What Is AFFF?The U.S. Naval Research Laboratory regards aqueous film-forming foam as providing “one of the most far-reaching benefits to worldwide aviation safety.” The NRL began researching the benefits of this firefighting foam in the 1960s, discovering that it put out hydrocarbon fires quickly. It also formed a film on the surface of the fuel that prevents evaporation and alleviates the potential of the fuel reigniting. The Navy touts the use of AFFF in preventing a major fire disaster in Fairfax, Virginia during 1987, in which a construction bulldozer ruptured an underground gas line. This accident resulted in a gaping hole in the gas line that caused thousands of gallons of flammable liquid and vapors to spill over a large area and prompted the evacuation of a community. Fire officials from Dulles International Airport, Bolling and Andrews Air Force Bases, Ft. Belvoir, and the Quantico Marine Corps Base quickly furnished AFFF to officials in Fairfax, preventing the community of Singleton's Grove from being lost to the fire. However, despite all its benefits, environmental regulators have long been aware that this firefighting foam contains per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS), which can migrate into the soil, water, and air. In 2016, it was discovered that the groundwater in and near Peterson Air Force Base in Colorado Springs, Colorado, was highly contaminated by the chemicals used in AFFF for putting out fuel fires on base. A nine-month study conducted on the matter revealed that the toxic chemicals appearing in groundwater and soil appeared at more than 1,000 times over the national health advisory limit and had contaminated the drinking supplies of tens of thousands of residents living on and near the base. Individuals most at risk of exposure to PFAS through the firefighting foam include:
- Military personnel
- Oil and gas industry workers
- Airport personnel
- People who work in PFAS manufacturing facilities
- Those living in or near areas where AFFF is used
- Legacy PFOS Foams, which contain long-carbon-chain fluorinated compounds (C8), specifically PFOS and PFOA, manufactured before 2003 by 3M and sold under the brand name Lightwater
- Legacy Fluorotelomer Foams, which contain some long-chain PFAS, manufactured from the 1970s until 2016 and include all other brands of AFFF. These foams contain polyfluorinated precursors that break down to PFOA and other PFAS in the environment and contain PFOA as a byproduct of manufacturing
- Modern Fluorotelomer Foams, which were manufactured starting in 2010, contain almost exclusively short-chain (C6) fluorotelomers or short-carbon-chain fluorinated compounds that may still have trace levels of PFOA and PFOA precursors as a byproduct of manufacturing
- Fluorine-Free Foams, which do not contain fluorinated compounds
- For vapor suppression of unignited liquids in incidents where there is a life safety hazard, a risk of significant loss of property, or where ignition sources can't be controlled
- Extinguishment of ignited flammable liquids
What Are PFAS?Per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) are a large group of man-made chemical compounds that have been used for a variety of commercial purposes since the 1950s. In addition to being an ingredient of some types of firefighting foam, these chemical compounds are also found in many consumer products, including non-stick Teflon products, polishes, waxes, paints, and cleaning products. Low levels of PFAS were also detected in food packaged in materials that contain these chemical compounds, processed with equipment containing PFAS, or grown in PFAS-contaminated soil or irrigated with contaminated groundwater. Certain types of PFAS, when introduced into the body, can linger in the body's organs for a long time. The majority of people throughout America and the rest of the world have low levels of PFAS in their bodies through contaminated water supplies, soil, and other sources. However, long-term exposure to high doses of these chemical compounds can result in a toxic buildup in the body that can lead to certain types of cancers, including testicular, bladder, and kidney cancers, as well as a condition known as thyroid disease. Other health effects include low birth weight in babies who were born to mothers who were exposed to PFAS while pregnant, and adverse effects on the body's immune system.
