Although hazardous chemicals contaminated the water in Camp Lejeune from 1953 through 1987and are linked to devastating health conditions such as cancer, miscarriages, and other life-threatening trauma, today, the water at the base is considered safe to drink, bathe in, and use for other purposes.
Yet, while these toxins and dangerous solvents have been cleaned up, it does not take away from the fact that millions of service members, their families, and civilians who worked, lived, or stayed at Camp Lejeune suffered debilitating consequences and tragic illnesses as a result.
The Background of Camp Lejeune’s Water Contamination
The water contamination at Camp Lejeune started in the 1950s when the toxic water entered the base through two of the area’s water treatment plants. First, the Tarawa Terrace Water Treatment Plant was contaminated with PCE (perchloroethylene or tetrachloroethylene). This was due to the improper waste disposal of chemicals by workers at the off-base dry cleaning company ABC One-Hour Cleaners. These toxins eventually entered the Tarawa Terrace plant and began to be distributed to residents in the area.
A few years later, the Hadnot Point water treatment plant was also contaminated with volatile organic compounds (VOCs), including trichloroethylene (TCE), tetrachloroethylene, vinyl chloride, PCE, and benzene. The sources of these toxins included waste disposal sites, leaking underground storage tanks, and industrial area spills.
Sadly, this toxic water continued to spread throughout the base unrecognized until 1982, when the government confirmed there were deadly substances in the water. However, it was not until 1987 that the water was finally cleaned up.
The Dangerous Chemicals in the Water at Camp Lejeune
After testing was finally done on the water, it was discovered that Camp Lejeune’s water was contaminated with over 70 different dangerous solvents and toxins, including:
- Tetrachloroethylene: While this toxin is known by many different names, including tetrachloroethene, or perchloroethylene, it is a chemical that is used for dry cleaning of fabrics and is often referred to as “dry-cleaning fluid.”
- Vinyl chloride: This toxin is used in producing PVC plastic, which is found in many products, including pipes, packaging materials, upholstery floor coverings, automotive parts, and medical devices.
- Benzene: Benzene is an organic chemical compound that is colorless and does not fully dissolve in water. It is usually used to produce detergents, rubber materials, and pesticides.
- Trichloroethylene: This chemical, referred to as TCE, is used to make refrigerants or act as a metal degreaser. However, it is also known to be found in cleaning products, paint removers, carpet cleaners, and spot removers.
- Other chemicals: Other carcinogenic toxins, including heavy metals and pesticides, were also discovered in the water.
Current Legal Updates Regarding the Camp Lejeune Justice Act
President Biden signed into law the PACT Act on August 10, 2022, which incorporated the Camp Lejeune Justice Act. This Act allows veterans, their loved ones, and private contractors, who lived, resided, or stayed at the Camp Lejeune base for at least 30 days between August 1, 1953, to December 31, 1987, to pursue monetary damages for symptoms related to the toxic water at Camp Lejeune.
The purpose of this law is to stop the government from bringing an immunity defense to the claims brought in accordance with this Act and stop the North Carolina Statute of Repose which bars certain tort claims after a specific period.
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Pursuing Disability Benefits Under the Camp Lejeune Justice Act
While this new Act opened a door of possibilities for individuals suffering from this toxic water to seek relief, there are still stringent guidelines that need to be met before individuals can obtain disability benefits for the harm and losses they endured because of their exposure.
These eligibility requirements include:
- You had to have served at Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune or the Marine Corps Air Station New River for at least 30 days between August 1953 and December 1987.
- You did not receive a dishonorable discharge when you left the military.
- You have at least one of the eight presumptive health conditions.
Presumptive Health Conditions
- Parkinson’s disease
- Liver cancer
- Adult leukemia
- Bladder cancer
- Kidney cancer
- Multiple myeloma
- Non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma
- Aplastic anemia and other myelodysplastic syndromes
Having a presumptive health condition means that individuals with this condition will only have to show that they were stationed at the base during the time indicated in Janey Ensminger Act to receive disability benefits.
Additional Diseases Connected with the Water Contamination at Camp Lejeune
Under Janey Ensminger Act, however, veterans and their loved ones can also receive healthcare benefits for 15 other diseases connected with the toxic water at Camp Lejeune. While these health conditions do not qualify for presumptive disability compensation, individuals can still pursue legal action for these diseases because of their link to the toxic water.
These other diseases include:
- Multiple myeloma
- Non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma
- Lung Cancer
- Esophageal cancer
- Renal toxicity
- Breast cancer
- Kidney cancer
- Myelodysplastic syndromes
- Hepatic steatosis
- Female infertility
- Neurobehavioral effects
- Bladder cancer
Depending on the circumstances, family members can also seek reimbursement if insurance does not pay for medical treatments and other expenses associated with these diseases.
