your treatment. Your attorney may also urge you to include bills for any durable medical equipment you used during your illness and bills for in-home care, if needed, throughout your treatments.
- Evidence of your AFFF exposure. Where did you face AFFF exposure? In what context? Did you work as a firefighter, either in a fire department, on a Navy base, or in an airport? Did you face AFFF exposure due to chemicals in groundwater that you consumed or faced exposure to over time? An attorney can help you collect evidence of your AFFF exposure, including how often you may have faced exposure due to your quick, timely actions in fighting a fire.
4. Can I file a lawsuit related to AFFF exposure even if I did not work as a firefighter?
To file an AFFF exposure lawsuit related to a cancer diagnosis, you will need to show evidence of AFFF exposure at some point. If you live near a base or airport, or on a Navy base, you may have grounds to show that this chemical got used regularly around you. Further research into your local area may reveal when and why you faced AFFF exposure.
In addition, an attorney may help you identify specific instances during which firefighters nearby used AFFF to suppress flames. You may also choose to have your local water tested, which could reveal evidence of AFFF exposure. Contact an attorney if you believe that you have grounds for a lawsuit related to AFFF exposure, even if you did not work as a firefighter.
5. How long does it take to file an AFFF lawsuit?
It can take time before you have the settlement for an AFFF lawsuit in your hands. Filing a lawsuit usually takes time. You should start by contacting an attorney as soon after your diagnosis as possible, especially if you believe that your diagnosis connects to AFFF exposure. The attorney can help walk you through the process and give you a better idea of the timeline related to your specific claim.
These factors can contribute to the length of your claim.
- The extent of your cancer and treatment protocols. To file a personal injury claim, you will need to have a reasonable idea of the extent of the harm you suffered—in this case, a cancer diagnosis. You may need to work closely with your doctor to get a better idea of how long it will take to treat your cancer and what costs you will face along the way. In many cases, your doctor may need you to begin treatment and even go through a substantial percentage of it before fully understanding how much your cancer treatments will cost. Keep in mind that your doctor cannot fully predict what your road to recovery will look like. In some cases, your lawyer may advise waiting until you have a better idea of your eventual prognosis before filing a claim. Extensive cancer treatments may also delay response from the companies that manufactured AFFF. In many cases, these companies may try to minimize their financial liability as much as possible. If you have a high-dollar demand for compensation following your diagnosis, the company may insist on longer negotiations or drag its heels.
- The rounds of negotiation you go through. Before you can receive a settlement for your claim—or, if you need to go to court, an award—you may need to go through several rounds of negotiation before arriving at an agreement with the company. You may not want to accept the company’s initial response to your demand package, and the company may not immediately offer you the funds you asked for in that package. The more rounds of negotiation you need to go through, the more it can increase the time needed to settle your claim. You may also need to factor in the time needed for mediation, in which you have a chance to sit down with your attorney, the company and its representatives, and a mediator to help you reach an agreement. If you cannot reach an agreement through mediation, your claim may need to go to court.
6. Can I file a wrongful death claim if I lost a loved one due to cancer related to AFFF exposure?
If you lost a loved one due to cancer from AFFF exposure, you may have the right to file a wrongful death claim, which can provide you with compensation for the loss of a loved one. Contact an experienced attorney who has dealt with AFFF claims in the past to get a better idea of what compensation you can expect.
Compensation may include:
- Compensation for your loved one’s medical bills before death
- Compensation for the loss of companionship you face
- Compensation for your loved one’s pain and suffering before death
- Compensation for the loss of your loved one’s income or other contributions to the family
To file a wrongful death claim, you will need to have a direct relationship to the deceased. Most often, the deceased’s spouse has the first right to compensation, followed by the deceased’s children, if no spouse exists. If the deceased had no spouse or children, his parents may have the right to seek compensation through a wrongful death claim, especially if the deceased supported his parents financially or physically.
7. How should I handle my medical bills if I have a cancer diagnosis related to AFFF exposure?
No matter what caused your cancer diagnosis, you, as the party receiving medical services, have the primary obligation to pay for those services. The contract you sign with your doctors or hospital will indicate that you need to take responsibility for all costs related to those services.
That does not necessarily mean, however, that you have no options for paying your medical bills following that type of diagnosis.
- Your health insurance may help cover many of those expenses. When you receive your initial diagnosis, consult your health insurance company for a better idea of what you can expect the out-of-pocket costs related to a cancer diagnosis to look like. You may need to ask questions about what coverage your insurance company will offer, including what providers you can use that your insurance company covers in-network for treatments and procedures.
- Your hospital may have programs in place that will help support cancer patients and their families. Many hospitals offer treatment to patients on a nonprofit basis, which can make it easier for you to pay for those treatments. Some other programs also help pay for cancer treatments, transportation, or lodging while patients or their family members go through cancer treatments. Contact your hospital and ask about what programs you can use to help offset some of the costs associated with cancer treatment.
- A personal injury claim can help provide compensation that will cover your medical expenses. While a personal injury claim may not alleviate your suffering or remove your cancer diagnosis, it can help provide much-needed compensation for the expenses you face as a result of your treatments. Get in touch with a personal injury attorney as soon after your diagnosis as possible to get a better idea of how much compensation you can expect and how it can help you cover your medical bills.
8. Can I still file an AFFF lawsuit, even if I choose not to receive cancer treatments?
In some cases, your doctors may discover such advanced cancer that you cannot reasonably expect treatment to prolong your life. In others, you may have relatively minor cancer that does not require immediate treatment, only observation. In either case, however, you may still face considerable medical bills related to your treatment.
Even if you do not receive treatment for your cancer, you may still have the right to an AFFF lawsuit that can help you seek compensation for the suffering you faced and for your current medical expenses. Contact an attorney to ask more specific questions about your rights following your cancer diagnosis and how your decision not to pursue treatment can affect your claim.
9. What if I cannot offer proof about when I faced AFFF exposure?
Employment records can help show that you worked as a firefighter. If you worked as a volunteer firefighter, your volunteer records can also show when you may have faced exposure. An attorney can help investigate your claim and provide the proof that you may need to show when you faced AFFF exposure. If you worked at an airport or in the Navy as a firefighter, those records will also serve to show when you may have faced exposure.
An attorney can help assess what chemicals your workplace used and review any cases in which you may have faced direct exposure.
Do You Need an Attorney to File an AFFF Lawsuit After a Cancer Diagnosis?
As a firefighter, you may have put your life and health on the line in many cases to help save the people around you or to decrease the risk of extreme property damage. You did not expect the danger to sneak up on you. After AFFF exposure, however, it may take years before you receive your cancer diagnosis and fully understand what it will mean in your life. Once that cancer diagnosis comes in, however, you may need an attorney to work on your behalf.
Sibley Dolman Gipe Accident Injury Lawyers, PA and Sibley Dolman are ready to hear your story and see if we can help you. Contact us today or call us at 833-552-7274 to learn more about your right to compensation following a cancer diagnosis.