For years, studies have looked into the exact cause of the water contamination at Camp Lejeune. Research indicates that the contamination did not occur from just one party’s actions. Instead, it was a combination of different sources that leaked dangerous toxins into the water sources of the military base and, consequently, the workplace and homes of many civilians, service members, and their families. Learn more about liver cancer and the relationship to the water contamination from our experienced Camp Lejeune water contamination lawyer.
How Did the Water Contamination at Camp Lejeune Happen?
One of the most pervasive causes of the contamination is a dry-cleaning company. Beginning in 1953, this dry cleaning company improperly disposed of its toxic chemicals, allowing the contaminants to seep into the groundwater. Additional causes of the contamination revolve around similarly hazardous compounds used for cleaning military equipment and common chemicals used in industrial operations. These contaminants leaked into the Camp Lejeune water system through spills, improper disposal, and leaks or seepage into the ground.
How Long Did the Contamination Remain Undetected?
The most troubling fact revolving around the Camp Lejeune water contamination is not how the contamination occurred but for how long it remained ignored and allowed to continue. In the early years of the contamination, testing or regulation of the water system was not a common practice which explains why it went undetected during this time. However, in the late 1970s and through the 1980s, water testing did occur. The water testing revealed a potential problem with the potable water at the Camp Lejeune military base. Unfortunately, many more years passed before any changes occurred.
When the final contaminated water treatment plants at Camp Lejeune closed, and the water was finally cleared of toxic contaminants, over 30 years passed, with an estimated one million people exposed to the contamination. People that lived, worked, and served at Camp Lejeune were at high risk of illness and disease from the chemicals tainting the water.
What Contaminated the Water in Camp Lejeune?
The contents of the water in Camp Lejeune included various chemical compounds that multiple agencies, including the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry, identify as cancer-causing and associated with other threats and effects on an individual’s health. While a single instance of exposure to these chemicals may not be enough for an individual to suffer severe or long-term health effects, prolonged exposure similar to what occurred at Camp Lejeune significantly raises the risk of illness. The more time an individual spent exposed to these potential contaminants, the more likely their health suffered.
Contaminants found in the Camp Lejeune Water include:
- PCE. Also referred to as tetrachloroethylene, this chemical is common in many of the products used by dry cleaning services in their business. This chemical was the primary contaminant that infiltrated the water from the dry-cleaning operations’ improper use and disposal on the military base.
- TCE. Trichloroethylene is a cleaning solvent used in various capacities at military bases to clean aircraft, tanks, and other metal-type equipment. The use, storage, and disposal practices of TCE-containing materials at Camp Lejeune led to the contaminant seeping into the drinking water.
- Vinyl chloride. A common industrial byproduct that occurs during the manufacturing process of many goods, including PVC materials. Industrial activities on or near the base leaked this substance into the water.
- Benzene. This toxic chemical is a key ingredient in many solutions and materials used in goods.
Did the Water at Camp Lejeune Cause Your Liver Cancer Diagnosis?
All of the above substances have carcinogenic properties likely to cause numerous cancers and illnesses after long-term exposure. At least two of the substances in the water at Camp Lejeune during the contamination period have specific links to a heightened risk of liver cancer. Vinyl chloride and TCE exposure are likely to risk liver cancer.
While you may be unable to pinpoint the exact cause of your liver cancer diagnosis, if you were at Camp Lejeune during the water contamination, your exposure likely contributed in some way. Furthermore, the government identifies certain conditions arising from the Camp Lejeune water contamination as presumptive conditions. A presumptive condition means the government recognizes that exposure to the hazardous substances at Camp Lejeune likely contributed to the development of your illness. Liver cancer is one of the eight presumptive conditions the government classifies as relating to this contamination.
Can You Recover Compensation From a Camp Lejeune Lawsuit?
Recent legislation allows victims to claim damages due to the contaminated water at Camp Lejeune. For many years, statutory restrictions in North Carolina prevented victims from pursuing actions against the government for their damages following the water contamination in Camp Lejeune. Not just anyone, however, can file a lawsuit against the government for their damages.
To file a claim, a Camp Lejeune victim must show the following:
- You served, lived, or worked at the Camp Lejeune military base from August 1, 1953, to December 31, 1987.
