Military personnel stationed at Camp Lejeune in Jacksonville, North Carolina at any point between August 1, 1953 and December 31, 1987 may have consumed drinking water contaminated with toxic chemicals. Not only service members, but their spouses, children, and other dependents living on the military base have been affected. Furthermore, other people working onsite were also subjected to toxic drinking water.
Until the passage of the Camp Lejeune Justice Act, which is a component of the Honoring Our Pact Act, victims were facing harsh limits and restrictions on their ability to seek compensation. In fact, numerous victims did not know why they had become sick or what type of exposure had occurred. Now they know.
The Camp Lejeune Justice Act, passed by the U.S. Senate and subsequently signed by President Biden on August 10, 2022, empowers victims to pursue financial recourse for their injuries. The South Carolina Camp Lejeune attorneys at HawkLaw, P.A. strongly believe that ex-military members and their families deserve compensation for their injuries. Now, with the passage of this law, we have a mechanism to help victims get the money they need to cover medical bills, lost wages, wrongful death, pain and suffering, emotional damages, and any other related expenses stemming from this prolonged contaminated water exposure.
At HawkLaw, we will fight for you and your family members. If you think you or a loved one may meet the criteria as outlined under the Camp Lejeune Justice Act, contact the personal injury attorneys at HawkLaw, P.A. today for a free consultation* at 888-HAWKLAW. Time is of the utmost importance because the U.S. federal government has issued a time limit to file your claim. Call our law firm today to start your case. If you have questions about whether you qualify, continue reading!
How Did the Water at Camp Lejeune Get Contaminated?
The U.S. Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune water contamination affected numerous wells and water sources on the base. Over the years, millions of individuals suffered exposure to toxic chemicals and, as a result, were eventually diagnosed with serious and/or grave health issues. The Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR) is currently analyzing all data regarding chemicals and illnesses.
In 1982, the Marine Corps made the discovery of volatile organic compounds (VOCs) in the drinking water originating from two treatment plants, the Tarawa Terrace Water Treatment Plant and the Hadnot Point Water Treatment Plant. Despite learning about it in 1982, the U.S. government did not implement a solution for another five years, continuing to expose people to harmful VOCs in the water they used to drink, shower, brush their teeth, cook, and perform other household tasks.
Tarawa Terrace Water Treatment Plant
ABC One-House Cleaners, a dry cleaning store off-base near Camp Lejeune, is the offender for contaminating the Tarawa Terrace Treatment Plant. The dry cleaner’s waste disposal practices involved harmful chemicals and solvents seeping into the ground, contaminating wells connected to the Tarawa Terrace Water Treatment Plant.
The wells with the highest concentration of chemicals were shut down in 1985 due to the presence of a number of different contaminants. Still, tragically, people using these wells faced exposure to harmful VOCs for more than 30 years.
Hadnot Point Water Treatment Plant
The entity responsible for contaminating the Hadnot Point Water Treatment Plant is the U.S. government itself. Industrial spills, leaky storage tanks, and waste sites all contributed to the contamination of this water treatment plant facility. The primary chemical found in the Hadnot wells was TCE (trichloroethylene), but PCE (tetrachloroethylene), vinyl chloride, and benzene were also discovered in the drinking water.
Sadly, individuals unknowingly exposed to toxic water daily suffer adverse health effects from doing everyday things, such as having a glass to drink before bed, brushing their teeth in the morning, or cooking their daily meals.
What Were Some of the Toxic Substances Found in the Camp Lejeune Drinking Water?
The ATSDR is actively evaluating information as they collect and analyze the data stemming from this horrific situation. Major drinking water contaminants include TCE, PCE, vinyl chloride, methylene chloride, benzene, and more. The VOCs found in the drinking water at Camp Lejeune is linked to many different adverse health conditions due to the following chemicals discovered in the water.
