Check your eligibility and file for compensation in the Camp Lejeune class action lawsuit
When people sign up for military service, they and their families know most of the risks they will face. However, for many years, people who lived and served at Camp Lejeune, North Carolina, did not realize they were drinking poisoned water and bathing in it.
Scientists have found high levels of more than 70 chemicals in Camp Lejeune’s water supply, mostly Perchloroethylene (PCE), a powerful solvent, and trichloroethylene (TCE), an equally powerful degreaser. Samples also showed high levels of vinyl chloride and benzene. For years, the government denied responsibility for this health hazard. Now, at last, the facts have come to light.
In an ideal world, institutions would freely admit responsibility for their mistakes and do the right thing. However, we do not live in a perfect world. Therefore, attorneys must get involved and use the court system to force these parties to do the right thing. But, before that happens, the Action Matters team gives victims the data they need to make good decisions for themselves and their families. Sometimes the best decision is to call a lawyer who stands up for your rights in court. Quite simply, if you don’t know you have rights and don’t fight back, you don’t have rights.
These rights include compensation for injuries. Victims need money to pay medical and other bills. They also deserve this money so they can move forward with their lives. These damage awards also convince responsible parties to change how the way they do business and put peoples’ safety first.
Why is there a Camp Lejeune water contamination lawsuit?
There is a Camp Lejeune suit because if there is a wrong, there is a remedy, according to a basic principle in American law. The wrong is the harmful effects of water poisoning on individuals and families. The remedy is usually a negligence action. Basically, negligence is a lack of care.
PCE, TCE and benzene are known cancer-causing chemicals. Vinyl chloride is a suspected carcinogen. These chemicals have been linked to the following:
- Kidney, liver and bladder cancer,
- Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma, and
- Multiple Myeloma.
Some other diseases linked to Camp Lejeune water include aplastic anemia (bone marrow failure) and Parkinson’s disease. These chemicals also cause other health problems, such as anxiety, confusion, depression, and other similar issues, along with reproductive problems, such as miscarriage and congenital disabilities. The effects of these illnesses often do not appear for a long time. No matter how much time has passed since a victim lived at Camp Lejeune, that person may still have legal rights.
Cancer and other such illnesses are costly to treat. The average treatment cost is over $150,000. Cancer treatment could exceed $1 million in rare cases such as multiple myeloma, which is basically cancer in plasma cells.
The 2022 PACT Act made it easier for veterans who came into contact with toxic substances to obtain disability benefits. These benefits usually include monthly cash and cost-free medical care. However, sick non-veterans, such as military contractors, civilian workers, and visitors, cannot get these benefits. Additionally, disability benefits only partially compensate veterans. They do not include compensation for emotional distress and other noneconomic losses.
A negligence case could be the answer in these situations. Generally, public and private property owners have a duty of care to ensure that their properties are reasonably safe. However, the exact duty of care varies in different situations.
Owners breach their duty of care when they know, or should know about, a property hazard and do not take care of that hazard. The Marine Corps knew about water safety issues at Camp Lejeune as early as 1958. Sadly, the USMC blamed other companies for the problem and hid behind legal loopholes.
Victims must also prove cause, which is a link between the breach and the damages. These damages must be actual harm, like a physical illness. For example, poisoned Camp Lejeune water has been shown to destroy minds and bodies.
In addition to compensatory damages for economic and noneconomic losses, these victims may be entitled to substantial punitive damages. These damages may be available if there is clear evidence the defendant disregarded a known risk intentionally.
Because victims have so many choices and the cases are so complex, Action Matters gives victims vital information about their illnesses, their claims, and the process. The more victims know about this process, the better prepared they are, and the better decisions they make.
Who can file a claim in the Camp Lejeune water contamination lawsuit?
As of December 2022, Camp Lejeune victims have filed over 14,000 lawsuits. However, this figure may only be a tiny fraction of the final figure. As many as one million veterans, and their family members, may have ingested the toxic chemicals in Camp Lejeune’s water supply.
Generally, people who lived or worked at Camp Lejeune between 1953 and 1987 and who have exhausted their administrative remedies may be eligible for a share of a future Camp Lejeune settlement. Given the number of victims and the nature of the exposure illnesses, this settlement could be huge.
“Exhaustion” is a legal principle that states that filing a civil lawsuit is a last resort. This process usually includes a special claim with the U.S. Navy’s Judge Advocate General (JAG) Corps. Overall, these remedies vary, so victims should always speak with attorneys. Once this phase is over, attorneys typically use a mixture of service records, address records, employment records and other such proof to show residence at Camp Lejeune.
The government’s admission of responsibility is a big step toward this settlement. However, it’s only the first step. Attorneys must also collect enough evidence to make a preliminary case.
The government has admitted that, between Aug. 1, 1953, and Dec. 31, 1987, unhealthy water at Camp Lejeune could have caused one of 15 listed illnesses. Causation and the extent of illness are usually the two key areas of a Camp Lejeune water contamination lawsuit.
At Action Matters, we understand that most people do not speak legalese. So, we break things down and explain things in simple terms.
