Understanding The Camp Lejeune Justice Act

The United States Congress recently passed the Camp Lejeune Justice Act. This law allows veterans, their family members, and others who were stationed, resided, or worked on the Marine Corps Base at Camp Lejeune, North Carolina, to file a lawsuit for financial compensation. Plaintiffs must have been stationed at Camp Lejeune for at least 30 days between August 1, 1953, and December 31, 1987. If you were at Camp Lejeune during this period and have sustained injuries, such as a cancer diagnosis due to exposure to contaminated water, you can pursue compensation.

How Did the Water at Camp Lejeune Become Contaminated?

In the 1980s, the federal government discovered dangerous contaminants in Camp Lejeune's groundwater. After testing the drinking water, they found staggering levels of trichloroethylene (TCE), benzene, tetrachloroethylene, perchloroethylene (PCE), and vinyl chloride (VC). These chemicals have been proven to be carcinogenic and harmful to the health of persons. Researchers have established links between these chemicals and certain medical conditions, including Parkinson’s Disease, infertility, birth defects, cancers, and other dangerous medical conditions.

The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) established a presumptive service connection for eight different medical conditions linked to the contaminated water. By establishing a presumption, qualifying Veterans could obtain health care and compensation for their injuries from the VA. However, family members and non-service members cannot obtain healthcare from the VA. The department also fell short of allowing victims to seek the total compensation they deserve for their injuries because of the exposure to contaminated water.

The Camp Lejeune Justice Act Suspends Government Immunity

Governmental immunity has prevented many victims of contaminated water from recovering the total amount of compensation they deserve. Under a Supreme Court legal precedent called the “Feres Doctrine,” individuals cannot file a claim or lawsuit based on injuries that are incidental to their military service.

Non-military victims injured by exposure to contaminated water could not pursue viable legal actions, either. Even family members of servicemembers have been prevented from bringing claims, principally through the application of statutes of limitation and repose. The Camp Lejeune Justice Act removes these legal barriers for victims to recover fair compensation.

Do I Have a Valid Claim?

Even though the Camp Lejeune Justice Act does not entitle anyone to an automatic recovery, it makes recovering compensation much easier. The legislation protects victims who have not yet received compensation. However, a claimant will need to prove one’s case to recover compensation.

Additionally, one will need to file an administrative claim for damages with the appropriate federal agency within two years after the Camp Lejeune Justice Act was passed. One must discuss a potential case with an attorney as soon as possible so one does not miss the opportunity to recover the total and fair compensation one deserves.

What Types of Compensation Are Available?

To file a compensation claim, an injured person or one’s representative must submit the claim to the Navy’s Tort Claims Unit (TCU) in Norfolk, Virginia. One will need to complete a Standard Form 95 (SF-95) form. The form must include information about the injured person, the specific injuries, and the requested damages. One cannot pursue punitive damages. Any compensation will be offset by other compensation received from the VA or the Social Security. Administration.

Once one files a claim, TCU will have an opportunity to investigate. The unit must take action on the claim within 180 days of filing. The unit may try to settle a claim or may deny a claim outright. If the Navy does not take any meaningful action on a claim within 180 days or denies a claim wrongfully, one has the right to file a lawsuit in the United States District Court for the Eastern District of North Carolina.

A plaintiff will have the right to pursue damages for economic and non-economic damages. Economic damages include compensation for medical expenses, property damage, lost income, disability, disfigurement, and other quantifiable damages suffered. One can also pursue compensation for non-economic damages, including the mental anguish, pain, and suffering one has endured. Generally, the more severe and permanent one’s injuries, the more a claim is worth.

Schedule a Free Case Evaluation

Victims of contaminated water at Camp Lejeune now have an easier path to recovering the compensation they deserve for their injuries. One may be entitled to compensation if a person or a person’s loved one has been diagnosed with an illness because of exposure to contaminated water. Contact the North Carolina personal injury attorneys at Arnold & Smith, PLLC, as soon as possible to schedule a free case evaluation.

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