TCE is a VOC not found in the natural environment. It is completely man-made through the process of chemical synthesis and has several uses. For instance, dry cleaners actively use it as a spot remover, and the U.S. military utilizes it as a degreaser for its equipment. Other ways TCE is routinely found in use include refrigerants, hydrofluorocarbons, aerosol cleaning products, carpet cleaners, paint removers, and as tool cleaners.
In fact, experts advise people who work with or near this chemical to wear protective gear to reduce the effects of exposure. People living and working at Camp Lejeune were not given that knowledge or even the option to protect themselves. Instead, they were quietly suffering from exposure not of their own fault. As a result of TCE exposure, many people suffer neurological deficits, kidney cancer, non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, cardiac issues, and other types of cancers.
Tetrachloroethylene (Perchloroethylene, PCE)
PCE is a chemical classified by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) as a probable human carcinogen. This VOC is utilized for a variety of reasons, including the manufacturing of other chemicals, dry cleaning fabrics, textile processing, and metal cleaning processes (degreasing).
When humans suffer inappropriate exposure to PCE, they can get very sick. They often struggle with memory problems, loss of visual capacity, damage to the nervous system, neurobehavioral effects, and problems with processing information, along with several types of cancers, including multiple myeloma, non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, and bladder cancer.
Vinyl chloride is a colorless gas not found naturally in the environment. Manufacture of this chemical only occurs in industrial settings for commercial use. Commercial entities utilize this VOC to make a variety of plastic products, including PVC pipes, wires, cable coatings, packaging materials, and other products.
When people have routine exposure to this chemical, they suffer adverse effects. The route of entry into the body is through inhalation. Contaminated water that turns to steam can negatively impact victims when they are doing routine activities, such as showering, cooking, or laundry. Adverse health conditions associated with vinyl chloride exposure include multiple myeloma, liver cancer, and other cancers, along with neurological problems, such as numbness, tingling, ataxia, and coma.
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) considers methylene chloride (dichloromethane) to be a potential human carcinogen. As a volatile, colorless liquid, methylene chloride is a VOC used in a variety of industrial processes, but its primary use is as a chemical solvent to remove paint and to clean and decrease metals. This VOC is also found in the laboratory environment to aid in manufacturing cleaners or pharmaceuticals.
People are exposed to this VOC through skin exposure and inhalation. If this occurs, coming in this type of contact with methylene chloride can lead to serious adverse health effects.
Benzene is a highly flammable chemical compound found in numerous types of industrial chemicals. As a primary component in the creation of other chemicals, it is not safe for human exposure. In fact, experts consider overexposure to be flat-out toxic for people.
When benzene is inhaled, adverse health effects such as memory loss, distal neuropathy, sleep problems, and neurological problems can emerge. Benzene is also linked to several forms of cancer, including leukemia.
Victims Can Now Collect Benefits Under the New Camp Lejeune Justice Act
Individuals living or working at the Jacksonville military base during the timeframe where the Camp Lejeune water contamination occurred may file for disability and personal injury to recover damages. For years, military members and their families, along with other affected individuals, fought for the right to be compensated for their losses and suffering. Sadly, the law prevented them from filing a lawsuit. With the passage of the new Camp Lejeune Justice Act, as a victim, you can now pursue benefits and money to help pay for your healthcare and other sickness-related expenses.
Who is Eligible for Camp Lejeune Benefits?
Anyone who drank or otherwise szzuffered exposure to contaminated water during the above timeframe is affected by this massive and unfortunate situation. Many of the chemicals found in the military base water supply are used for industrial processes and can cause severe health problems. The Camp Lejeune Justice Act attempts to correct the wrongs committed against roughly a million victims.
While this law applies to military service members and their families, the right to file a claim is also extended to other individuals. If you were not on active duty or married to someone who was, but were another individual present at Camp Lejeune during the affected 34-year time period, you also may be eligible to file a claim under the new law.
