When Should I Call an Environmental Lawyer?

How do I pursue an environmental action in Wisconsin?

By Benjy Schirm, J.D. | Last updated on July 20, 2022

Pollution is an unfortunate reality in our consumer-based economy. To make most products, there will be waste materials and, inevitably, these waste products that will affect someone’s health or the use of their property.

This can happen in a variety of ways: Wells can go bad due to blasting, pesticides can spread further then they were supposed to go, groundwater can be tainted and septic systems can be filled instead of emptied. But if any of these unfortunate instances happens to you, how do you know if you have a claim?

What the “legal layman” sees as a nuisance is not the same as an average person’s definition of nuisance. They may see a nuisance as a minor thing, while the law demands that a nuisance substantially interferes with one’s enjoyment of a property before there will be compensation.

Aside from recommending that if you have been injured due to an environmental concern, Wisconsin-based environmental attorney Ted A. Warpinski recommends that you keep track of time spent looking into what went wrong, and how to deal with it. This is important for potentially measuring damages later on.

“If you have a substantial interference with the use or enjoyment of your property—the buzz word being ‘substantial’ or something more than trivial—then you have a claim,” says Warpinski, “If it only goes on for a little while—water shut off or power out for an afternoon—that’s a fairly minor inconvenience. If one has no water for days and days, or the power is out for months, you’ve got a problem there.”

You should additionally log out-of-pocket costs for your investigation; if surveys are done or soil is tested, you’ll want to be recouped. Further, you should take pictures of any and all areas you think were damaged. Before-and-after photos are extremely helpful in proving the cause of damages.

While accidents do happen, and companies try to minimize their impact, it takes time to correct them as they occur. “For the most part, people need to realize that accidents happen,” says Warpinski. “They have to try to work with the company to try to get it addressed—to make sure the behavior doesn’t continue. Often, people will become antagonistic with a company, and that doesn’t help the situation on either side.”

You’ll want to make sure you don’t sign a release, either with an insurance company or an agent of a business, without having an attorney look it over first. This may be the first sign you should get an attorney.

 If you have health issues caused by a business’ pollution, you definitely should look into bringing a case,” says Warpinski. “If the concern is more centered around the value or manner in which you may use your property, you will have to look at how significant of an impact you have.” No matter what type of claim you may have, contact a reputable and experienced environmental attorney to potentially get the remedies you deserve.

For more information on land use, environmental policy, environmental cases, environmental litigation and legal advice, see our overview of environmental law.

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