The Camp Lejeune Situation
From 1953 to 1987, the water at North Carolina’s Camp Lejeune military training facility was unknowingly contaminated by dangerous chemicals, leading to leukemia, cancer, neurological problems, and other severe health issues.
If you or a loved one may have been affected by Camp Lejeune’s water contamination, you may be eligible to file a Camp Lejeune lawsuit. Read on to learn more about the Camp Lejeune incident, why people are suing, what they can sue for, and the legal process of suing for Camp Lejeune damages.
What Happened at Camp Lejeune?
Before we delve into whether you’re eligible for a Camp Lejeune lawsuit, you must know what happened there.
In 1982, the U.S. Marine Corps uncovered dangerous chemicals called volatile organic compounds (VOCs) in the water at Camp Lejeune in Jacksonville, North Carolina. Upon closer investigation, the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR) discovered that the contamination began in 1953 and exposed as many as one million service members, base workers, and their families to dangerous substances until 1987.
Water from the Hadnot Point Treatment Plant and Tarawa Treatment Plant were found to be primarily contaminated by two toxic chemicals: trichloroethylene (TCE) and perchloroethylene (PCE), respectively. The TCE came from underground storage tank leaks, water disposal sites, and industrial area spills, while the PCE resulted from an off-base dry cleaning company’s waste disposal practices.
Other contaminants included:
Side Effects of Camp Lejeune Contaminated Water Exposure
According to the ATSDR, there are many possible side effects resulting from exposure to TCE, PCE, benzene, and vinyl chloride at Camp Lejeune, including:
- Bladder cancer
- Esophageal cancer
- Kidney cancer
- Lung cancer
- Breast cancer
- Female infertility
- Hepatic steatosis
- Multiple myeloma
- Myelodysplastic syndromes
- Neurobehavioral effects
- Non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma
- Renal toxicity
- Birth defects, including oral clefts (such as cleft palate and lip), spina bifida and anencephaly, and childhood hematopoietic cancers, such as non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma and leukemia
You may experience the following symptoms if you were exposed to mercury at Camp Lejeune:
- Vision problems
- Sore throat and coughing
- Increase in blood pressure
- A metallic taste in your mouth
Can I File a Camp Lejeune Lawsuit?
Yes. Since President Biden signed the Camp Lejeune Justice Act (CLJA) into law on August 10, 2022, veterans and others affected by water contamination at Camp Lejeune have the right to sue the U.S. government.
You can file a Camp Lejeune personal injury lawsuit as long as you can:
- Prove that you were at Camp Lejeune. You must prove you lived, worked, or were present at Camp Lejeune for 30 days between August 1, 1953, and December 31, 1987. These days do not have to be consecutive. You must show concrete proof, such as an affidavit, employment records, military records, or work documentation.
- Show documentation of illness. You have medical records showing that you developed one of the presumptive illnesses and conditions caused by Camp Lejeune’s contaminated water.
- You did not receive a dishonorable discharge from the U.S. military.
Veterans’ family members who lived with them at Camp Lejeune may also receive compensation. To do so, they must demonstrate evidence of their relationship with the veteran, such as a birth certificate, marriage license, or adoption papers.
Additionally, you can file a Camp Lejeune wrongful death lawsuit if you can prove the above for a loved one who passed away due to Camp Lejeune water contamination.
How To File a Camp Lejeune Lawsuit
If you are eligible to file a Camp Lejeune lawsuit, follow these steps to file lawsuit:
1. File a Veterans Affairs (VA) Claim
First, you must file a disability claim with VA by doing one of the following:
- Going to a VA Regional Office
- Filing online through VA.gov
- Asking a Veterans Service Officer (VSO) for assistance
- Using an Application for Disability Compensation and Related Compensation Benefits (VA Form 21-526EZ) and mailing it to the following address:
Department of Veterans Affairs
Claims Intake Center
PO Box 4444
Janesville, WI 53547-4444
2. Wait for the VA’s Decision
As of November 2022, the VA takes an average of 104.8 days to complete a claim. However, there’s a chance the VA might reject your claim. To prepare for that, start looking for lawyers who accept Camp Lejeune water contamination cases as soon as possible.
3. File a Lawsuit if the VA Rejects Your Claim
If you are rejected by the VA, work with your lawyer to file a lawsuit. Pick a lawyer with solid client reviews and ample relevant experience. If you’re unsure whether a lawyer is a good fit, schedule a free consultation.
File a Camp Lejeune Water Contamination Lawsuit Today
Filing a lawsuit for Camp Lejeune injuries and illnesses may be a difficult time for you and your family. The contaminated water at Camp Lejeune has caused many medical issues and illnesses, including leukemia, bladder cancer, infertility, and birth defects. As such, everyone who has suffered from Camp Lejeune’s contaminated water deserves maximum compensation.
If you or a loved one have developed one of the conditions listed above due to exposure to Camp Lejeune water contamination, consider reaching out to Morris & Dewett’s Louisiana and Texas personal injury lawyers. Experienced, tenacious, and knowledgeable, we will thoroughly analyze your case and fight for your rights. We will handle all of your injury claim needs, from filing paperwork and negotiating settlements to representing you at trial.
Frequently Asked Questions
Here are some frequently asked questions about Camp Lejeune water contamination lawsuits:
How Much Compensation Can I Expect To Receive?
