Camp Lejeune Water Contamination FAQs
Camp Lejeune water contamination victims have been denied justice for decades due to an obscure North Carolina statute of repose. The passage of the Honoring Our PACT Act of 2022 has cleared the way for those who contracted illnesses because of Camp Lejeune water contamination to file civil claims for their damages.
Approximately one million service personnel and their families may have been exposed to contaminated water while working and living at Camp Lejeune. The Camp Lejeune Justice Act has paved the way for those who have become ill to seek justice. According to Reuters, approximately 5,000 claims have been filed as of September 2022, and up to 500,000 are expected.
Below are answers to common questions about the water contamination at Camp Lejeune.
- How did the water at Camp Lejeune become contaminated?
- How does the Honoring our PACT Act of 2022 address Camp Lejeune water contamination?
- How much compensation can I receive for my contaminated water exposure?
- Who is eligible to file a lawsuit?
- Where can my Camp Lejeune water contamination case be tried?
- What is the time limit to file a Camp Lejeune contaminated water case?
- What do I have to prove in a Camp Lejeune water case?
- Which areas of Camp Lejeune were impacted?
- Is the water at Camp Lejeune still contaminated?
- What chemicals were found in the contaminated water?
- What are the most common health effects of Camp Lejeune water contaminants?
- What benefits does the VA provide to Camp Lejeune water contamination victims?
- Do I need a lawyer to file a case?
How did the water at Camp Lejeune become contaminated?
The contamination of Camp Lejeune water stemmed from external and internal sources. The dry cleaning company, ABC One-Hour Cleaners, established in 1953, disposed of its hazardous waste improperly, allowing chemicals to leach into the groundwater.
On-site industrial spills and leaks from underground storage tanks also contaminated the groundwater throughout the base.
How does the Honoring our PACT Act of 2022 address Camp Lejeune water contamination?
The North Carolina statute of repose prohibits civil claims for injuries when ten or more years have passed since the injurious act. A statute of limitations typically allows the clock to start running when the injury is discovered, even if it is discovered months or years later. A statute of repose makes no such allowance.
Most Camp Lejeune water contamination victims were unaware of why they experienced severe illnesses until after the statute of repose had expired. This left Camp Lejeune water contamination victims without legal recourse.
The Honoring our Promise to Address Comprehensive Toxics (PACT) Act of 2022 includes the Camp Lejeune Justice Act, which specifically overrides the North Carolina statute of repose and allows victims to file a civil claim against the U.S. government in federal court.
How much compensation can I receive for my contaminated water exposure?
Compensation for Camp Lejeune water contamination could range from a few thousand to millions depending on the severity of your illness and the financial impact your illness has had on your life.
The Honoring our PACT Act of 2022 authorizes litigants to seek economic and non-economic damages from the U.S. government. Economic damages are verifiable monetary damages that could include the following:
- Medical expenses
- Lost wages
- Ongoing medical costs
- Projected lifetime earnings lost
- Funeral expenses
Non-economic damages are the non-monetary impacts of the illness on your quality of life, which include but are not limited to:
- Loss of society
- Pain and suffering
- Loss of consortium
- Loss of bodily functions
- Mental anguish
- Loss of capacity to enjoy life
If you have received VA benefits or other benefits in connection with Camp Lejeune’s toxic water exposure, this will offset the damages you recover in your civil claim. Punitive damages are not available in a Camp Lejeune civil claim.
Who is eligible to file a lawsuit?
Those eligible include anyone who lived or worked at Camp Lejeune for at least 30 calendar days from August 1, 1953 to December 31, 1987 and has since contracted an illness that can be traced to the water contamination.
Eligible individuals include the following:
- Veterans who lived or worked on base
- Family members living on base
- Civilian workers
- Anyone who was in utero during the prescribed period
- Residents living near the base who received the contaminated water
Family members of victims exposed during the prescribed period and passed away as a result of the contamination may file a wrongful death claim under the Honoring our PACT Act of 2022.
