On August 10, 2022, victims of Camp Lejeune’s water contamination issues between the early 1950s to late 1980s finally gained a path to fair compensation for their injuries. President Biden signed the Camp Lejeune Justice Act of 2022 into law. The CLJA allows those with health conditions and diseases linked to exposure at the Marine Corps base to file a personal injury lawsuit against the U.S. government.
If you lived or worked at the installation for at least 30 days during the designated timeframe, you might be eligible to pursue a legal claim. The law requires you to comply with Title 28, Section 2675 of the U.S. Code before you file a lawsuit. After you meet this requirement, you can take the necessary steps to file a legal claim.
Complying with USC Title 28, Section 2675
This law prevents claimants from filing a lawsuit for injuries caused by the negligent actions of federal employees performing their job duties until they submit a claim to the relevant federal agency. In this case, the administrative claim goes to the Navy Department and provides the same information presented in a lawsuit, including:
- Dates of service, residence or civilian work at Camp Lejeune
- Nature of contaminant exposure
- Physician’s diagnosis (including the date received) of health condition or disease
- Treatments received and outcome to date
- Economic and non-economic impacts on claimant’s life
Claimants must wait for a written denial sent via registered or certified mail. If they don’t receive a written denial within six months, they can consider the lack of response a rejection. Once they receive a written or implied denial, they may proceed with filing a lawsuit.
Filing a Claim Under the CLJA
The law sets out three essential criteria for legal claims under the Act: potential exposure, injury or harm and a connection between exposure and damage.
Camp Lejeune opened in 1942 and continues operations today. It is the largest Marine Corps installation along the Eastern Seaboard, with a current population of around 34,000. Marine and Navy personnel, civilian employees and their families may live on the base for short stints or years. Additionally, various contractors and vendors may regularly spend days working on the base’s grounds. Any of these groups of people may have cause to file a claim if they meet the criteria for potential exposure.
If you worked or lived on the base for at least 30 days between August 1, 1953, and December 31, 1953, you satisfy the first requirement for filing a lawsuit. However, you must provide evidence of your presence at the installation for the required duration and within the indicated timeframe. Evidence may include:
- Military service papers, including the DD214 for retired military
- Housing assignment papers
- Marriage license establishing a relationship with an enlisted military member stationed during the established period
- School records
- Earnings statements
In vitro exposure is included in the law’s criteria for potential exposure. If your mother was pregnant with you while living or working at the base, you will need to provide evidence of her residency along with your birth certificate or hospital records of your birth.
Injury or Harm
You likely received significant exposure to contaminated water if you lived or worked on the base for at least 30 days. However, exposure does not always result in injury or harm. Some individuals may not suffer any adverse health impacts, while others experience only mild ones and still others deal with long-term issues or lose their lives. The factors that contribute to whether exposure leads to illness or disease include:
- Contaminant concentrations
- Exposure duration
- Age at time of exposure
- Genetic makeup
- Lifestyle choices
No two individuals are alike. Your circumstances and history contribute to whether you sustain harm, what kind of injuries you incur and the severity and impacts of those harms. You will need to gather evidence proving you have or had a medical condition or disease. Your medical history should contain information about your diagnosis and treatment.
In addition to adverse health effects, you must gather evidence supporting any other harms you suffered. If you suffered mental anguish or psychological and emotional injuries, compile diagnoses and reports from relevant mental health practitioners. If your injuries resulted in an inability to work or a loss of work capacity, you would also need proof of this loss.
Adverse physical and mental health conditions do not necessarily indicate exposure to water contaminants at Camp Lejeune caused your injuries. You will need to demonstrate a link between your injuries and your exposure. The CLJA requires you to prove that your exposure was at least 50% likely to have caused your injuries.
Several health conditions and diseases are linked to the toxins found in high concentrations in Camp Lejeune’s water supply. Two of the base’s water treatment plants contained the volatile organic compounds tetrachloroethylene, perchloroethylene, benzene and vinyl chloride.
Research on these compounds indicates an association between exposure and subsequent adverse health conditions, including:
- Non-Hodgkin lymphoma and leukemias
- Multiple myeloma
- Kidney, liver and bladder cancers
- Parkinson’s disease
- End-stage renal disease
- Cardiac defects
You may have a valid claim if you have any of these conditions and meet the exposure requirements.
Other health impacts are also possible, including female reproductive cancers, congenital medical conditions, lung and brain cancer, immune system disorders and neurological disorders. Research also shows that exposure may result in miscarriages. The time between exposure and diagnosis can strengthen or weaken your case. An injury attorney can help you determine whether your case has merit.
Mental Health Harm
The physical harms associated with VOC toxicity can lead to mental health conditions and other injuries not as easily measured as physical health conditions. However, to receive compensation for these damages, you need to establish that they exist and that they resulted from your exposure to contaminated water at Camp Lejeune. Psychological evaluations and reports from counselors and other relevant professionals can help connect contaminant exposure, physical injuries and mental health conditions.
Diminished Work Capacity or Lost Earnings
If your physical or mental health conditions caused you to suffer a loss of income, you need evidence supporting this fact to pursue wage loss compensation. If your injuries caused you to suffer long-term impacts on your ability to work, you could obtain professional statements linking your injuries to a diminished capacity to work.
Filing on Time
The CLJA limits the time you have to file a claim. You must submit your petition to file within two years from the date the law came into effect or within 180 days after receiving your administrative claim denial from the Navy Department, whichever is later.
If you do not file your lawsuit by the deadline, you miss your opportunity to recover damages that reflect the full extent of your losses. A personal injury lawyer can help you gather the needed evidence, complete and submit the required paperwork on time and represent you in legal proceedings.
Retaining Services From an Injury Lawyer
If you have a health condition related to your time at Camp Lejeune, you’ve waited long enough for fair compensation. You don’t have to make this journey alone. The Jason Stone Injury Lawyers team is here to help you through the process. Our Stone Cold Guarantee ensures you won’t pay anything until we win your case. Give us a call today: There’s No Obligation, Just Information®.