However, suppose you want to verify whether you qualify for benefits under this Act. In that case, it may be in your best interest to reach out to an experienced personal injury attorney as soon as possible. These lawyers can review your circumstances, figure out whether you can file a lawsuit, and help you go after the monetary damages you deserve.
Compensation You May Be Entitled To When You File a Camp Lejeune Lawsuit
If you qualify under Janey Ensminger Act and pursue a Camp Lejeune lawsuit, you may be able to go after specific types of monetary damages for the losses and disabilities you suffered because of your exposure to the toxic water.
These damages include payment for:
- Bills associated with medical treatment, including doctor visits, hospital stays, prescriptions, surgeries, hospice treatment, and other types of medical care
- Ongoing medical care expenses and support
- Lost wages and reduced earning capacity
- Other types of emotional distress resulting from the incident
- Reduced quality of life
- Other types of expenses
To verify which of these damages may apply to your claim, discuss your circumstances with a knowledgeable personal injury attorney. These legal professionals can determine the total extent of your losses, determine which of these damages you can pursue, and help you go after the maximum financial recovery you need.
Proving Your Camp Lejeune Legal Claim
According to the updated regulations, if you want to bring a Camp Lejeune lawsuit, you must provide enough evidence showing that the contaminated water at the Camp Lejeune base likely caused your damages, injuries, and losses. As a result, you must obtain documents showing your time at the facility and how your health condition is related to the toxic water.
These documents include:
- Files and paperwork establishing residence at Camp Lejeune during the time specified in the Janey Ensminger Act
- Military records establishing the years you served and the locations you were stationed
- Medical records, tests results, diagnoses, and other health care information establishing a link between the disease and the contaminated water
- Bills associated with your condition that demonstrated how much money you lost because of your illness
- Travel records
- Records related to your disability benefits or VA compensation benefits
- Proof of work for those independent contractors who were stationed at Camp Lejeune during the years in question
Suppose you are a family member of a service member stationed at Camp Lejeune from 1953 through 1987 and believe you qualify for these benefits.
In that case, you will want to gather the following evidence to help your attorney prepare the most convincing legal claim on your behalf:
- Your marriage license or birth certificate establishing your relationship with the service member who served at Camp Lejeune
- Your housing records or other proof demonstrating that you lived on base for 30 days or more between August 1, 1953, and December 31, 1987
- Your bills and other medical expenses showing that you paid for one of the covered conditions
Fortunately, when you work with an experienced personal injury lawyer, you will not have to gather all this evidence. Instead, these lawyers can help you find the documentation you need to strengthen your legal claim and assist you in quickly obtaining these files and reports.
Filing Your Camp Lejeune Lawsuit Before You Run out of Time
Although this Act allows victims to pursue legal action against the government for everything they went through following the fiasco at Camp Lejeune, the time to act is limited. According to the regulations, qualified individuals will only have two years to file a suit from when President Biden signed the Janey Ensminger Act (August 10, 2022). If they do not file within this time, they can be stopped from getting the money they have been waiting for all these years.
That is why, if you believe you have a valid claim, promptly reach out to an experienced personal injury lawyer. These skilled legal professionals can make sure that the required paperwork is adequately prepared and submitted before you run out of time to fight for the financial recovery you need.
Camp Lejeune’s Water Today and the Future of the Base
On October 4, 1989, Camp Lejeune was placed on the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) Superfund program’s National Priorities List, which created a joint effort between the North Carolina Department of Environmental Quality (NCDEQ), the EPA, and the Navy to get rid of the toxic water at Camp Lejeune.
However, the clean-up was a challenging process focused on specific contaminants in different areas and, as a result, took many years to accomplish. The first clean-up phase was to eliminate the toxic storage tanks, drums, batteries, dangerous liquids, and contaminated soil. And it also included the use of chemical oxidation and electrical resistance heating, which helped get rid of contaminants in the water and the ground.
In addition, the Superfund program also requires the EPA, Navy, and NCDEQ to review these clean-up activities and policies every five years and verify that they are being conducted properly. The next review is scheduled for 2025.
The Camp Lejeune Base Remains Open
While many people assumed that the Camp Lejeune Marine Corps Base would be shut down after this devastating ordeal, the base is still open and running.
Today, the base holds around:
- 38,778 active duty members
- 38,769 family members
- 18,719 retirees and family members
- 3,349 civilians
The Impact on Future Generations
Unfortunately, while animal studies suggest that future generations should not be affected by the toxic chemicals present at Camp Lejeune, much is still unknown about what may happen years from now. There is a lack of human studies regarding this contamination and the effect on families spanning over many years.