- Soldiers and cadets
- Members of the Army, Navy, Marines, Air Force, and Coast Guard
- On-base workers (both civilians and contractors)
- Family members living on base
- Babies exposed in utero
- National Guard
Under the Camp Lejeune Justice Act, there are two main conditions for being eligible for benefits. To qualify, you must meet the following.
1. You (Or a Loved One) Spent at Least 30 Days on the Base Between 1953 and 1987
Criteria for filing a claim are very specific about the timeframe victims had exposure to contaminated water. According to the Act, victims must have lived or worked at Camp Lejeune between August 1, 1953, and December 31, 1987. Additionally, they must have spent a minimum of 30 days on the base; the timeline does not need to be consecutive.
2. You Suffered From an Adverse Health Condition Connected to Toxic Water Exposure
The second primary criterion for filing a claim includes the impact the Camp Lejeune water contamination had on their health. Victims must suffer from a health condition connected to the toxic chemicals found at the base, including various forms of cancer and other illnesses.
Additionally, unique to the Camp Lejeune Justice Act, the framing of this law provides victims the right to a jury trial. It is important to understand, this is not typical for claims against the federal government. Essentially, Congress has made an exception in this case, but they also have put a time limit on a victim’s ability to file and have made the process very complex.
Working with an experienced personal injury attorney can help you because they know how to follow the directives and not miss any essential steps required in the process.
What Are the Health Conditions Associated with Camp Lejeune’s Water Contamination as Outlined by the Veterans Administration?
The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) has established a list of presumed illnesses associated with the contaminants found at Camp Lejeune for those veterans who lived or worked at the North Carolina base between the specified dates for more than 30 days total. These include:
- Adult leukemia
- Aplastic anemia and other myelodysplastic syndromes
- Bladder cancer
- Kidney cancer
- Liver cancer
- Multiple myeloma
- Non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma
- Parkinson’s disease
- Severe tooth loss or tooth decay
Veterans, whether Active Duty, Reservist, or National Guard, are all eligible to receive benefits based on the above conditions that are presumed to be linked to Camp Lejeune water contamination.
What Are the Health Conditions Associated with Camp Lejeune’s Water Contamination According to ATSDR?
The ATSDR has also compiled a list. This agency’s compilation, to date, includes more than three dozen presumptive diseases that show a connection to contaminated drinking water. At this time, it includes the following illnesses and diseases.
Numerous cancers show definitive links to VOC exposure at Camp Lejeune. Victims may have been or are currently struggling with one or more of the following cancer types.
- Bladder cancer
- Brain cancer
- Breast cancer (both female and male)
- Esophageal cancer
- Kidney cancer
- Liver cancer
- Lung cancer
- Multiple myeloma
- Non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma
- Ovarian cancer
- Pancreatic cancer
- Prostate cancer
- Rectal cancer
- Soft tissue cancer
- Stomach cancer
As the ATSDR continues its evaluation and analysis, while this list is pretty comprehensive, it is entirely possible additional types of cancers may be added to this growing list.
As most people know, suffering from one or more cancers can be quite painful and devastating to one’s quality of life. Tragically, cancers often eventually become fatal illnesses once medical treatments (which often cause additional suffering and have side effects in themselves) are exhausted.
Reproductive Health Conditions and Birth Defects
Sadly, many families have suffered problems associated with their pregnancies, in-utero health, and births. Common conditions victims have suffered include the following diagnosis.
- Cardiac birth defects
- Choanal atresia
- Female infertility
- Fetal death
- Low birth weight
- Major malformations
- Neural tube defects
- Oral cleft defects
Parents who experience one or more of the above conditions may find the suffering they endured was in connection to toxic water. Persons who suffer now due to exposure in utero are also eligible to file a claim.
Additional Diseases and Adverse Health Conditions
It is also increasingly becoming known that other health-related problems have emerged that share a link to toxic water contamination occurring at the Jacksonville Marine Corps base. These include end-stage renal disease, liver disease, liver cirrhosis, aplastic anemia, and scleroderma. Other prominent illnesses associated with toxic exposure include the following.
