Decades ago, tests revealed a Marine Corps base in North Carolina to have solvents in the water supply. The area in question was Camp Lejeune, and the place had to shut down many wells.
However, the Marine Corps had a delayed response to the problem. Subsequently, many service members and their loved ones have suffered from the consequences. The chemicals had a life-long impact, and victims continue to deal with financial and non-financial issues.
Today, the affected individuals are still trying to seek compensation. Joining the Camp Lejeune Water Contamination lawsuit may become a possible route for them to get that justice.
What Federal Regulations Apply to Drinking Water?
Federal regulations exist to limit harm among citizens when they use water. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) established the Safe Drinking Water Act in 1974. The piece of legislation protects rivers, ponds, and other water sources.
Water systems must have little to no contaminants to meet health standards. The EPA has testing rules to ensure high levels of chemicals are not present. However, people can still suffer from contamination.
Many places experienced water pollution before the Act existed. Even military bases like Camp Lejeune and Marine Corps Air Station (MCAS) in New River had issues. The Marine Corps disposed of waste unsafely, and leadership likely knew of the chemical hazards.
In addition to disposal methods, the Marine Corps was slow to address the issue after the EPA discovered the contamination. People from Camp Lejeune suffered from the damaging effects of the pollutants in their drinking supply.
The Camp Lejeune Justice Act Could Allow Lawsuits
Officials have tracked the earliest evidence of contamination in Camp Lejeune to the 1940s. People drank and bathed in unsafe water from the wells until the late 1980s. In addition to military members, loved ones in the area became exposed to dangerous chemicals.
The estimated number of victims is at least one million. Contaminants have led to a wide variety of illnesses and other medical conditions. As a result, the affected residents accumulated plenty of money in bills. Some have tried to obtain reimbursement.
Like any personal injury case in North Carolina, Camp Lejeune water contamination injuries had a deadline for when victims could take legal action. However, many service members and their families did not realize the safety hazard at the time. When they discovered their medical conditions related to the unsafe water, they missed the statute of limitations.
For many years, the victims have tried to seek justice for injuries, illnesses, and death caused by Camp Lejeune's contaminated water. The court continued to reject their claims. Recently, a bill entered Congress in 2022, known as the Camp Lejeune Justice Act. If the bill becomes a law, it could grant marines and their families the right to file a lawsuit for reimbursement.
Victims would have a limited time to start a lawsuit if the Act succeeds. A person only has two years after the bill becomes law to pursue damages. Alternatively, they cannot begin a claim after 180 days from the date the judge denied the claim.
Furthermore, any relevant sections of the statute of repose would not apply to Camp Lejeune water contamination lawsuits. If the Senate and House vote in favor of the bill, find a Camp Lejeune water contamination lawyer immediately. An attorney can ensure you do not miss any deadlines and get the compensation you deserve.
Who Can Join a Camp Lejeune Water Contamination Lawsuit?
The Camp Lejeune Justice Act lists who has the opportunity to file a lawsuit. The first qualified group is anyone who lived at Camp Lejeune or MCAS for a minimum of 30 days. The accepted dates of residence are anywhere from August 1953 to December 1987. The requirement is applicable for both marines and family members.
Another group eligible for compensation is anyone who worked on the base during the specified timeframe. Not everyone from Camp Lejeune was an active service member. Several of them were civilian contractors instead. They must have operated on the land for at least a month to get reimbursement.
Lastly, anyone who has come into contact with the dangerous chemicals from the water can recover damages. The group includes people who received exposure while they were in the uterus.
Of course, a person from any category has to have developed one of the diseases or conditions the CDC specified. If you meet the criteria, you can begin your lawsuit. A lawyer can help you navigate the complicated process.
You Can Hold the United States Government Liable
In a Camp Lejeune water contamination lawsuit, you would sue the federal government for damages. An investigation discovered the Marine Corps knew of the chemicals in the water. The authorities did not prevent pollution and failed to alert service members and their families of the danger.
After the creation of the base in the 1940s, the military disposed of wastes and dumped oil into storm drains as standard practice. The Marine Corps argued the chemicals in the water had no regulations.
The EPA did not form until 1970 and began to manage pollutants like PCE in the early 1980s. When the agency started regulations, they issued mandatory testing. While the tests finally showed the number of solvents in the water, other signs point to government negligence.
For instance, the Navy's Bureau of Medicine and Surgery already had rules to avoid harmful material in the water. The Marine Corps appeared to be aware of how hazardous the chemicals were, especially with a 1974 regulation on books.
Furthermore, the military began testing in 1980 but did not close the contaminated wells until several years later. Marines and their loved ones continued to use water from polluted sources. As a result, more people got sick.
You can hold the United States government responsible for negligence since the Act prevents it from claiming immunity. The military leaders at the base knew of the risk but did not act in time. Your lawyer finds evidence the government is liable for your losses.
Evidence for a Camp Lejeune Water Contamination Case
After you file a Camp Lejeune water contamination lawsuit, your lawyer prepares your case by gathering proof. A claim requires evidence to establish negligence successfully.
