Nearby dry cleaning places and other sources polluted Camp Lejeune's water supply. Businesses used a few of the discovered chemicals as part of their cleaning methods. After the compounds made their way into the drinking water, people's health began to suffer and we have found many diseases are linked to Camp Lejeune water contamination. The effects of the contaminated water were not immediate, but they generally lasted a long time. A substantial percentage of marines have needed to apply for disability benefits after they left the base. A wide range of issues appeared, and officials discovered what conditions the chemicals caused. If you are experiencing symptoms due to the toxic water in Camp Lejeune, contact an attorney to start your Camp Lejeune lawsuit today.
The Damaging Chemicals in Camp Lejeune's Water
The Environmental Protection Agency tightened its regulations by 1980. Mandatory testing found high levels of chemicals in the water supply at Camp Lejeune in 1982. The results showed four volatile organic compounds were present.
One of the chemicals in the water was benzene. The compound hardly dissolves in water and floats on top instead. However, it usually has no color when it is at room temperature. Therefore, many people did not notice anything suspicious about the water they used. Repeated exposure increased the risk of illnesses in residents at Camp Lejeune. Researchers discovered how Benzene heavily affects specific cells in the body. A common issue is when a person's bone marrow does not replace red blood cells quickly enough.
Businesses may use perchloroethylene (PCE) to clean fabrics or degrease metal. The wells at the military base contained high traces of it, and the lack of color made it less observable in the water. Marines and their families suffered from the detrimental health effects. When the body absorbs PCE, the compound affects the function of the liver, kidneys, and immune system. Additionally, a person may experience neurological issues and impaired motor abilities. Other side effects include multiple types of malignant tumors.
Another volatile organic compound the tests discovered was trichloroethylene (TCE). Some businesses have used the chemical to clean metal parts. While it may be effective, TCE causes skin irritation after contact. A person experiences more severe side effects upon ingestion. Researchers traced TCE exposure to cancer in the liver, kidneys, and lymphatic system. Large amounts may impact the central nervous system as well. A few potential symptoms include dizziness, numbness in the face, and muscle weakness. TCE affects a baby's development in the womb. One study found the risk of birth problems was the highest if the exposure occurred during the first trimester.
People primarily become exposed to vinyl chloride through inhalation. The gas can attach to water, and high temperatures release the particles into the air. An unsuspecting person may have inhaled a large amount of vinyl chloride over time while at Camp Lejeune. Vinyl chloride is another cancer-causing chemical. Service members in Camp Lejeune from 1953 to 1987 were at risk of diseases like lung cancer. Many people did not experience symptoms until years after they left the base.
The Diseases Linked to Camp Lejeune Water Contamination
A wide range of health conditions arose when residents at Camp Lejeune used the water to drink, cook, and bathe. However, some are more common than others. For example, investigations found a link between contaminated water and several cancer types. Due to contamination, the marines and their loved ones had increased chances of lung cancer, kidney cancer, leukemia, breast cancer, and bladder cancer. Several people have had cancerous plasma cells and developed multiple myeloma. Various myelodysplastic syndromes became issues as well.
People have suffered from non-cancerous diseases due to contaminated water. For example, a veteran may have to treat fatty liver disease. Some doctors refer to the inflammation and buildup of fat as hepatic steatosis. Another possible medical condition is Parkinson's disease. The symptoms impede a person's ability to do daily tasks and enjoy life. Meanwhile, other victims developed Lou Gehrig's disease, known as ASL. As a result, they spend a lot of money on treatment to slow the condition's progress. Additional diseases include aplastic anemia and renal toxicity. A victim of water contamination may link other life-long effects to Camp Lejeune.
Water contamination from Camp Lejeune has led to neurobehavioral effects. A person could have difficulty with balancing and coordination. They may experience problems with their motor function. Learning at school or performing job duties can become demanding due to neurobehavioral effects. The reason is some victims report having poorer memory and concentration. However, the identification of neurobehavioral problems is not simple. Multiple tests exist, but a person may struggle to connect the issue to the chemicals.
The increased exposure to compounds like TCE increased the risks of birth complications in infants. According to a study, 12,598 children were born at Camp Lejeune between 1968 and 1985. Among them, parents reported 106 cases of birth abnormalities and childhood cancers. Some children had a low birth weight, and others were small for their gestational age. Major malformations and eye defects may relate to water contamination from the military base. A child could have developed brain, spine, or spinal cord issues due to the chemicals.
The contaminated water can be the cause of a few other conditions. For instance, a portion of marines and other residents reported fertility issues. Among the men, 1,344 experienced infertility. Meanwhile, 373 women had infertility due to damage to their reproductive organs. Among the women who could get pregnant, a few suffered from miscarriages. While multiple factors contribute to a miscarriage, people have connected the cases to polluted water. Furthermore, neurological disorders like epilepsy have become a potential problem. Many people did not suffer from the effects of PCE or other compounds until years after they left the base. The illnesses and other medical conditions have taken an emotional and financial toll on the victims. Many of them have not gotten the compensation they deserve.
Damages in a Camp Lejeune Water Contamination Claim
Despite their efforts, many families could not get proper reimbursement for the long-term consequences of chemical exposure. While some veterans have been able to apply for disability benefits, the Department of Veteran Affairs denied others' claims. However, the bill Camp Lejeune Justice Act entered Congress recently. Many people expect bi-partisan support to turn the legislation into law. If the bill passes, the victims have an opportunity to get compensation for a multitude of losses. The damages a person can claim in a Camp Lejeune water contamination lawsuit are:
Health care costs. From diagnosis tests to treatment, a person may accumulate hundreds to thousands of dollars in bills. They might have to spend more on ongoing expenses for home health care services or medication.