Why Are PFAs a Danger to the Environment?The risk of PFAs and AFFF to firefighters is clear. The stability of their chemical makeup means PFAS are unrelenting and do not biodegrade or break down easily. In the environment, they tend to:
- Move and migrate in the environment
- Infiltrate groundwater and aquifers
- Amass and accumulate in the food
- Pose harm to animals and plant life
- Travel through the ocean and air
The Long-Term Effects of PFA Exposure Remain UnclearBecause of the recent newsworthiness and the damage that they have caused in certain industries and to civilians, PFAs are being studied now more than ever. As much as science, legal teams, and other entities know about their history and current dangers, many things are still unknown about PFAs and the dangers of exposure. According to EPA's ongoing research, we are still learning about:
- Methods of detection and accurate measurements of PFAs in air, water, soil, fish, and wildlife
- How people were exposed to PFAs and how much exposure they endured
- How PFAs can be safely and effectively eradicated from drinking water supplies
- The safest and most effective methods of disposing of PFAS
- Alternative firefighting products that provide good results without causing additional harm
The Government Begins Addressing PFAS ExposureIn 2019, the EPA released an action plan to address PFAS regulation and exposure. As part of that plan, there is a proposal to ensure that new products using long-chain PFAS cannot be manufactured in or imported to the U.S. without government approval and oversight. Additionally, the agency identified new validation measures to test for 11 new PFAS types that could be found in drinking water. The agency issued a directive to prioritize federal research on the impacts of PFAS in agriculture and rural communities and expanded drinking water regulations to include new PFAS chemicals. The U.S. Department of Defense started a PFAS task force of its own to begin studying the prevalence of PFAS contamination at and near military installations. In its update of the task force's activities, the department noted:
- No PFAS-free foam has met the safety requirements of the DoD to be used to rapidly extinguish fires.
- AFFF is still being used in emergency response but is no longer being used in the military for land-based testing or training.
- The DoD has pledged $49 million through fiscal year 2025 to researching, testing, developing, and evaluating PFAS-free firefighting foam that can meet the military's specifications.
- The DoD is preparing to offer annual blood testing to detect levels of PFAS in firefighters' blood.
- The department is providing $30 million, plus an additional $10 million a year to the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry to conduct exposure assessments in communities that are located close to military installations where PFAS contamination was discovered in water supplies.
Companies Knew for Decades That Their Products Could Cause HarmAccording to the advocacy organization, Environmental Working Group, companies such as 3M and DuPont knew for decades that the PFAS contained in their products remained in the body for a long time and had a toxic effect on the body's organs. However, they failed to alert federal or state officials of the dangers until 1998. As far back as 1950, 3M conducted internal studies that revealed the longevity of the chemical compounds in the body and blood. Studies conducted by 3M and DuPont in the 1960s showed that animals subjected to high levels of PFAS suffered health problems. Additional third-party studies conducted in the 50s and 60s validated this knowledge. In 1963, a 3M technical manual noted that PFAS was toxic, and a rat study conducted by DuPont in 1965 revealed that PFAS increased the animals' liver and kidney weight and increased the size of the spleen. A year later, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration declined DuPont's request to use PFAS as a food additive, citing potential damage that the chemical compounds could result in liver damage. By 1970, PFAS were widely used in firefighting foam. 3M posted a warning in the Fire Journal, a magazine produced by the National Fire Protection Association, that PFAS that found its way to water sources was toxic to fish, and DuPont scientists stated that this large group of chemical compounds was highly toxic when inhaled. By the late 1970s, both 3M and DuPont had continually found that the chemicals were toxic, and 3M began testing workers to determine the levels of PFAS in their blood. In 1981, 3M and DuPont reassigned female workers after animal studies revealed that PFAS causes damage to the eyes of developing fetuses. In 1983, 3M identified potential harms to the immune system that could result from PFAS exposure. In the late 1980s, a 3M study revealed an elevated level of cancer rates among workers who experienced occupational exposure to PFAS, and DuPont also recognized this elevated cancer rate in its own workers a few years later. By 1990, 3M had realized that PFAS exposure posed an increased risk of testicular cancer. While two of the most hazardous chemicals that are involved in the group of compounds known as PFAS were phased out in the U.S. under pressure by the EPA, companies continue to manufacture products containing PFAS to this day. PFAS contamination has been discovered in 700 communities throughout 49 states, and federal data indicates that up to 100 million Americans may be exposed to low levels of PFAS through their drinking and food supplies.