In these cases, causation is a link between the unhealthy water and the plaintiff’s illness. This link could be hard to pin down. Since environmental contamination is a serious problem in America, illness-causing particles could come from almost anywhere. Victims must prove, by a preponderance of the evidence (more likely than not), that Camp Lejenue water caused their illnesses.
Attorneys often use expert testimony to prove this link. These witnesses must meet certain legal qualifications.
Doctors usually determine the extent of a plaintiff’s illness. Different doctors often have different opinions. That’s especially true regarding items like future medical treatment. No one knows for sure what will happen tomorrow. Once again, victims must prove damages by a preponderance of the evidence.
Evidence, including documentary evidence, eyewitness testimony, and expert testimony, is crucial in a Camp Lejeune claim. If the evidence falls short, the government’s lawyers could convince a judge to throw the case out of court.
Once the judge rules on procedural motions, settlement negotiations usually begin. In mass tort claims, like defective Philips CPAP machine claims, officials put many individual cases into one big case, at least for pretrial purposes. This is called multi-district litigation.
A million individual lawsuits would overwhelm the federal judicial system. So, one judge in one place manages the pretrial process. This includes ruling on procedural motions, overseeing discovery (an information exchange process between plaintiffs and defendants), and supervising settlement negotiations.
MDLs usually include a few bellwether trials. These trials help plaintiffs and defendants assess the strengths and weaknesses of their claims and defenses. Mostly, if these claims don’t settle, they return to their original courts for trial.
What are the symptoms of Camp Lejeune water contamination poisoning?
Cancer and other serious illnesses often take years or decades to develop. Some initial symptoms include:
- Lumps or firm spots under the skin,
- Itching, scaliness, discoloration or other unusual skin conditions,
- Trouble urinating,
- Unusual bruising or bleeding,
- Constant hoarseness or coughing,
- Appetite or weight changes,
- Chronic pain or fatigue,
- Night sweats, and
- Neurological issues, like vision problems, headaches or seizures.
If you have any of these symptoms, you may want to speak to a doctor immediately about the cause. The longer you wait, the more advanced illnesses become.
How do I Join the Camp Lejeune water contamination lawsuit?
If you feel you or a loved one has lived on the Camp Lejeune base for at least 30 days and have a current illness diagnosis from a fully qualified professional, please complete our free claim review today. If you qualify, you will be partnered with an attorney who can help guide you through the process and answer any questions you may have. Act fast, as this chance ends in August 2024.
What are essential facts that veterans need to know?
A Camp Lejeune lawsuit is uncharted territory, given the long exposure period, the large number of victims, and the government’s long-term denial that any problem existed. However, we do know some essential facts that will help you with the claim filing process.
Many veterans are eligible for, or already receiving, disability benefits for cancer or other service-related conditions. Some veterans worry that filing a Camp Lejeune lawsuit may affect their disability benefits. But it doesn’t. All Camp Lejeune water poisoning victims have a right to demand compensation in federal court.
If a disabled veteran gets a share of a Camp Lejeune settlement, the government may be entitled to an offset. Basically, federal law prohibits double-dipping in this area. Therefore, veterans cannot receive two payments (disability payments and a lawsuit settlement) for the same service-related condition. This possible offset only affects cash benefits, not other benefits, such as medical benefits or eligibility for a VA home loan.
Any potential offset is limited. For example, the government does not get an offset if veterans were exposed to toxic substances stored at Camp Lejeune and develop cancer. The same thing is true if a veteran trained at Camp Lejeune and was hurt elsewhere.
Moreover, the offset only applies to economic losses. A potential offset does not apply to noneconomic damages, like compensation for pain and suffering, or punitive damages.
Usually, noneconomic damages in a civil case could be two or three times higher than economic damages. The punitive damages, if any, could be even higher. Therefore, a potential offset only applies to a small percentage of a Camp Lejeune water contamination settlement.
Always remember that veterans have the final say in these matters. They may reject a settlement if they don’t think it’s fair.
On a related note, the Camp Lejeune water contamination lawsuit does not prevent veterans from applying for disability benefits. In fact, the Camp Lejeune Justice Act made it easier to file these claims and obtain maximum benefits.
Camp Lejeune injury claims are almost overwhelmingly complex. So, we will try to answer some frequently asked questions and give victims more information.
How do I file a Camp Lejeune water contamination claim?
Veterans who served at Camp Lejeune aren’t automatically entitled to a settlement. Instead, they must file claims.
Primary eligibility requirements include at least a 30-day residence at Camp Lejeune between 1953 and 1987, a current diagnosis of a related illness, and evidence that connects that condition with Camp Lejeune’s water.
Next, victims must file Camp Lejeune toxic contamination claims in the proper courts. Generally, when a person sues the government for any reason, they must file their claims in federal court. Federal courts use a notice pleading rule. Therefore, claims documents do not need to be detailed. Lawyers can work out these details later. Instead, forms must only state the general nature of the claim, so the government is “on notice” and can prepare a defense.