Reach out to an Experienced Attorney and Fight for the Justice You Want
Although action has been taken to ensure the drinking water at Camp Lejeune is now safe, for countless years, many people were harmed because the government refused to do anything about the toxic water that flowed through the Camp Lejeune base.
Thankfully, today, you can finally fight back. If you suffered because of these toxic chemicals, you might be able to pursue a legal claim and go after substantial financial damages. Yet, to learn more about these options, it may be best to contact an experienced attorney as soon as possible. These lawyers can review your rights and determine the best way to go after the total damages you deserve.
Questions and Answers About Camp Lejeune Water Contamination
Even though one of the most common questions people have when it comes to Camp Lejeune is whether the water is still contaminated, victims of this tragic ordeal also have countless other concerns about the legal actions they can take and what they need to do to secure the compensation they deserve for everything they had to go through.
For these reasons, in the below FAQs, we will go over some of these worries and provide the answers you need to better understand the legal options you can pursue.
1. Will Pursuing a Camp Lejeune Justice Act Claim Impact Your Other Disability Benefits?
Under the Camp Lejeune Justice Act, government officials cannot deny any pending disability benefits or cut these services short because you are filing a lawsuit related to your exposure to the toxic water at Camp Lejeune.
The money you already received may offset the compensation you receive from the Janey Ensminger Act. That is why if you want further information regarding these benefits and the effect they may have on you and the money you are receiving, it may be a good idea to speak with an experienced personal injury attorney as soon as possible. These lawyers can walk you through this complicated legal ordeal and clarify what you can expect in the future.
2. Can Only Service Members Pursue a Camp Lejeune Lawsuit?
With the passing of the Camp Lejeune Justice Act, many individuals who suffered because of the toxic water at Camp Lejeune can now pursue legal action, not just the service members stationed on the base. As long as individuals meet the qualifications outlined in the Janey Ensminger Act, anybody from veterans, family members, and even civilian contractors who lived, stayed, or resided on the base during the specific period can file a lawsuit.
However, the Janey Ensminger Act notes that if a military service member was dishonorably discharged, they and their loved ones would not qualify for these benefits, even if they suffered a condition or illness because of the contaminated water.
As a result, if you want to verify whether you can file a Camp Lejeune lawsuit, you should reach out to an experienced and knowledgeable personal injury attorney who has previously handled these complex cases. These attorneys can assess your situation, determine if you qualify under regulations, and help you prepare a claim to go after the money you are entitled to.
3. How Much Money Can You Obtain After You File a Camp Lejeune Lawsuit?
Unfortunately, it is still too soon to know what can be expected with these lawsuits, especially the payouts that may result.
Yet, it is speculated that the money you can obtain from these lawsuits will depend on several factors, including:
- The type of illness you are diagnosed with and the severity of the condition
- Any pre-existing conditions you have
- Available records and documentation linking your condition to the toxic water at Camp Lejeune
- The damages you sustained because of your exposure to the hazardous water, including your medical expenses and lost wages
- The amount of time you were exposed to the toxic water
- Funeral and burial costs
- The extent of your pain and suffering
- The need for replacement services because of your condition or illness
Thankfully, when you work with an experienced personal injury attorney, these lawyers can keep you updated on the status of these claims while preparing a legal claim on your behalf and going after the maximum recovery you are entitled to.
4. If Your Family Member Died Because of Their Disease or Condition Caused by the Toxic Water at Camp Lejeune, What Are Your Legal Options?
Unfortunately, it is a fact that many marines and civilians died because of their exposure to the contaminated water. Under the Janey Ensminger Act, if you lost a loved one because of their exposure to the contaminated water at Camp Lejeune, you may be able to pursue compensation through a wrongful death lawsuit. This legal avenue will allow qualified individuals to go after the money they and their families deserve for the devastating losses they suffered because of this death.
These monetary damages include payment for medical expenses, loss of quality of life, funeral and burial costs, and the pain and suffering you endured because of your family member’s death. However, you should discuss the incident with a skilled personal injury lawyer to know all of your legal options regarding this wrongful death claim. These legal professionals can go over your circumstances, help you understand what you can expect with these claims, and assist you as you go after the total compensation you and your loved ones are entitled to.
5. How Do You Prove Your Disease or Condition Is Related to the Contaminated Water At Camp Lejeune?
Before you can obtain compensation for the harm you endured due to your exposure to the toxic water at Camp Lejeune, you still need to demonstrate a connection between this water and your illness or condition.
However, according to the Janey Ensminger Act, if you suffered a condition presumed to be caused by the contaminated water at Camp Lejeune, you will only have to prove that you were living, working, or staying at the base for the period indicated in the regulations.