Lawsuits Regarding AFFF Have Been Settled, Many Others FiledIn 2010, the state of Minnesota filed a lawsuit against the 3M Company, alleging that the company had spent more than 50 years producing PFAS chemical compounds in stain repellents, fire retardants, and chemical products. The company disposed of waste and wastewater that caused groundwater and soil contamination in the state. In 2018, Minnesota's Attorney General announced that an $850 million settlement was reached in the case and that the funds would be disbursed in the form of a restricted grant that would be used for drinking water and natural resources projects in the Twin Cities area. In 2019, more than 100 lawsuits involving AFFF were brought together in one multi-district litigation to be heard in South Carolina. Defendants in the lawsuit include 3M, DuPont, Tyco/ Chemguard, and Kidde, as well as several federal entities. Plaintiffs allege that the use of PFAS in firefighting foams in locations such as military bases and industrial facilities caused contamination to groundwater and drinking water supplies. The aim of multi-district litigation (MDL) is to reduce the burden on federal district courts by temporarily combining lawsuits filed in multiple districts and transferring all of the cases to a single district for pre-trial proceedings. Unlike class-action lawsuits, the cases involved in MDLs remain separate cases from the others and are returned to the district of origin after the pre-trial proceedings if a settlement has not been reached. Often, global settlements are offered during the pretrial phases of the MDL. Global settlements involve the defendant(s) settling with all plaintiffs in all cases involved in the MDL in a single settlement, rather than settling or litigating each case individually. If you have been exposed to high levels of PFAS through firefighting foam and have received a diagnosis of cancer or another PFAS-associated adverse health reaction, contact us today to learn more about joining the multi-district legislation. You may be eligible to receive compensation for medical and other out-of-pocket expenses, as well as for the profound impacts that your illness has had on your life.
Common Health Conditions Associated With AFFFAdverse health conditions have been linked to the chemical compounds found in aqueous film-forming foam that is used to extinguish hydrocarbon fuel fires. Read on for more information about these conditions.
Work-Related AsthmaAsthma is a respiratory disease that affects a person's ability to breathe easily and causes airways and breathing passages to become constricted. It is typically characterized by wheezing, tightening of the chest, shortness of breath, and deep coughing. According to Mayo Clinic research, asthma can be staged as:
- Mild intermittent
- Mild persistent
- Moderate persistent
- Severe persistent
Thyroid Disease in ChildrenThe thyroid is a small gland located in the neck below the voice box. This gland is responsible for producing thyroid hormones that play an important role in regulating the body's metabolism, as well as stimulating the body tissue to release proteins and increase the amount of oxygen in cells. The hormones also help to regulate heart rate, blood pressure, energy level, and temperature growth. In early childhood, the body relies greatly on the thyroid hormones for brain development and growth. A study of the effect of exposure to PFAS in pregnant women and teenage males indicated that there is some association between this exposure and thyroid problems that occur during fetal development and certain periods of childhood. The body's development processes rely on thyroid hormones through adolescence. One issue linked to PFAS exposure is a deficiency in thyroid hormones during infancy, which can cause developmental delays and delayed puberty.
