Camp Lejeune Breaking News: New Law Looks to Help Compensate Water Contamination Victims
Last Updated on September 7, 2022
At A Glance
- This Alert Affects:
- Veterans, family members and others who lived or worked at Camp Lejeune between August 1, 1953 and December 31, 1987, including those who have already gone to the VA for benefits.
- What’s Going On?
- A groundbreaking new law is allowing those exposed to contaminated water at Camp Lejeune to file lawsuits for the harm they’ve suffered.
- What Health Problems Have Been Linked to the Water at Camp Lejeune?
- Various types of cancer, birth defects, Parkinson’s disease, fatty liver disease, infertility, miscarriages, myelodysplastic syndromes, scleroderma, renal toxicity and more.
- How Can I Get More Information?
- Below you will find everything you need to know regarding the law, what veterans and their families will need to do to file claims, why those who've gone to the VA are still eligible and how to find an attorney for your case.
- How Can I Take Action?
- If you want to know more about your rights, fill out the form to get in touch. Attorneys are speaking with Camp Lejeune residents across the country – at no charge – to explain why now is the time to take action and what compensation they could be entitled to.
If you or a close family member lived at Camp Lejeune between August 1, 1953 and December 31, 1987 and developed health problems from toxic water at the base, a new law is finally giving you a real opportunity to seek compensation from the U.S. government.
Keep reading to learn more about the new law, why it applies even to those who've already gone to the VA for benefits, what conditions have been linked to the water contamination and how to find a lawyer.
- Latest News
- What Is the Camp Lejeune Justice Act?
- How Do I File a Claim?
- What About VA Claims?
- What If I'm Not a Veteran?
- How Do I Find a Lawyer?
- Do I Need an Attorney?
- What Does a Lawyer Cost?
- What Diseases Are Covered?
- How Much Is a Settlement?
- What If My Loved One Is Dead?
- How Did the Water Get Contaminated?
What’s the Latest News on the Water Contamination at Camp Lejeune?
On August 10, 2022, a comprehensive bipartisan bill titled the Honoring Our Promise to Address Comprehensive Toxics Act – or the Honoring Our PACT Act – was signed into law by President Joe Biden.
As part of the Act, those who were exposed to toxic water at Camp Lejeune between August 1, 1953 and December 31, 1987 - including veterans previously denied by the VA - are being given the chance to file lawsuits in federal court for the harm they’ve suffered.
The new law also expands the VA healthcare services and benefits available to the more than 3.5 million veterans who were exposed to toxic chemicals and hazardous environments during service, including the burn pits in Afghanistan and Iraq.
What Is the Camp Lejeune Justice Act?
The Camp Lejeune Justice Act is a piece of legislation included in the Honoring Our PACT Act. It is the section of the new law that provides former Camp Lejeune residents the opportunity to take legal action for the harm they've suffered from the toxic water contamination.
In essence, the Camp Lejeune Justice Act takes away the government’s previous immunity to lawsuits filed on behalf of military members who were injured during service.
For years, Camp Lejeune residents were denied the chance to take legal action – despite being exposed to toxic water for decades – due to a unique provision in North Carolina law. The Act serves to correct this injustice.
How Do I File a Camp Lejeune Water Contamination Claim?
If you want to file a claim under the new law, you will need to hire an attorney to put together your case.
To be eligible to file a claim, you (or your loved one) must have lived, worked or have been otherwise present at Camp Lejeune for at least 30 days between August 1, 1953 and December 31, 1987 and developed some type of physical harm due to the base’s contaminated water. If you were in your mother’s womb during this time and she lived or worked at the base, you are also eligible.
Additionally, it's important to remember that those who have already gone to the VA for benefits - including veterans who had their claims denied - are still eligible to file lawsuits under the new law. Whether you've received benefits in the past has no bearing on your eligibility.
Once you have an attorney, they will put together what’s known as a complaint. This document will detail the diagnosis, how it affected the claimant’s life and why the water at Camp Lejeune is to blame.
In putting together the complaint, your attorney may need to gather some information from you – your length of time at the base, how the exposure happened (i.e., bathing, drinking), military and work history, etc. – and will request medical documents related to the condition or illness caused by the contaminated water. Your attorney would then file this document with the United States District Court for the Eastern District of North Carolina, marking the official start of your lawsuit.
Keep in mind that the process of filing a lawsuit is different from filing a claim with the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs.
It is believed that before filing suit, however, claimants may need to take a yet-to-be-defined administrative step, which their attorney can assist with.
What If I Already Went to the VA?
This law is designed to give you your day in court and provide compensation above and beyond VA benefits. If you already went to the VA, there are two scenarios that may play out:
If you were denied VA benefits, you may have a new opportunity for justice. Part of the purpose of the new law is to help those who were denied benefits in the past, and previous VA denials do not bar you from filing suit.
If you are already receiving benefits from the VA, the law could allow you the chance to recover compensation for things that aren’t already being covered, like pain and suffering and loss of employment prospects. The law is structured so that the court will render a judgment about the overall harm you’ve suffered (physical, mental, financial), then reduce that amount by whatever the VA has paid you in benefits.
It’s worth exploring your options: it’s estimated that the government will spend more than $6 billion resolving these lawsuits over the next decade.
What If I’m Not a Veteran? Can I Still Sue for My Injuries?