It is difficult to estimate the typical settlement amount for a Camp Lejeune water contamination lawsuit. Like other personal injury actions, the settlement amount depends on various factors, including:
- The severity of diagnosed conditions
- Injuries and deaths suffered
- Time spent at the military base
- Cost of funeral expenses, if applicable
- Income lost from being too ill to work
As of January 2023, no Camp Lejeune settlement values have been published. However, it is estimated that successful Camp Lejeune cases will have a settlement range of $200,000 to $5,000,000. Estimated settlement values for Camp Lejeune cases based on injury or disease type fall into the following ranges:
- $100,000 to $250,000 for birth defects
- $110,000 to $250,000 for anemia
- $200,000 to $500,000 for breast cancer, liver cancer, bladder cancer, esophageal cancer, kidney cancer, and non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma
- $220,000 to $575,000 for leukemia
- $250,000 to $500,000 for lung cancer, prostate cancer, cervical cancer, aplastic anemia, brain cancer, ovarian cancer, and colon cancer
- $400,000 to $1,100,000 for Parkinson’s Disease
- $400,000 to $1,500,000 for wrongful death
- $250,000 to $2,000,000 for birth defects
What Is the Camp Lejeune Compensation Settlement Fund?
Camp Lejeune water contamination settlement payouts are estimated at $6.7 billion.
What Types of Compensation Can I Expect To Receive?
If you were hurt by Camp Lejeune water contamination, you can receive the following types of compensation:
Special or economic damages compensate you for objectively verifiable losses. Their value does not vary depending on the jury evaluating them. Common examples of economic damages include:
- Past, current, and future lost wages: You may receive compensation for the time you were unable to work. To pursue maximum compensation, you should obtain as much documentation as possible, including:
- Pay stubs received before the injury
- Proof of disability
- Historical medical records
- Correspondence illustrating lost business or promotion opportunities
- Calendar showing missed opportunities
- Applicable tax records
- Doctors’ notes about the injuries
- Notes from your employer about your condition
- Past, current, and future medical expenses: You may receive compensation for surgeries, rehabilitation, and drugs. To maximize the amount you can receive, you should collect and preserve doctor’s notes, reports, and medical bills. You should also stay off social media to avoid painting the wrong picture. For instance, if you claim devastating damages from Camp Lejeune water contamination but your Instagram and Facebook show a different story, you may receive less compensation.
- Lost earning capacity: You may also recover damages for lost earning capacity if you can prove that your ability to earn money has been diminished or impaired by your Camp Lejeune injuries.
- Out-of-pocket expenses: Finally, you may receive damages for out-of-pocket health care expenses related to your Camp Lejeune injuries. Examples include out-of-pocket pharmaceutical and rehabilitation costs.
On the other hand, non-economic or general damages compensate you for subjective losses that are harder to objectively substantiate. Examples include:
- Pain and suffering: Economic or special damages can cover lost wages and medical bills, but they can’t compensate you for the significant pain and suffering caused by Camp Lejeune water contamination. Pain and suffering damages, however, can. These damages can include:
- Mental stress, depression, anxiety, worry, sleeplessness, and other psychological effects
- Physical discomfort and pain resulting from your medical condition and diagnosis
- Emotional distress: This can include any emotional distress that may have happened due to Camp Lejeune water contamination. For instance, if you have suffered emotional distress from prostate cancer, you may receive emotional distress damages.
- Loss of consortium or companionship: If a loved one has been injured by Camp Lejeune water contamination, you may receive loss of consortium or companionship damages for being unable to enjoy your relationship with the injured person. For instance, if your spouse developed erectile dysfunction due to prostate cancer treatments, you may receive loss of consortium damages. You may also receive loss of consortium or companionship damages if your spouse cannot perform household services due to their Camp Lejeune injuries.
- Loss of enjoyment of life: If you no longer enjoy various activities due to your Camp Lejeune injuries, you may receive damages for loss of enjoyment of life. For example, you may receive these damages if you can no longer bike due to Camp Lejeune-induced bladder cancer.
What Are Punitive Damages? Are Punitive Damages Available in Camp Lejeune Lawsuits?
Unlike economic and non-economic damages, punitive damages are designed to punish the defendant — the federal government in Camp Lejeune cases. Unfortunately, punitive damages are not available in Camp Lejeune lawsuits.
How Much Time Do I Have to File My Camp Lejeune Lawsuit?
As with other personal injury cases, you have limited time to file a Camp Lejeune lawsuit. Victims have until the latter of August 10, 2024, or six months after their administrative claim is denied to file a Camp Lejeune water contamination lawsuit.
Is There a Cap on Camp Lejeune Damages?
There is no damage cap on the amount you can recover under North Carolina law, which controls CLJA Camp Lejeune claims. This means a jury can award you as much compensation as required to pay you for the losses caused by your toxic water exposure.
Will Getting a Camp Lejeune Water Contamination Lawsuit Settlement Affect My VA Benefits?
No, getting a Camp Lejeune water contamination lawsuit settlement will not affect your VA benefits. VA disability benefits and health care are separate from Camp Lejeune water contamination settlements.
Can I Pursue a Camp Lejeune Lawsuit Without a Lawyer?
While pursuing a Camp Lejeune lawsuit without a lawyer is technically possible, we highly recommend working with an experienced personal injury lawyer. The right lawyer knows how much you’re entitled to recover and can help you file all required paperwork on and ahead of time. They will also fight tooth and nail to ensure you receive maximum compensation.
How Do I Pick the Right Camp Lejeune Lawyer?
A reliable Camp Lejeune water contamination lawyer should offer:
- Decades of experience with personal injury law
- Free legal case reviews
- A history of success — Morris & Dewett, for instance, have achieved many million-dollar settlements and verdicts in the past year alone. We are also part of the Multi-Million Dollar Advocates Forum.
How Will the VA Treat My Camp Lejeune-Contaminated Water-Related Healthcare Conditions Without a Disability Claim or Lawsuit?
The VA will treat your Camp Lejeune healthcare-related conditions if you meet relevant eligibility requirements, whether or not you have court-awarded relief or a VA compensation benefits decision. Contact the VA to understand what you can do.