Kidney CancerThe kidneys are two bean-shaped organs, each about the size of your fist, located behind the abdominal organs. The kidneys are responsible for removing waste and excess fluid from the body. It is believed that exposure to the PFAS chemicals found in firefighting foam can cause kidney cancer. This type of cancer generally presents with symptoms such as:
- Blood in the urine, which may appear pink, red, or cola-colored
- Pain in the back or side that doesn't go away
- Loss of appetite
- Unexplained weight loss
Bladder CancerThe bladder is a hollow organ in the lower pelvis that stores urine until it is eliminated from the body. Bladder cancer is an abnormal growth of cells that eventually form a tumor. Most bladder cancers begin in the inner layer of the bladder. If untreated, the tumor can grow through the exterior layers of the bladder lining and even into the bladder wall itself. Workplace exposures to chemicals such as PFAS are a common cause of this type of cancer. Side effects often experienced by individuals with bladder cancer include:
- Blood in the urine, which is generally the first sign of this type of cancer
- Changes in bladder habits, such as more frequent urination, pain or burning during urination, having trouble urinating or having a weak stream, having to urinate several times during the night, and feeling an urgent need to urinate even when the bladder isn't full
Testicular CancerThe testicles are two egg-shaped glands located in the scrotum, which is the sac that is located below the penis. They are part of the male reproductive system, responsible for producing sperm as well as hormones such as testosterone, which controls the sex drive in men as well as the growth of muscle, bone, and body hair. Testicular cancer is an abnormal growth of cells within one of the testicles that result in the formation of a tumor. If untreated, these abnormal cells can travel through the bloodstream to other organs of the body. Signs that you may have testicular cancer include:
- A painless lump in the testicle
- Swelling of the testicle with or without pain, or a feeling of heaviness in the scrotum
- Pain or a dull ache in the testicle, scrotum, or groin
- Tenderness or changes in breast tissue
Pancreatic CancerThe pancreas is an organ located in the abdomen, just below the stomach. The pancreas' function is to create enzymes that aid in digestion, as well as producing hormones that help your body regulate its blood sugar level. Different cancers can occur in the pancreas. Unfortunately, this type of cancer rarely presents any symptoms until the later stages, when it is often too late to cure When symptoms do finally present, they often include:
- Abdominal pain that radiates to the back
- Loss of appetite or unintended weight loss
- Jaundice, which is the yellowing of the skin or the whites of the eyes
- Light-colored stools
- Dark-colored urine
- Itchy skin
- A new diagnosis of diabetes or the difficulty controlling blood sugar in existing cases
- Blood clots
Prostate CancerThe prostate is a walnut-sized gland that is part of the male reproductive system. The prostate's functions include producing seminal fluid that nourishes and transports sperm. Prostate cancer is one of the most common cancers and one of the leading causes of death among men. Generally, prostate cancer is very slow-growing and is often treatable even in late stages. There are, however, types of aggressive prostate cancer that grow very quickly. This type of cancer also presents with very few early symptoms. Later stage symptoms include:
- Trouble urinating
- Decreased force in the stream of urine
- Blood in the semen
- Discomfort in the pelvis
- Bone pain
- Erectile dysfunction
Breast CancerAfter skin cancer, breast cancer is the most common type of cancer to be experienced by women in the U.S. The signs and symptoms of breast cancer include:
- A lump or thickening of the skin that feels different from the surrounding tissue
- Changes in size, shape, and appearance of the breast
- Changes in the skin covering the breast, such as dimpling
- A newly inverted nipple
- Peeling, scaling, crusting, or flaking of the colored area (areola) surrounding the nipple
- Redness or pitting of the skin that resembles the skin of an orange
Liver CancerThe liver is the body's largest internal organ. The liver is essential for survival as it provides several vital functions including:
- Breaking down and storing the nutrients from the small intestine that the body needs to function
- Producing clotting factors that keep the body from bleeding too much from injury
- Delivering bile to the intestines to help absorb nutrients
- Breaking down toxic waste in the blood, allowing it to pass from the body through the stool
- Loss of appetite and unintended weight loss
- Feeling full after a small meal
- Nausea or vomiting
- An enlarged liver, which is experienced as fullness under the ribs on the right side
- An enlarged spleen, which is experienced as fullness under the ribs on the left side
- Pain in the abdomen or the right shoulder blade
- Swelling or fluid buildup in the abdomen
LymphomaLymphoma is a type of cancer that begins in the infection-fighting cells of the immune system. These cells are located in several areas of the body, including the lymph nodes, spleen, thymus, and bone marrow. Warning signs that can indicate lymphoma include:
- Swollen lymph nodes in the neck, armpit, or groin that are usually painless
- Shortness of breath
- Night sweats.