This defense usually includes a lack of a connection between the water and the victim’s illness and/or a dispute as to the amount of damages the plaintiff claims.
On a side note, the VA didn’t “take care” of the problem. Veterans are not automatically entitled to benefits and the government has not agreed to pay civil damages. This process is just beginning and will not end until at least August 2024, when the Camp Lejeune Justice Act’s filing window closes.
How can you tell if your symptoms may be linked to Camp Lejeune’s toxic water?
Only a doctor should discuss the symptoms of Camp Lejeune water contamination with victims. Cancer symptoms, such as weight changes, pain, and appetite changes, are very general and could be caused by almost anything. Only an individual examination confirms a water poisoning illness or rules it out. Either way, after the exam, the individual knows what to do next.
The Action Matters team focuses on giving consumers information about the legal choices they have in personal injury and other cases.
How long will it take to settle the Camp Lejeune lawsuit?
Each case is unique and so the settlement time frame to each settlement is unique as well. Generally, toxic tort claims are very complex, and these complex issues take time to sort out. Although no one knows how long it will take to settle the Camp Lejeune lawsuit, there are some things attorneys know about settlement negotiations in general.
Most civil claims eventually settle out of court. However, “eventually” could be a very long time. Informal settlement negotiations usually begin almost immediately. A simple case may settle almost immediately. The Camp Lejeune suit is anything but simple.
Because of the complex issues, the judge will most likely appoint a mediator. This person oversees negotiations for the judge and ensures that both parties negotiate in good faith. “Take it or leave it” is not a good faith offer or counter offer.
The good news is that both parties are usually motivated to settle a dispute. Everyone wants to conclude the matter quickly and avoid the risks of a trial.
So, the bottom line is that no one knows how long it will take to settle the Camp Lejeune lawsuit. This process could take anywhere between several months and several years.
How long does it take to process a claim in the Camp Lejeune lawsuit?
Processing a lawsuit, such as a Camp Lejeune claim, is usually a two-part procedure. First, victims must prove they are eligible for compensation. Second, the court, or the parties themselves, must determine how much compensation the victim is entitled to.
Eligibility for compensation usually means having a prima facie (preliminary) case. That means living at Camp Lejeune, a valid medical diagnosis of a toxic exposure-related condition, and evidence that links the residency with the condition.
A legal principle called exhaustion is involved in this eligibility determination. Under federal law, most Camp Lejeune claimants must file administrative claims with the Navy Department before they may file civil actions. However, many claimants skip this step because there is almost no chance the Navy Department will approve the claim. Others filed their administrative lawsuits long ago, and they have expired.
If the parties cannot agree on the amount of compensation, a jury usually processes this part of a Camp Lejeune suit. However, most claims settle out of court. These settlement negotiations usually involve some give and take.
What areas have you had to live in to make a Camp Lejeune claim?
Hadnot Point and Tarawa Terrace were two of the worst sites at Camp Lejeune. According to reliable studies, the water in these areas was tainted with toxins at anywhere between 240 and 3,400 times the acceptable exposure levels listed in safety standards. Anyone who lived anywhere within Camp Lejeune’s boundaries between 1953 and 1987 may file a legal claim for damages as these boundaries existed at the time.
How do I get help with a Camp Lejeune claim form?
To get help completing your Camp Lejeune claim form, contact the Action Matters team for a free case evaluation.
How do I file a service-connected disability claim?
Veterans must produce a current medical diagnosis and show a service-related connection. For example, a VA C&P (compensation and pension) doctor might provide the necessary diagnosis, but more likely, an attorney must arrange an IME (independent medical examination). Evidence on the service-related connection point includes service records and buddy statements. Click here to learn more.
Where do I file a claim in the Camp Lejeune lawsuit?
While the Camp Lejeune Justice Act directs claimants to file with the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of North Carolina, federal courts have very complex rules. Because of this, it is advisable to work with an attorney rather than filing for yourself to ensure that you are in line with the guidelines and reach the best possible settlement if one is available. Contact the Action Matters team for a free case evaluation.
Do I need a lawyer for a Camp Lejeune lawsuit?
Injured victims may represent themselves in court. But the legal battle is like a pee-wee football team against an NFL team. Victims without lawyers face difficult odds taking on VA lawyers. Therefore, you may want to consider working with an attorney to defend your rights in this matter.
Not just any lawyer will do. Your attorney should be experienced. There’s no substitute for experience in complex cases. Your lawyer should also be there for you at all times.
Has anyone received compensation for Camp Lejeune injuries?
Between 2009 and 2011, numerous victims filed legal claims related to poisoned water at this Marine Corps base. Unfortunately, most of these cases were dismissed on technical grounds. However, the Camp Lejeune Justice Act short-circuits the biggest procedural hurdle: the statute of limitations. Now, the way is clear for victims to obtain the compensation they need and deserve.
Contact us today if you feel you are experiencing symptoms of Camp Lejeune environmental contamination. We will help you learn more about your legal options and to take the first step toward maximum compensation. The Action Matters team is here to help explain complex things in simple terms. It’s our mission to see that no victim ever suffers in silence.
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