Yes, you are still eligible to file a lawsuit. Keep in mind that the new bill allows individuals – and not veterans exclusively – who resided, worked or were otherwise exposed to the water at Camp Lejeune between August 1, 1953 and December 31, 1987 an opportunity to sue the government. This group of people includes veterans, civilian workers, contractors and family members of veterans, including those who were in the womb at the time and exposed in utero.
How Do I Find a Lawyer for my Camp Lejeune Case?
To find an attorney to handle your potential case, you may want to ask friends or family members for referrals or research online to find someone who is experienced in handling personal injury, mass tort or wrongful death cases.
At ClassAction.org, we work with a select group of attorneys who are considered pioneers in their field and widely recognized as leaders in protecting the rights of those harmed by the wrongdoing of corporations and large institutions.
For Camp Lejeune, we are working with Milberg Coleman Bryson Phillips Grossman, whose North Carolina-based attorneys will be tasked with recovering compensation on behalf of former servicemembers and their families. The attorneys at the firm have filed countless cases with the United States District Court for the Eastern District of North Carolina – the exact venue where your lawsuit must be filed – and understand the laws of the state intimately.
These attorneys are offering to speak with former Camp Lejeune residents and their loved ones free of charge, so fill out the form on this page to get in touch. The law is new and groundbreaking, and an attorney can help explain whether you qualify, what’s involved in filing a lawsuit, why even those who've been denied by the VA are eligible and what you might be entitled to recover.
Do I Need an Attorney?
It’s highly recommended that those interested in pursuing claims against the government hire a qualified attorney. Keep in mind that you will be filing a lawsuit in federal court – not just filling out a claim form or VA benefits application. Filing a lawsuit is a complicated process, and your lawyer can help put together a strong case that proves your injury and sufficiently links it to the water contamination.
How Much Does an Attorney Cost?
Attorneys are expected to handle these cases on a contingency-fee basis – meaning you don’t pay unless they win your case. Their payment would come as part of your potential settlement award or jury verdict.
What Diseases Are Associated with the Contaminants in Camp Lejeune’s Water Supply?
The following conditions have been associated with the contaminated water at Camp Lejeune, though there may be others:
- Bladder cancer
- Kidney cancer
- Liver cancer
- Adult leukemia
- Multiple myeloma
- Non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma
- Aplastic anemia and other myelodysplastic syndromes
- Cardiac birth defects
- Parkinson’s disease
Many of these conditions have been considered “presumptive” injuries from the water at Camp Lejeune by the VA.
Attorneys working with ClassAction.org are also speaking with former Camp Lejeune residents (and loved ones acting on their behalf) who suffered from any of the following: breast cancer; esophageal cancer; lung cancer; hepatic steatosis (fatty liver disease); miscarriage; renal toxicity; scleroderma; infertility; and neurobehavioral effects.
What Will My Settlement Amount Be?
Like with most cases, the amount you could receive will likely depend on the type of illness or condition that developed, the impact of the diagnosis and your lawyer’s ability to link the harm suffered to the water contamination. Your attorney may be able to provide you with a better idea of what your award could be.
Settlement amounts would likely provide for damages including past and future medical bills, lost wages, pain and suffering, loss of life's enjoyment, and funeral expenses in the event of death.
It’s important to note, however, that the law states that any potential awards would be offset by the amount of certain prior disability awards, payments and benefits, including those provided by the VA.
What If My Loved One Is Dead? Could I Still File a Claim?
The Camp Lejeune Justice Act clearly states that a legal representative of an individual who became ill from the toxic water can bring a lawsuit.
It is believed that your loved one’s death does not need to have been caused by the condition linked to their exposure. Even if the individual died from unrelated causes – from a heart attack, accident, etc. – you may still have the right to pursue compensation for the illness or condition believed to have been caused by their time at Camp Lejeune.
How Did the Water Get Contaminated at Camp Lejeune?
The water contamination at Camp Lejeune was caused by the waste disposal practices of an outside dry-cleaning establishment, as well as leaking underground storage tanks, waste disposal sites and industrial area spills.
In 1982, the Marine Corps discovered that two of the eight water distribution systems on base were contaminated with volatile organic compounds.
The Tarawa Terrace water supply system was contaminated primarily by PCE, a dry-cleaning solvent. Spills and improper disposal of the chemical by ABC One-Hour Cleaners caused the groundwater that was collected by on-base supply wells to become contaminated. Areas at Camp LeJeune that were serviced by this water distribution plant included the Tarawa Terrace family housing and Knox trailer park.
The Hadnot Point water treatment plant was primarily contaminated by TCE; however, PCE, benzene, and vinyl chloride were also discovered in the water. The Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR) reports that multiple sources, including leaking underground storage tanks, waste disposal sites and industrial area spills were responsible for contamination of the Hadnot Point water supply system. Areas on base that were supplied by Hadnot Point include the Mainside barracks, Hospital Point family housing, and family housing at Midway Park, Paradise Point, and Berkeley Manor until June 1972.
According to the ATSDR, contaminated water from the Hadnot Point plant was sometimes used to supplement Holcomb Boulevard’s drinking water system between 1972 and 1985. Holcomb Boulevard serviced Tarawa Terrace family housing after March 1987, as well as family housing at Watkins Village, Paradise Point, Midway Park and Berkeley Manor.
The ATSDR says that the other five water distribution systems at Camp Lejeune were not contaminated.
Interested in learning more about the new law for Camp Lejeune residents and how it affects you?
Fill out the form on this page to get in touch. An attorney may then reach out to you directly to answer any questions you may have – at no cost and with no obligation to take legal action.
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