- Weight loss
LeukemiaLeukemia is a type of blood cancer that occurs when the number of white blood cells in the body increases until they begin to crowd out red blood cells and platelets. Symptoms of leukemia—which can occur either in an early or late stage—include:
- Weakness or fatigue
- Bleeding or bruising easily
- Fever or chills
- Severe or recurring infections
- Pain in bones or joints
- Weight loss
- Shortness of breath
- Night sweats
- Swollen lymph nodes in areas of the body such as the spleen
PreeclampsiaPreeclampsia is a potentially fatal pregnancy complication that involves high blood pressure and signs of damage to another organ system such as the liver or the kidneys. The condition generally begins after the twentieth week of pregnancy when it was previously normal. If left untreated, preeclampsia can cause complications for both the mother and the baby and can even cause either to die. The simplest way to treat the disorder is to deliver the baby. Preeclampsia symptoms include:
- Excess protein in the urine
- Severe headaches
- Changes in vision, including temporary loss of vision, blurriness, or light sensitivity
- Upper abdominal pain, generally beneath the ribs on the right side
- Nausea or vomiting
- Decreased urine output
- Decreased platelets in the blood
- Impaired liver function
- Shortness of breath caused by fluid on the lungs
Immune System ChangesA study involving 237 African children who had been exposed to PFAS chemicals revealed that their antibody response to the measles vaccine had been reduced by about one-quarter, even among children who were only exposed to low levels of the chemicals. Previous studies indicated that, in adults, PFAS exposure resulted in decreased responses to both influenza vaccines as well as diphtheria-tetanus boosters. Aside from cancer, immune system changes are the health condition most often reported in individuals with known PFAS exposure.
Other Health IssuesThe above information is not an exhaustive list of all the potential adverse health outcomes that can result from PFAS exposure due to firefighting foam. With most of these conditions, early diagnosis and treatment greatly improve the individual's ability to survive the disease. If you have been exposed to PFAS, inform your medical provider so he or she can begin screening for cancers and other conditions that might result from that exposure. Because many cancers have a latency period of many years between exposure and diagnosis, it is important to mention even exposures that occurred decades ago. If you have been diagnosed with an AFFF-related health condition, contact us today to explore the legal options for obtaining compensation for the impacts and expenses you have incurred as a result of your illness.
How Are Children Exposed to PFAs?Protecting children from known and visible dangers is expected. Offering that same protection against invisible and chemical hazards is difficult, and often an afterthought. Their processes and stages of development can make children more sensitive than adults for many types of chemical and environmental exposures. In children, PFA exposure has been linked to:
- Increased asthma diagnoses
- Lipid imbalances
- Compromised immunity
- Weakened renal function
- Early-onset of menstruation
FAQs About AFFF LawsuitsIf you were exposed to the chemicals found in aqueous film-forming foam and subsequently diagnosed with a PFAS-related illness, you likely have a lot of questions about the process of obtaining compensation for the expenses and life impacts that your injury has caused to you. Here are some of the questions we are most frequently asked about the subject.
If there Are So Many Illnesses Related to PFAS, Why Are Companies Still Allowed to Put These Chemicals in Products?Aqueous film-forming foam is a highly effective product for extinguishing fires caused by hydrocarbon fuels. This efficiency made the firefighting foam an important product for use in:
- Fire departments or agencies
- Military personnel on bases where there is a lot of air and truck traffic and risk of fires caused by fuels and in the oil and gas industry, where highly flammable fuels are used as part of the company's processes
Is this Foam Used in My Household Fire Extinguisher?No. The types of extinguishers most often intended for household or office use include powder and carbon dioxide extinguishers that do not contain this film-forming foam. AFFF was specifically designed for use on fires caused by highly flammable fuels.
Why Was AFFF So Widely Used in the Military?Because the film is specifically designed to fight the sort of fires that might be encountered during military maneuvers, AFFF was supplied to hundreds of bases across the nation and used not only for emergency purposes but also for training troops to respond to emergencies. While the military has known for quite some time that this foam presents health dangers for personnel and can contaminate the soil and groundwater in the areas where it was used, replacing the foam with a viable alternative and addressing the issues caused by AFFF contamination on or near bases has proven quite costly. As of 2018, the Air Force had spent around $10.8 million replacing and incinerating old AFFF. The cost of transitioning to another firefighting foam product was expected to reach more than $74 million and the process was expected to take years to complete.
What do I Need to Prove to File an AFFF Lawsuit?To file an AFFF lawsuit against the manufacturer of the firefighting foam, you must prove the following elements in your case:
- You experienced exposure to the harmful PFAS chemicals as a result of AFFF use in your job as a firefighter, military personnel, or worker in other industries that use the foam; you were a worker in a facility that manufactured AFFF; or you were exposed to chemicals from the foam as a result of living in an area where the PFAS chemicals from the foam have contaminated soil or groundwater.