Where can my Camp Lejeune water contamination case be tried?
The Camp Lejeune Justice Act has designated the Eastern District of North Carolina as the venue where all cases must be tried. Before your case can be tried in court, you must file an administrative claim with the Office of the Judge Advocate General of the Navy Tort Claims Unit in Norfolk, Virginia.
What is the time limit to file a Camp Lejeune contaminated water case?
The Honoring our PACT Act of 2022 provides two years from the date it was signed, or until August 10, 2024, for contaminated water victims to file a civil lawsuit. If your case is denied during the required administrative review, the statute of limitations is adjusted to 180 days after a denial.
What do I have to prove in a Camp Lejeune water case?
Camp Lejeune water contamination claimants must prove that they were harmed and that a causal relationship exists between their contaminated water exposure and harm.
Which areas of Camp Lejeune were impacted?
The Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry has documented that the primary contaminated water treatment plants on the base were Hadnot Point, Holcomb Boulevard, and Tarawa Terrace water treatment facilities. Affected areas include the following:
- Mainside barracks
- Hospital Point family housing
- Family housing at Midway Park, Paradise Point, and Berkeley Manor (until June 1972)
- Tarawa Terrace family housing
- Knox trailer park
- Watkins Village
Is the water at Camp Lejeune still contaminated?
The most contaminated wells were shut down in February 1985, and the last contaminated wells in 1987.
What chemicals were found in the contaminated water?
The following chemicals were found in alarming concentrations in the contaminated water at Camp Lejeune:
- Trichloroethylene (TCE)
- Perchloroethylene (PCE)
- Vinyl chloride
What are the most common health effects of Camp Lejeune water contaminants?
The health effects of water contamination at Camp Lejeune are numerous, and some are still being discovered and confirmed. These effects are often severe and fatal:
- Significant birth defects
- Neurological disorders
- Kidney failure
- Parkinson’s disease
Male breast cancer cases, which are usually rare, have been significantly more common in Camp Lejeune water poisoning victims than in the general population. Families living on base experienced the early death of children and multiple miscarriages.
What benefits does the VA provide to Camp Lejeune water contamination victims?
The Camp Lejeune Act of 2012 requires the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) to provide free health care and monthly disability benefits to veterans who have become ill because of Camp Lejeune water contamination; exposed family members are also eligible for medical reimbursement.
Although the VA established a central processing center where claims processors were trained to process Camp Lejeune water contamination claims, many of the claims were reviewed by regional offices, which had a 40 percent error rate. The error rate at the central processing center is eight percent.
A study reported by Military.com revealed that the VA prematurely denied 17,200 of 57,500 claims filed since 2017 instead of asking for additional information. As many as 2,300 approved claims were assigned an incorrect application date, resulting in the VA wrongfully depriving $14 million in retroactive benefits.
In addition, according to a CBS News investigation, the VA made use of “subject matter experts” (SMEs) that routinely denied applications. Subject matter experts were doctors that often did not specialize in the diagnosed conditions, had never seen the patients, and were unqualified to make determinations.
According to the report, the addition of SMEs caused the approval rate of 25 percent to drop to five percent. From 2014 to 2016, the approval rate was an abysmal one percent. The obstacles the VA has put in veterans’ paths underscore the need for the Honoring our PACT Act of 2022.
Do I need a lawyer to file a case?
Filing a Camp Lejeune lawsuit requires a claimant to meet specific administrative requirements that can be complex for an individual not well-versed in the law and how the claims process works. In addition, your medical records will need to be accessed and reviewed by someone who understands medical terminology.
An experienced personal injury attorney can handle these details and establish the causal link between your illness and exposure to contaminated water at Camp Lejeune. Your attorney can also perform detailed calculations to arrive at a case value that accounts for the full extent of your damages.
If the toxic water has poisoned you or your loved one at Camp Lejeune, you have a short window of opportunity to seek civil damages. Don’t let time run out. Contact Meirowitz & Wasserberg today to schedule a free consultation.
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