If you or a loved one lived, served or worked at Camp Lejeune for at least 30 days between Aug. 1, 1953, and Dec. 31, 1987, and developed an illness after being exposed to the contaminated water, you may have a claim. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services reports that as many as 1 million people were exposed to the contaminated water while living, working, or visiting Camp Lejeune during this time period.
Under the Camp Lejeune Justice Act of 2022, which was signed into law on Aug. 10, 2022, Marines, reservists, family members and civilians who were exposed to toxic chemicals linked to multiple types of cancer and other serious health conditions may now file lawsuits. Because the Act contains certain deadlines and time restrictions, it is important to speak with an attorney as soon as possible in order to determine whether you have a claim. It is important to remember that a claim under the Act is not a claim for benefits with the VA or a VA disability claim.
Multiple Contaminants Were Found In The Water System
For 34 years, servicemembers, their families and others were exposed to hazardous chemicals that contaminated the water system serving barracks, schools, offices and the hospital at Camp Lejeune. The chemicals included:
- Vinyl chloride
- Perchloroethylene or PCE
- Trichloroethylene or TCE
These and other toxic substances endangered the health and lives of servicemembers living on or off base and their family members, civilian workers on base, vendors visiting the base, and patients and staff at Camp Lejeune’s hospital.
Health Conditions Linked To The Contamination
The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) has previously recognized a “presumptive” list of conditions linked to the contamination, which are detailed in the Act. Presumptive means the VA presumes the contamination caused certain diagnosed health conditions. The current list includes:
- Parkinson’s disease
- Non-Hodgkin lymphoma
- Multiple myeloma
- Liver cancer
- Kidney cancer
- Bladder cancer
- Aplastic anemia and other myelodysplastic syndromes
- Adult leukemia
However, people suffering from other illnesses and conditions not included on the presumptive list may still qualify for compensation. Exposure to the toxins found on the base has been linked to serious conditions, including other types of cancers, congenital disabilities and neurological disorders. These may include, but are not limited to:
- Breast cancer
- Pancreatic cancer
- Colorectal cancer
- Thyroid cancer
- Cervical cancer
- Ovarian cancer
- Birth defects
- Fetal death
- Cardiac defects
- Brain damage
- Hodgkin’s disease
While these and other conditions may not be included in the VA’s list of presumptive conditions, those diagnosed with certain conditions who spent at least 30 days at Camp Lejeune from 1953 to 1987 may still be eligible to file a claim. Every case is different, and as a result, it’s important to contact an attorney to discuss your options.
Filing A Claim And Receiving Compensation
Those who meet the requirements under the Camp Lejeune Justice Act must first file an administrative claim with the judge advocate general of the Navy’s Tort Claims Unit (TCU) in Norfolk, Virginia. If the Department of the Navy denies the claim or fails to issue a determination within a specified period of time, those exposed to the contaminated water can file a lawsuit in the United States District Court for the Eastern District of North Carolina. Currently, all cases are handled as individual claims and not as a class action lawsuit. The Act currently sets aside more than $6 billion in compensation for economic and noneconomic damages, including:
- Medical bills
- Lost earnings and earning capacity
- Pain and suffering
- Loss of companionship, enjoyment of life and consortium
Why Should I Consider A Lawsuit?
As many as 1 million people were exposed to the contaminated water at Camp Lejeune for over three decades, and tens of thousands have died or continue to suffer due to illnesses and conditions caused by the harmful chemicals. Many of these affected individuals live here in South Carolina.
Some people may worry that they cannot afford to pay a lawyer to seek justice for themselves or their family members. However, attorneys at the Simmons Law Firm are only paid if they obtain a successful result on your behalf. If you believe you meet the requirements outlined in the Camp Lejeune Justice Act, it’s important to schedule a free consultation so we can assess your case before filing an administrative claim with the Department of the Navy. It is also helpful to start gathering any military forms (i.e., DD214), medical records, or other documents which reflect time spent on the base.
Taking immediate steps to investigate and file a claim is essential. This is expected to become one of the largest civil cases in U.S. history. For over 30 years, I have helped South Carolinians receive fair and just compensation in personal injury cases by holding wrongdoers accountable. As the former United States Attorney for the District of South Carolina, I am well-prepared to litigate cases in federal court on behalf of my clients.
The answer is intended to be for informational purposes only. It should not be relied on as legal advice, nor construed as a form of attorney-client relationship.
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