- This exposure resulted in you being diagnosed with a PFAS-related medical condition.
- There was a latency period between exposure and diagnosis that corresponds with the belief that the illness was a direct result of your exposure.
What Sort of Damages Can I Seek from an AFFF Lawsuit?The damages you can seek to recover in an AFFF personal injury lawsuit include:
- Medical expenses, including diagnostic testing, surgical services, prescription medication, and other expenses related to the treatment of your condition
- Wages that have been lost due to you being too sick to work or missing work to attend medical appointments for your condition
- The loss of future earning capacity if your condition renders you disabled and you can no longer work
- Physical pain and suffering
- Emotional distress
What Is a Latency Period, and Why does It Matter?The latency period for cancer refers to the time between initial exposure to a carcinogenic (cancer-causing) substance and the diagnosis of cancer. This matters to your case because cancers generally take years to develop. If you were initially exposed to PFAS last week and were diagnosed with cancer today, you might prove that the PFAS exposure caused your cancer as cancer doesn't appear that quickly.
I Was a Firefighter in the Military When I Was Exposed to AFFF. Should I Sue the Military?Probably not. While many military firefighters are eligible to file a claim for AFFF exposure that resulted in a diagnosis of cancer or another PFAS-associated condition, the MDL that is currently taking place involves suing the manufacturer of the AFFF product, who chose to manufacture a product that they knew or reasonably should have known was hazardous to humans.
Are There Other Ways to Obtain Compensation for My Illness without Filing a Lawsuit?Yes, other funding mechanisms provide financial benefits for those who have developed cancer after being exposed to carcinogenic materials found in AFFF. If your exposure occurred during your occupation and you are still employed by the company where the exposure took place, you can likely file a workers' compensation claim. If your exposure occurred during military service, you can apply for disability payments and receive medical treatment through the Department of Veterans Affairs. If you can't work as a result of your illness, you can see if you are eligible to receive Social Security Disability benefits. Your attorney can explore the funding options with you and can assist you in applying for programs that can help you with your expenses and treatment.
Why Are the AFFF Lawsuits Being Combined? Is This a Class Action?The AFFF lawsuits are not a class-action, which occurs when multiple court cases are combined into one case featuring many plaintiffs. Instead, these lawsuits are part of multi-district litigation (MDL). Like class-actions, MDLs ease the burden on the federal court system of multiple cases involving similar claims against the same defendant. However, these cases are only combined for pre-trial formalities and discovery. Once those phases are complete, if there are remaining cases that have not been settled, those cases are returned to the district where they originated and are heard separately.
How Much Exposure to AFFF Is Necessary to Cause Cancer?The chemicals that are present in firefighting foam are hazardous at any level of exposure. However, cancer is most likely to develop in individuals who worked as firefighters, military personnel, airport personnel, or in the oil and gas industry for the course of their careers. For these individuals, regular exposure occurred for many years. PFAS are known as “forever chemicals” as the toxins are stored in the body for many years. With repeated exposure, these toxins build up to a level that can result in not only cancer development, but also issues with the thyroid, hormones, and immune system.
How Much More Likely Are Firefighters to be Diagnosed with Cancer than the General Population?Most people have trace amounts of the toxin in their systems due to rampant ground and water contamination and the use of PFAS in many common household products. However, firefighters who have been exposed to PFAS in firefighting foam were found in a study to have a level of PFAS stored in their bodily organs that is roughly three times higher than that of the general population. This doesn't necessarily mean they are three times more likely to be diagnosed with cancer, but it does mean that there is an elevated risk of that outcome.