The types of chemicals and solvents found in the Camp Lejeune water supply are linked to neurobehavioral effects for individuals who came into close contact with these VOCs. This healthcare classification is an umbrella for illnesses and medical conditions that directly impact the person’s nervous system and their behavior. Common symptoms associated with neurobehavioral effects include PTSD, memory issues, dementia, problems concentrating, fatigue, insomnia, and problems with motor skills, to name a few.
A number of Camp Lejeune victims suffer from Parkinson’s Disease, which is a progressive nerve disorder affecting one’s ability to control their motor skills. Problems emerge with speech, balance, writing, and muscles can become rigid. Over time, a person given a diagnosis of Parkinson’s Disease will typically experience deterioration, and their automatic movements can be lost.
Aplastic anemia is a condition that falls under the category of myelodysplastic syndromes (MDS). People who suffer from this medical malady experience shortness of breath, paleness, fatigue, petechiae, bleed and bruise easily, and struggle with frequent infections.
When chemicals enter a person’s kidney, and they can no longer filter the toxins and chemicals out, they may have developed renal toxicity (nephrotoxicity). If this occurs, unsafe levels of the chemical or toxin accumulate in the body, rapidly spreading through the renal system. This condition needs immediate treatment; otherwise, a very serious health situation will occur. Symptoms associated with nephrotoxicity include chest pains, irregular heartbeats, shortness of breath, fluid retention, confusion, fatigue, seizures, and swelling in the extremities.
If you or a loved one suffer from one of the above diseases or illnesses, or even a different sickness not listed here, and have spent the required 30 days on base between 1953 and 1987, you may still be eligible to file a claim. Speak to an experienced personal injury lawyer as soon as possible. They can talk with you about your experience, assess your circumstances, and provide you with a free case evaluation.*
I Have a Health Condition That is Not Covered. Can I Still File a Lawsuit?
If you are struggling with a health condition that does not appear on the VA’s list of illnesses identified as “at least as likely as not” linked to Camp Lejeune water contamination, you may still be eligible to file a lawsuit under the new law passed by Congress.
The ATSDR began its study back in 2018, and it is a complex study that is not yet finalized. It is expected the study will be complete in about five years. During this time, several changes will likely occur, including additional victims identified, illnesses added to the list, or other qualifications that could impact your ability to file a lawsuit.
It is vital you speak with a skilled personal injury attorney as soon as possible. Your attorney will examine your claim, gather documentation (including your medical records), and evaluate your circumstances. If it appears you are eligible to file a lawsuit, your lawyer can file the required documents and get the process started for you.
Can I File for Compensation on Behalf of a Deceased Loved One?
If your loved one is deceased, you or your designated legal representative can file a claim for compensation on their behalf. The Camp Lejeune Justice Act provides this stipulation if the deceased was exposed to the toxic water during the specified period of time as outlined by the law. Family members who are eligible to file on their loved one’s behalf include their spouse, child, parent, or sibling.
Can I File a Lawsuit If I Have Received VA Benefits?
Yes, you can file a lawsuit even if you already receive disability compensation for your health condition. Collecting VA disability benefits related to your service at Camp Lejeune or MCAS New River does not preempt you from pursuing additional compensation in a Camp Lejeune water contamination lawsuit. You can pursue a claim to receive a monetary award for other losses, such as wages, pain and suffering, emotional trauma, and any other damages you or your family member suffered.
VA benefits cover your health care relating to your presumed condition, but it does not compensate you for other damages and losses. What might happen is any benefits received might be deducted from your total Camp Lejeune award, but since there is no precedent for settlements at this time, it is hard to say. A knowledgeable attorney can look at your specific situation and clarify how federal laws apply to you.
