Environmental Litigation: Frequently Asked Questions
If you have been injured due to exposure to toxic and hazardous substances because a company was negligent, you may have some questions about the litigation process. This legal guide covers some of the more frequently asked questions.
What situations give rise to toxic exposure cases?The toxic exposure that can lead to legal cases may be chemical, physical, mechanical, or biological in nature. The majority of toxic cases involve a chemical agent that causes bodily injury, sickness, and disease after exposure.
Exposure to a toxic agent can be direct by contact between the person and the toxin. Exposure can also happen through toxins released into the groundwater, drinking water, or air, through toxins released by refineries and power plants. Toxins may also contaminate vitamins, drugs, and other ingestible substances.
Examples of typical toxic tort case include toxic waste disposals and spills, refinery explosions, toxic contamination of the ground, manufacturing operations involving toxins.
What are the symptoms of toxic exposure?Symptoms may appear immediately after a single exposure to toxic substances. Chronic exposure to low doses of hazardous materials may become apparent through symptoms that emerge days, months, or even years later.
Typical reactions include nausea and dizziness, vomiting, and aspiration into the lungs. Central nervous system afflictions such as headaches, confusion, and lack of consciousness may accompany these symptoms. Toxic exposure can impact the skin and eyes, causing irritations, blistering, or a rash. In other circumstances, exposure may result in lung injury with corresponding breathing difficulties.
Who can sue for toxic exposure?Any person injured as a result of toxic exposure, whether an adult or a minor, can bring a claim if it can be proven that a person, company or entity is at fault under the law for the exposure and the actual damages due to the exposure can be determined.
If someone dies due to toxic exposure, his or her close family members can bring a lawsuit.
Toxic exposure cases are difficult to prove; therefore, it helps if a large group of plaintiffs bands together to bring a case.
How can I bring a lawsuit to clean up or recover for environmental damages?Before bringing a lawsuit for environmental damages, the party or parties responsible for contamination must be identified. Often, parties potentially responsible for the contamination are identified by the federal or state governmental agency in charge of environmental enforcement.
When government officials haven't identified the parties responsible, the perpetrators can be determined by an independent environmental investigation. This investigation entails consulting environmental scientists to locate the source of the contaminant.
How long does an environmental law action take?Environmental law cases typically involve complex legal and scientific issues and can take several years to move through the courts. Many times, expert consultants in environmental science, geology, hydrology, or related fields are required to investigate and write reports on claims, which can prolong the legal process.