What Are the Most Common Types of Cancer Associated with AFFF Exposure?Many cases involve the diagnosis of kidney, bladder, or testicular cancer. However, there are other cancers associated with AFFF exposure as well, including:
- Pancreatic cancer
- Prostate cancer
- Breast cancer
- Liver cancer
My Husband Died As a Result of Cancer Caused By Exposure to the Chemicals in AFFF. Is There Compensation Available?Yes. You can seek to recover damages related to your husband's death through an AFFF wrongful death lawsuit. This type of legal action is available for family members and the estate of the deceased, including the deceased's spouse, children, and other relatives who are wholly or partially financially dependent on the defendant. To have a successful outcome, you must show that your loved one experienced exposure to PFAS through the use of firefighting foam and that, after a plausible latency period, he was diagnosed with cancer and that the cancer resulted in his death. Some of the damages you may have the ability to receive in an AFFF wrongful death lawsuit include the cost of services and support that the deceased provided to his loved ones; the loss of companionship, guidance, and protection; loss of wages, benefits, and other earnings that the deceased could have reasonably been expected to earn if he had not died prematurely; and the cost of funeral and burial or cremation costs that were paid by family members or directly by the estate. An experienced personal injury attorney can assist you and provide more information about filing a wrongful death claim.
Do I Need an Attorney to File a Lawsuit Against the AFFF Manufacturer?Yes. Any type of personal injury or wrongful death claim is a complex process involving procedures required by the court and extensive knowledge about how these processes work. This is even more the case with MDLs. In addition to understanding how to navigate the MDL, your attorney can provide other services to you, including:
- Guidance as to the legal options for obtaining compensation for your illness that are available to you
- Timely filing of all court-required paperwork in the proper jurisdiction
- Participation in the negotiation process in the attempt to obtain a settlement offer that fairly compensates you
- The collection and organization of the evidence that is required to prove your case
- Assistance in learning about, applying to, and appealing the decisions rendered in various benefit programs designed to assist individuals who are suffering from debilitating illness as a result of occupational exposure to AFFF
- Attendance and representation at all court-required pre-trial conferences and hearings
- Litigation of your case if a fair settlement is not offered (including the preparation and delivery of opening and closing arguments, the presentation of evidence, and the examination of witnesses)
- Assistance in collecting your settlement or court award
- Further representation if the defendant in your case decides to appeal a court judgment
What to Do After Being Diagnosed With an AFFF-Related Condition?“Getting diagnosed throws your entire universe in a freefall,” wrote author and filmmaker, Kris Carr, in 2007 about her cancer diagnosis. “There's no sugarcoating it: cancer is a devastating blow, one that takes time to process.” If you have been diagnosed with cancer or another serious health condition caused by exposure to firefighting foam, you have a lot on your plate. In addition to immediately addressing your physical condition and beginning treatment as well as the mental challenge of processing the reality of your situation, you're also likely dealing with the financial stress of how you're going to continue to work and pay the bills. Here are some tips on what to do after being diagnosed to provide yourself with as much inner peace as possible while protecting your right to compensation from the company that was responsible for manufacturing the product that caused your illness.
Know the Details of Your DiagnosisUnderstand as much as possible about your diagnosis. Having the information you need to make decisions on your course of treatment and your legal options is key to fighting your illness. Some of the questions about your diagnosis that your doctor should answer for you include:
- What is the proper name of the illness you have? If your illness is a type of cancer, you should also ask where exactly the cancer is located, the stage of the disease, and the size of the tumor.
- How do I obtain a copy of my pathology report?
- What are the common causes of this condition? If you have not already informed your doctor of past exposure to AFFF, this would be a good time to do so, as it will help your doctor to better understand what he or she is dealing with in terms of the disease.
- Is this a type of cancer that progresses slowly, or is it aggressive?
- Has the cancer spread? If so, where has it spread?
- What is my long-term prognosis with this type of cancer?
- How is this kind of cancer generally treated? Who will provide this treatment?
- Will other tests need to be performed before we talk about treatment options?
- How much experience do you have with diagnosing and treating this type of cancer?
- What are the chances that the cancer will return after treatment?
- Will my insurance cover the treatment that you are recommending?
- What are the common side effects of the recommended course of treatment? What are some ways to prevent or lessen these side effects?
- What should I do to prepare for the treatment?
- Should I change what I eat or make other lifestyle decisions to improve my prognosis or to better handle the treatment?