Whether you already pursued VA health care benefits or have not yet filed, it is crucial to speak to a personal injury attorney as soon as possible. You do not have to suffer in silence alone anymore. Help is available for all claimants. Most personal injury attorneys offer victims a free consultation* and do not collect a fee unless they win.
How Much Compensation Will I Receive From a Camp Lejeune Water Contamination Lawsuit?
Being this Act was only recently signed by President Biden last summer, no settlement amounts for plaintiffs are known at this time since victims are only just starting to file lawsuits. The number of victims filing is already in the thousands. Over the next year or two, we will likely know more about the compensation levels the government will be required to pay out to Camp Lejeune’s toxic water victims.
Keeping this in mind, the amount of compensation awarded to toxic contamination victims will likely vary depending upon a plaintiff’s specific situation. The courts will likely take into consideration:
- Proof of residency or work assignment at Camp Lejeune between August 1, 1953 and December 31, 1987
- Length of exposure you suffered
- Diagnosis and long-term medical prognosis
- Any pre-existing conditions you had before the exposure
- Scientific evidence linking your illness to contamination of water
- How exposure affects you physically, mentally, and financially
- Actual damages suffered, including medical bills and lost wages
- Any other adverse impact toxic water exposure has on your life
Anyone who meets the eligibility requirements for exposure and suffers from negative health conditions should contact a law firm with qualified Camp Lejeune lawyers right away. It takes time to build a strong case. The stronger you and your lawyer can build your case, the better your chances of receiving a higher settlement payout.
The number of plaintiffs who join the class action lawsuit can also affect how much is awarded to victims, along with the amount of money the U.S. government has set aside to pay Camp Lejeune victims. It is likely victims will be paid settlements or decided by a jury trial. At this time, it is too early to say.
How Can a Camp Lejeune Attorney Help You
Working with an experienced personal injury attorney, such as HawkLaw, you can strengthen your chances of receiving the amount of compensation you deserve for your injuries and suffering*. The following are some of the many burdens your lawyer can take care of for you.
- Determine your eligibility to file a claim
- Document eligibility
- Gather military, medical, and other records to help build a strong case
- Itemize medical bills, travel costs, and other expenses
- Collect testimony and other supporting evidence
- Assess the total damage you and your family have suffered
- Establish the liability of the U.S. government, regulatory agencies, or other entities contributing to the water contamination
- File a lawsuit for toxic water contamination on your behalf
- Negotiate settlement amounts
- Present your case in court if necessary
The skilled lawyers at HawkLaw can ease the stress of pursuing a personal injury case and make this difficult and complex situation as easy as possible for you and your family. The support we are equipped to provide can offer you more time to focus on your health and recovery.
Questions About Your Eligibility? Contact HawkLaw
No one should have to suffer from the dangerous and unacceptable exposure caused by the toxins in Camp Lejeune water supplies. The Camp Lejeune water contamination lawsuit could potentially evolve into one of the biggest mass civil cases in the history of the United States.
If you have any connection to Camp Lejeune between August 1, 1953 and December 31, 1987 and expect your health condition may be covered, contact the HawkLaw law office. We are a law office possessing experience in all types of personal injury cases. We can help you determine if you have a qualifying case or not, then help you file for maximum compensation.
This is not to say the government will not fight back against some claims, but with the recent law passed, victims now do have the power and ability to have a voice and pursue justice, since Camp Lejeune victims are no longer blocked from pursuing what they deserve. Even if you do not think you are eligible, it may be worth reviewing your situation with an attorney who works at an experienced law firm. After all, your initial HawkLaw consultation is free of charge, so it costs nothing to ask.*
HawkLaw Fights to Win! Our Camp Lejeune attorneys will not be intimidated by the federal government and will stand with you each step of the way during the legal process. It is important to act now because you only have two years from the date the new law was passed, meaning you have until August 10, 2024. Don’t delay; it takes time to build a viable case.