How to Get Compensation After Exposure to Contaminated Water at Camp Lejeune
On August 10, 2022, the President signed the PACT Act into law. The law expands healthcare services to veterans and their family members who contracted illnesses from exposure to toxins at Camp Lejeune during their time in the service. The law protects veterans and family members exposed to contaminated water at Camp Lejeune in North Carolina between August 1, 1953, and December 31, 1987, through the Camp Lejeune Justice Act.Events Leading to Contaminated Water at Camp Lejeune
Camp Lejeune opened in 1941 and has remained an active Marine Corps Base. The military established housing facilities at the base in 1952. In 1953, the Tarawa Terrace and Hadnot Point drinking water systems became contaminated with dangerous chemical waste. The chemical waste included volatile organic compounds known to cause cancer, Parkinson's disease, neurological conditions, infertility, birth defects, and more.
In the early 1980s, researchers from the Environmental Protection Agency began studying samples from the water at Camp Lejeune. The researchers detected toxic chemicals in the water. Service members and their family members had been drinking, bathing, and cooking with the contaminated water, unaware of how dangerous it was to their health. Staff and residents became aware of the toxic water between 1984 and 1985.
In 2009, a plaintiff filed the first water contamination lawsuit against the United States stemming from Camp Lejeune exposure. Many other claimants brought actions, however, after the consolidation of the suits, a federal judge dismissed them, ruling that the statutes of limitation and repose precluded them. In 2017, the federal government allocated billions of dollars to veterans and family members negatively impacted by the contaminated water.Victims Can Now File a Lawsuit Against the Federal Government
Since the new law has become effective, victims of Camp Lejeune contaminated water can now pursue damages from the federal government. To pursue a claim for compensation against the federal government, you will need to meet some requirements:
- You must have been present at Camp Lejeune for at least 30 days between 1953 and 1987;
- You experience health issues or a medical diagnosis related to the contaminated water at Camp Lejeune.
You do not have to be a veteran to pursue a compensation claim. You can be a family member of a service member or a government employee who lived or worked at Camp Lejeune during the relevant time. Additionally, children who were in utero during this time and have experienced a health condition linked to the contaminated water can bring claims.
The individual filing a claim must prove that one has suffered harm from exposure to the contaminated water. For example, a plaintiff must have been diagnosed by a doctor with a relevant condition, and the plaintiff must prove that chemicals in the water caused the relevant condition. Thankfully, many government research studies have already linked the chemicals in the water at Camp Lejeune to many types of cancers and other chronic health conditions.
Proving that your cancer diagnosis or other chronic health condition was caused by exposure to the water may be straightforward, depending on the circumstances. As long as you have a diagnosis and you can prove that you were on the base during the relevant period, there is a good chance that you can recover compensation.How Long Do I Have to File a Claim for Compensation?
You will need to file a lawsuit within two years of the signing the Camp Lejeune Justice Act. That means you must file your lawsuit before August 10, 2024. It may seem like you have a lot of time to pursue a lawsuit, but it will take time to prepare and effectively present your claim. If you were injured by contaminated water at Camp Lejeune, we recommend that you discuss your case with an attorney as quickly as possible.
Under the Act, any lawsuit filed must be brought in the United States District Court for the Eastern District of North Carolina. Filing a lawsuit can help you obtain more compensation than you may be able to obtain by pursuing medical benefits from the Veterans Affairs administration. Instead of obtaining compensation for your medical care, you will also be able to obtain compensation for all your economic and non-economic damages, including your pain and suffering.Discuss Your Case with a Skilled Attorney
The sooner you discuss your case with an experienced attorney, the better. The North Carolina personal injury attorneys at Arnold & Smith, PLLC, know how to hold government agencies accountable. We offer potential clients a free case evaluation to learn more about their legal options in a no-obligation setting. Contact Arnold & Smith, PLLC, today to schedule your case evaluation.