Gather Your Support SystemCancer and other AFFF-related health conditions are not something you want to face alone. It is often important for cancer patients to talk to their family and friends about their diagnosis. You will likely have people asking you to let them know what they can do to help. Take them up on their offers but be specific with the tasks you need help with. For example, if you need a ride to the hospital, ask for one. If you need someone to do your grocery shopping for you, ask them to do so. Other tasks involved with gathering your support system include:
- Designate a contact person to update your family and friends on your condition. Many people find themselves overwhelmed by texts, emails, and phone calls by those who are concerned about them. Reserve your energy for fighting your illness and allow someone else to take control of responding to those messages.
- Make sure your support system includes people who don't mind talking you down from highly emotional moments. Cancer is a stressful situation and one that encompasses all aspects of your life. You may need to vent from time to time or even to cry. Find someone who can provide support even during the bad times.
- Seek out a health-conscious person in your group who will help you to continue getting daily exercise, even if that entails simply going for a walk around the block. Of all the things you can do after your cancer diagnosis, adopting healthy living habits is an important one as it not only can help to prevent some of the negative impacts of treatment, but can also help you to recover more quickly from the treatments and can help you clear your mind during this stressful time, as well.
- If you are lacking in support, research cancer support groups online or in your area. These are places where you can go and find yourself among people who are encountering similar circumstances.
- Don't be afraid to speak to a mental health counselor. Sometimes it helps to have an uninvolved person to talk to and to gain coping strategies from.
Understand Your Treatment OptionsTraditional cancer treatments such as surgery, chemotherapy, and radiation are still widely used and offer relief from the condition for many people. However, there are many new treatments available as well. Understand the potential side effects of any recommended course of treatment as well as the benefits that are offered by the treatment. Only you can decide if the benefits of any treatment outweigh the potential risks, including severe side effects. If there are a couple of options to choose from, research them both. Not every treatment available is equally efficient for all people. Don't be afraid to ask your doctor if there is an alternative option if the course of treatment you're currently undergoing is not working well for you.
Get OrganizedOrganization will help you stay on track with your treatment. Additionally, if you plan to hire an attorney and file a lawsuit due to AFFF exposure, you will need to provide that attorney with as much documentation as possible. Keep all of your cancer-related information and documentation in one place. Many people use a three-ring binder with labeled dividers or an accordion-style folder. One section can include blank notebook paper where you can jot down notes from your appointment or questions that you wish to ask your doctor at your next appointment; the dates, times, and locations of upcoming treatments; or journal the symptoms and side effects you are dealing with. Other divided sections or folder pockets can contain brochures or printed information about your condition, important phone numbers, including your physician's office number, the number to your attorney, or other important information. Finally, there should be a section for any documentation you have that will prove your past exposure to AFFF. This can include work-related documentation such as old pay stubs, witness statements from past employers or coworkers who can attest to the exposure, or related information.
Consider How Your Diagnosis Will Affect Your FinancesBeing diagnosed with a serious illness will impact every part of your life, especially your finances. As stressful as the considerations can be, you need to keep track of where you are financially so you can make clear choices on the type of help you need. Some questions to ask yourself include:
- Will I have to take time off of work to undergo treatment?
- Will other members of my support system—such as my spouse or friends—need to take time off of work to care for me?
- Is my treatment going to be covered by insurance?
- What kind of out-of-pocket expenses am I facing as a result of my treatment?
- How does my diagnosis impact my life insurance?
Learn About Benefit ProgramsThere are a few different benefit programs that may provide compensation for wage loss and medical treatment. You will want to discuss these options with your attorney, family members, or trusted friends and explore the pros and cons of them. The main programs that might apply to your case include:
- VA benefits: If your exposure occurred during your military service, you might qualify for disability payments and medical treatment through the Department of Veterans Affairs.
- Workers' compensation: Because of the long latency period of certain types of cancer, this isn't an option for everyone, as you may not qualify for workers' compensation if you no longer work at the place where the occupational exposure to AFFF occurred. However, if you are still with the same employer and meet the other eligibility requirements, this option could work for you. You must meet a tight deadline for reporting your diagnosis to your employer, so if you plan to file a workers' comp claim, you should get started on the process immediately.
- Social Security Disability Insurance: If your diagnosis results in a permanent disability that renders you unable to work, you may qualify for Social Security Disability payments.