Lost wages. After many of the marines completed their service, they found other jobs. When a medical condition manifested, they needed to take time off work to recover. The unearned income made paying bills difficult.
A loss of earning potential. Several long-term effects of Camp Lejeune's contaminated water were debilitating. A portion of victims could not work in the same capacity and needed job retraining. Meanwhile, others could not continue their careers.
Mental anguish. In addition to physical discomfort, victims of water contamination have experienced mental suffering. They might have to manage distress, anxiety, and depression. Mental anguish can impact a person's personal life in multiple ways.
Loss of companionship. Several of the diseases related to volatile organic compounds are life-threatening. Some people have passed away because of negligence from the Marine Corps. Surviving spouses can get compensation for their losses.
Every case is different, so the amount of compensation varies for each person. However, the number of damages you claim affects the final settlement. Additionally, the court considers how long the exposure lasted and the severity of the resulting condition.
The Deadline to File a Camp Lejeune Water Contamination Lawsuit
The main reason courts denied families' claims and appeals is an expired statute of limitation. Camp Lejeune resolved the water contamination issue years before many people showed symptoms. However, Congress might pass the new bill to give victims more time to file a lawsuit. Marines, relatives, workers, and anyone exposed during the relevant period have two years after the Act becomes official. Two years can go by quickly. Someone may lose their right to compensation if the new deadline passes. An eligible person must act quickly to ensure they do not miss out on the opportunity to recover damages. They should find an attorney who will take on a Camp Lejeune water contamination case. Even though the President has not signed the bill yet, some lawyers are proceeding as though he did.
How to File a Lawsuit Against the Federal Government
Under the Federal Tort Claims Act, the federal government does not have protections from lawsuits in specific cases. The Act entitles people to compensatory damages for the injuries or deaths the government's negligence caused. However, an injured party has to follow certain procedures. Before you can file a claim, you must submit an administrative claim to the correct agency. Since the base is part of the Marine Corps, you would send the paperwork to the Department of Defense. In the document, you would include the facts of the case and all relevant damages. Once you file the document, the Department has six months to respond. Since the Camp Lejeune Justice Act is a pathway for people, the government likely will admit the claim is valid and pay the requested compensation in full. However, the Department of Defense could deny the claim. Alternatively, you might receive an offer for less money than you need. Once you learn of the decision, you would have six months to file a lawsuit with the United States District Court. Lawsuits against the United States government go through the same process as ones with civilian defendants. Nevertheless, a Camp Lejeune water contamination claim is not simple. A lawyer can provide you with the assistance you need.
What a Camp Lejeune Water Contamination Lawyer Does
One part of a Camp Lejeune water contamination lawyer's job is to negotiate with the other party. They discuss possible settlement deals with the defendant. They may try to agree at the beginning of the lawsuit. However, most cases settle before a trial becomes necessary. The attorney works hard to get the maximum settlement possible based on the factors of the case. If the defendant tries to argue for a lower amount, your lawyer fights back to protect your interests.
Like any lawsuit, a Camp Lejeune water contamination lawyer dedicates time to collecting evidence. One of the first things they look for is documents to show the victim lived on the base between August 1953 and December 1987 for 30 days or more. A person can provide their housing records or utility bills. Military members need to have records of their service period on the base. Lawyers may require proof of relationship if the client is a relative of a marine. The document can be a marriage license or birth certificate. Other pieces of evidence include medical records and bills. Test results and a physician's notes can link the contaminants from Camp Lejeune to the client's current condition. Meanwhile, the list of expenses helps show how much the government's negligence has cost the victim.
Represent Clients in a Trial
Even though most civil lawsuits end outside the courtroom, a handful still requires a trial. A judge and jury decide the outcome of a case. Therefore, the plaintiff needs someone to present their side of the issue effectively. An attorney is familiar with the different court customs both sides need to follow. They can ensure a mistake does not cost a client their compensation.
Another job of Camp Lejeune water contamination lawyers is to provide advice. They understand the complex legal system and can walk clients through it. Plenty of legal and medical jargon can appear confusing. Nevertheless, an attorney helps you understand what they mean. Attorneys are aware of the current laws and legal precedents. They know statutes can change over time as well. Therefore, your lawyer offers you advice on the possible options regarding your case and helps you make an informed decision. Contact a Camp Lejeune water contamination lawyer today for a free consultation. The Dolman Law Group works with local counsel in any jurisdiction outside Florida for the purpose of filing lawsuits in jurisdictions wherein we are not licensed. Thus, we will follow each State's ethical rules to ensure a local attorney is involved.
Personal Injury Lawyer
This article was written and reviewed by Matthew Dolman. Matt has been a practicing civil trial, personal injury, products liability, and mass tort lawyer since 2004. He has represented over 11,000 injury victims and has served as lead counsel in over 1000 lawsuits. Matt is a lifetime member of the Million Dollar Advocates Forum and Multi-Million Dollar Advocates Forum for resolving individual cases in excess of $1 million and $2 million, respectively. He has also been selected by his colleagues as a Florida Superlawyer and as a member of Florida’s Legal Elite on multiple occasions. Further, Matt has been quoted in the media numerous times and is a sought-after speaker on a variety of legal issues and topics.