- You spent at least 30 days at the base, living or working. The 30-day requirement does not need to be successive. Any combination of time that amounts to 30 days at Camp Lejeune during the contamination period is sufficient to meet this element under the statute.
- You suffered an illness, disease, or injury from water contamination. Although the government delineated eight conditions as presumptively linked to the contaminated water, a victim can claim any illness if they prove it’s likely due to the contamination.
Available Damages for Camp Lejeune Water Contamination?
The Camp Lejeune Justice Act provides far more opportunities for compensation to victims than the prior legislation allowing only certain medical expenses and disability benefits to service members and their families. In a damages claim, you can pursue both economic and non-economic damages. The only damages barred under the legislation relating to the water contamination are punitive damages.
Victims can seek compensation for:
- Medical costs. The treatment for liver cancer is often aggressive and intensive. All costs related to your medical care and treatment are recoverable as part of the Camp Lejeune Justice Act claim.
- Loss of income. A diagnosis of liver cancer will turn a person’s life upside down. You may be unable to work in the same capacity as you undergo aggressive treatments and fight for your life. Seek compensation for lost wages and income.
- Pain and suffering. The trauma, pain, discomfort, and suffering a person with liver cancer may endure is overwhelming. A lawsuit allows you to seek compensation for the physical and emotional distress you endure relating to your diagnosis and illness.
Are Wrongful Death Claims Allowed Under the Camp Lejeune Justice Act?
Yes. The Camp Lejeune Justice Act legislation arguably allows victims of a loved one who died from illness or disease relating to the water contamination to file a claim. Wrongful death claims, however, are complex. They are not available to all family members, and each state controls how the family must file for the claim and what damages are available to a victim’s family.
To file a Camp Lejeune wrongful death claim, your deceased loved one must meet the requirements for eligibility, such as exposure during the relevant timeframe and presence on the grounds for at least 30 days.
What Damages Can an Eligible Family Member Seek in a Wrongful Death Lawsuit?
North Carolina law outlines who is eligible to seek compensation in a wrongful death claim and the damages a family representative can pursue. Factors that play into the compensation available in a wrongful death case are the severity of the illness, the timeline of the victim’s death, and the illness’s effects on the victim while alive.
Under North Carolina law, a wrongful death claim may include damages for:
- Medical expenses incurred before the victim’s death
- The victim’s lost earnings
- The victim’s pain and suffering from the illness after their diagnosis until the point of death
- Loss of companionship, support, and services to the family
- Funeral and burial expenses
Can You Still File a Claim if You Made a Prior Claim for Benefits Through the VA?
Military members and families stationed at Camp Lejeune during the contamination could file a claim for certain VA benefits in the past. If you or a deceased loved one received benefits from the VA, you can still file a claim for damages. While you will not receive payment for costs or losses already reimbursed, you can seek additional damages not covered by the benefits you received from the VA, such as pain and suffering, loss of quality of life, and loss of income earning potential.
How Much Time Do You Have to Act Regarding Your Liver Diagnosis?
There is little time to decide if you will take action. If you are a Camp Lejeune water contamination victim, you likely have medical expenses and long-term effects from your illness. For decades, the law barred lawsuits and claims due to the extensive time between the potential exposure to contamination, the development of illness, and acknowledgment of the water problem at Camp Lejeune.
To provide justice to victims, the government passed recent laws allowing the victims to seek compensation for their losses. There is a limit, however, on the time victims have to take action. Under the statute, the open period for victims to seek compensation is two years from the date the law passed: August 10, 2022, to August 10, 2024.
Many victims will likely step forward to seek compensation for their damages. The sooner you file a damage claim, the sooner you can meet the statute of limitations.
Should You Hire a Lawyer for Help With Your Case?
Contact a Camp Lejeune water contamination lawyer if you developed liver cancer or any other illness and you meet the eligibility requirements under the statute to file a claim. A Camp Lejeune water contamination attorney can provide you with a free case consultation to discuss the facts surrounding your claim, your eligibility, and the steps to move forward. Hiring an attorney helps protect your rights to fight for compensation for your losses related to the Camp Lejeune water contamination.