It is estimated that between 1953 and 1987, nearly 1 million Marines, reservists, family members and civilians were exposed to contaminated water at Camp Lejeune, North Carolina. Multiple types of cancer, neurological disorders, congenital disabilities and other serious health conditions are linked to toxic chemicals in the water system.
Under the Camp Lejeune Justice Act of 2022, affected individuals and their loved ones, including many living here in South Carolina, can now file a lawsuit. Because of the number of people exposed to the toxic water on the base, it is expected that this litigation may be one of the largest in U.S. history. Over 5,000 administrative claims were filed within just one month after the bill was signed into law by the president.
Eligibility Requirements For Filing A Lawsuit
The Act, signed into law on Aug. 10, created a $6 billion fund to compensate Camp Lejeune water contamination victims. To be eligible to file a lawsuit, you must meet the following standards:
- You were exposed to the contaminated water for 30 days or more between Aug. 1, 1953, and Dec. 31, 1987. The days do not have to be consecutive.
- You can prove that you lived, worked or were exposed to hazardous chemicals during that timeframe through service, residency or work records.
- You have medical records containing a diagnosis of an illness or disorder associated with the contamination.
There are also certain deadlines to file a claim under the Act. Accordingly, it’s important to contact an attorney as soon as possible if you believe you meet these requirements.
Health Conditions Linked To Camp Lejeune Claims
The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) has recognized certain so-called “presumptive” conditions linked to the contamination. “Presumptive” means that the VA presumes the toxic water 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, many people who worked or lived on base or visited for at least 30 days suffer from various other illnesses and disorders not included on the “presumptive” list. These individuals are not excluded from pursuing a claim under the Act. According to scientific research, other serious conditions, including several types of cancers, congenital disabilities and neurological disorders, may also have been caused by the contamination. These include:
- Breast cancer
- Pancreatic cancer
- Colorectal cancer
- Thyroid cancer
- Cervical cancer
- Ovarian cancer
- Fetal death
- Birth defects
- Cardiac defects
- Brain damage
- Hodgkin lymphoma
If the contamination caused your illness or you lost a loved one who spent time at Camp Lejeune, you may be eligible to file a claim. It’s advisable to contact an attorney as soon as possible and gather information, such as medical history and proof that you were at the base during the specified time period.
What Caused The Contamination?
For at least 34 years, service members, their families and others living and working on base were exposed to hazardous chemicals at Camp Lejeune. The contaminated water system served barracks, schools, offices and the base hospital. The chemicals included:
- Vinyl chloride
- Perchloroethylene or PCE
- Trichloroethylene or TCE
These toxic substances endangered the health and lives of Marine personnel living on or off base, their family members, as well as civilian workers, visiting vendors, children attending base schools, and patients and staff at Camp Lejeune’s hospital.
How To File A Claim
The first step under the Act is filing an administrative claim with the judge advocate general (JAG) of the Navy’s Tort Claims Unit (TCU) in Norfolk, Virginia. Generally, if the TCU denies the claim or doesn’t respond within the required timeframe, victims can then file a lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of North Carolina. All cases are handled as individual claims, and this is not a class action lawsuit. Victims may be eligible for 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
Because every case is different, it is important to consult with an experienced attorney as soon as possible to discuss your claim.
Why Should I Consider A Lawsuit?
For more than three decades, as many as 1 million people were exposed to the contaminated water at Camp Lejeune, including thousands of South Carolinians. Tens of thousands of people have died or suffer from illnesses and conditions caused by the toxic water.
Some people may worry that they cannot afford to pay a lawyer. However, attorneys at the Simmons Law Firm are only paid if you have a successful outcome. There are no upfront fees. If you believe you meet the requirements outlined in the Camp Lejeune Justice Act, it’s advisable to schedule a free consultation so we can assess your case without delay.
While the Act provides for a two-year period to file a claim, taking steps as soon as possible is essential due to the high volume of claims expected. Because every case is different, it is important to speak with an experienced attorney. As the former U.S. Attorney for the District of South Carolina, I have extensive knowledge of the federal court system. Most importantly, for over 30 years, I have helped South Carolinians receive fair and just compensation in personal injury cases by holding responsible parties accountable.
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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