Yet, suppose you are suffering from a condition not indicated on the Janey Ensminger Act’s presumptive list to obtain benefits. In that case, you may have to also provide further medical proof that this illness or issue resulted from your exposure to the water. Fortunately, when you work with an experienced personal injury attorney, you will not have to take on this legal fight alone. Instead, these attorneys can help you gather the information and evidence required to prove your claim and bring in experts that can link your disease to the toxic water at Camp Lejeune.
6. If Your Illness or Cancer Was Diagnosed After Leaving Camp Lejeune, Do You Still Have a Viable Claim?
Many of the illnesses, conditions, and cancers that resulted from the toxic water took many years to develop. That is why one of the main goals of the Camp Lejeune Justice Act was to extend the amount of time people had to bring a legal suit.
As a result, even if a substantial amount of time had passed between when you lived at Camp Lejeune and when you were diagnosed with your illness, you may still be able to pursue legal action and go after the recovery that you are entitled to. However, it may be best to reach out to an experienced personal injury attorney to find out what these options entail. These lawyers can review these qualifications with you, determine if you have a valid claim, and help you go after the money you deserve.
7. Is There a Timeline By When These Camp Lejeune Claims Will Be Resolved?
As of right now, it is too challenging to say how long it will take for victims to obtain compensation for the injuries they suffered due to the toxic water at Camp Lejeune. Because the Janey Ensminger Act was just signed into law, it will take some time for the lawsuits to begin and more information to be released about what claimants can expect from the process.
Plus, you should note that if these cases do not settle and instead head to trial, the timeline for how long it will take for individuals to get their money will be delayed. For these reasons, it may be a good idea to discuss your case with a knowledgeable personal injury attorney who can provide you with a better understanding of what these claims may entail and what you can expect when you pursue yours.
8. Do You Need a Lawyer to Pursue a Camp Lejeune Claim?
If you decide to pursue a Camp Lejeune legal claim without consulting an experienced personal injury attorney, just know you may be facing an uphill battle, and you may lose out on the maximum monetary recovery you deserve. The other side will not only have skilled legal counsel ready to find reasons to deny your claim, but the forms involved with this lawsuit include complex information and require detailed proof to establish your case.
That is why you should involve a lawyer from the start to have the best chance of getting the money you are entitled to under the Janey Ensminger Act. These lawyers can represent you through this whole legal battle, make sure they prepare the most convincing claim, and ensure you are well represented throughout this journey.
9. Have There Been any Camp Lejeune Lawsuits Filed Yet?
In the first month since the Janey Ensminger Act removed the roadblocks that have been stopping veterans and their family members from pursuing financial damages for the harm and suffering they endured because of their exposure to the contaminated water at Camp Lejeune, over 5,000 claims have been filed.
However, this is only a small chunk of the potential claims that can be pursued. The Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry estimates that approximately one million people may have been exposed to this toxic water. There are estimates that up to 500,000 claims could be filed, setting this up to become one of the largest mass litigations in the history of the United States.
10. Can Working with an Experienced Personal Injury Lawyer Help Your Camp Lejeune Lawsuit?
Filing a Camp Lejeune legal claim can be the key to finally getting the money you need after suffering due to the toxic water at Camp Lejeune. However, taking on this claim alone can be an overwhelming process, which is likely the last thing you want to worry about after everything you have endured.
Luckily, you will not have to deal with this complex lawsuit on your own. Instead, when you retain an experienced personal injury attorney to take on these claims, these lawyers can:
- Go over your conditions or illness with you in detail, review the time you spent at Camp Lejeune, and figure out whether you have a viable claim you can pursue.
- Thoroughly investigate your case and obtain the critical documents and medical records needed to show that your condition can be linked to the contaminated water.
- Consult with experts to help build a compelling legal case on your behalf.
- Deal with all the paperwork associated with this claims process and ensure deadlines are met.
- Prepare strong legal arguments explaining your diagnosis, exposure, and the impact of the hazardous water on yourself, your loved ones, and your future.
- Handle the negotiations with the other side and go after the maximum compensation possible.
- Fight for your rights every step of the way and pursue further legal action if necessary by filing a lawsuit and going after all the money you need.
11. How Much Money Will It Cost To Hire a Lawyer to Take On Your Camp Lejeune Lawsuit?
Because most personal injury attorneys work on a contingency fee basis, you will not have to pay these lawyers anything until they are successful with your case and recover compensation through a settlement or jury trial verdict. In addition, there are no upfront costs or hourly fees, and you will only pay a percentage of the winnings they recover.
As you can see, there is no financial risk to working with a personal injury attorney on your Camp Lejeune lawsuit. For these reasons, do not wait to discuss your case with an experienced lawyer. Instead, contact an attorney today to schedule a free case evaluation. Learn more about how these legal professionals can help you with your Camp Lejeune water contamination claim and go after the justice you and your loved ones deserve.