The documents you may need include:
- Proof of residence. All residents are eligible for compensation. Your lawyer can inform you what records show you lived on the base or at MCAS.
- Military service records. Marines from the base should have papers indicating what dates and locations they served.
- Proof of work. Since some people who worked at Camp Lejeune were civilian contractors, they could have the right to reimbursement. They need to show they had a contractual job on the base at the time.
- Medical records. Diagnoses, doctor's notes, and test results show the person developed a chronic illness. In addition, health care information can establish the connection between a disease and the base's contaminated water.
- Medical expenses. In addition to a diagnosis, the bills you receive show how the government's negligence led to losses directly. You should keep a copy of what you paid for after hospital visits and treatment.
- Proof of disability benefits. The affected service members are eligible for VA compensation. Disability benefits count as evidence since your condition suffered significantly while on the base.
Hire a Camp Lejeune water contamination attorney early in the lawsuit timeline. Your lawyer can have enough time to get the evidence and build a strong case.
Military Members Can Apply for Disability Benefits
In addition to a lawsuit, Marines from Camp Lejeune and MCAS can apply for VA disability benefits. They suffered severe medical conditions during periods of active service. However, a person has to meet the requirements to get the necessary benefits.
One requirement is if the victim served at either Camp Lejeune or MCAS for at least a month. They had to have lived on the base anywhere between 1953 and 1987. Additionally, the claimant did not receive a dishonorable discharge when they left.
The contaminated water is the cause behind many of the severe illnesses and conditions among victims. However, the Department of Veteran Affairs only lists eight diseases as presumptive. Examples include liver cancer, kidney cancer, and adult leukemia.
You must collect medical records to prove you have at least one qualified illness. The ones outside the presumptive list do not make someone eligible for benefits.
Veterans can get some healthcare coverage for family members as well. A loved one has to show proof of their relation to the marine. The department can reimburse them for costs regarding conditions like breast cancer or lung cancer.
Only specific people can get VA disability benefits. You can apply if you are a veteran, reservist, or guardsman. Once you determine you meet the requirements, you can make a claim online or at a regional office.
What Damages Can You Claim?
Due to negligence, victims may claim one or more non-economic and economic damages. Some losses allow compensation for future expenses in addition to past ones. The number of damages you can recover affects the value of your case.
Possible damages in a Camp Lejeune water contamination case are:
- Lost income: The effects of hazardous chemicals may prevent someone from attending work. They have to take days off to go through extensive treatment. Furthermore, a person can get compensation if they miss a promotion or need retraining.
- Medical bills. Your potential settlement includes any expenses related to your worsened condition. The defendant would have to pay you back for hospital visits, physical therapy, and lab results. Your attorney considers the costs for medication and any other healthcare needs.
- Pain and suffering. The victim deals with physical and emotional discomfort in many water contamination cases. An individual may experience multiple symptoms. For instance, they could suffer from fear or insomnia.
- Loss of companionship. Many illnesses relating to water contamination are life-threatening. Despite a thorough treatment plan, a person could pass away. A spouse can receive compensation as a result.
- Diminished enjoyment of life. The emotional effects of water contamination can cause someone to lose interest in activities. The decline of a person's mental and emotional health impedes their ability to perform daily routines.
The Camp Lejeune Justice Act does not award punitive damages to plaintiffs. To know what you can recover, speak to your lawyer. They have experience with damage calculations.
Will Your Camp Lejeune Water Contamination Lawsuit Go to Trial?
Similar to other cases of negligence, water contamination lawsuits have the chance to settle before a trial happens. Your lawyer works hard to negotiate a deal with the opposing party for a fair settlement. A trial increases the wait time for compensation, and your attorney would want you to receive payments sooner.
Most civil lawsuits resolve before they make it to the courtroom. An out-of-court agreement is in the best interests of both parties. Therefore, your case likely would settle during mediation, especially if you have an attorney.
If your case does go to trial, you should have a qualified lawyer by your side. A judge and jury choose the outcome and possible settlement amount. Your attorney can form a strategy to get the court to decide a verdict in your favor.
Reasons to Speak to a Camp Lejeune Water Contamination Lawyer
If you believe Camp Lejeune's water contamination affected your health, reach out to an attorney. A lawyer has experience with establishing liability. They know how to gather evidence to hold the United States government responsible for your losses.
Another reason to have a water contamination attorney is to protect yourself against claims of a pre-existing condition. If you had an injury or illness in the past, the defendant might use your prior health care information against you.
The government could argue a previous medical condition led to your current one instead of the chemicals. However, your medical history should not stop you from getting compensation. Your lawyer proves water contamination from Camp Lejeune and MCAS is the cause of your illness.
Additionally, a lawsuit against the government differs from a suit against an individual citizen. A person must file a notice of claim against the liable agency first. They then have to wait for the other party to respond. If the defendant denies the claim, the victim can begin a lawsuit.
The process may require other steps. Contact a Camp Lejeune water contamination lawyer who understands the complexity of a lawsuit against the United States government and can handle the legal work for you.
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.