How Are Damages Assessed in a Toxic Contamination Case?
There are many factors that go into assessing damages in a toxic contamination case, including a victim’s age, how the contamination occurred, the severity of a victim’s damages, and how much medical treatment cost. While it’s possible for a victim of toxic contamination to determine their case’s value independently, this is often challenging––especially when it comes to understanding the cost of their non-economic damages.
If you or a loved one suffered harm because of a toxic contaminant, you should consider partnering with a personal injury attorney. Not only can they determine how much you’re owed, but they can also identify the liable party and negotiate a fair settlement.
Damages Assessed in Toxic Contamination Cases
When you partner with an attorney, they’ll consider the following information to calculate your losses:
The Condition You Developed
The condition you developed from the toxic contamination can influence how much money you can recover and what it’s expected to cover. Per the World Health Organization (WHO), some illnesses that can arise from contaminated air, water, and other mediums include:
- Respiratory infections
- “Tropical” diseases
The more serious your condition, the more compensation you could request from the liable party.
Evidence Related to the Toxic Contamination
An injury lawyer will collect as much evidence of your toxic contamination injury as possible. This information includes your medical records, samples of the contamination, expert analysis and testimony, and more.
With this information, a lawyer can better determine the full scope of your injuries or illnesses, link the contamination to your condition, and prove liability.
Proof of Financial Hardship
Your lawyer will use the following information to demonstrate your financial losses:
- Medical bills
- Income statements and paystubs
- Your financial records
- Property appraisals
- Testimony from third-party field consultants
Your lawyer may use other information to supplement your case’s value.
Your age at the time of the exposure can also be an important factor in assessing your recoverable damages. For example, children who are exposed to toxic substances, such as through water contamination, are more likely to develop serious conditions, including developmental delays and intellectual disabilities. Seniors could face fatal conditions that lead to premature death.
Each of these things can influence how much you can recover through a claim or lawsuit.
Whether Your Case Is Suited for a Mass Tort
How much you can recover may depend on whether you join other injured claimants in a mass tort. In these situations, your case is combined with others that have similar complaints. Then, if the judge awards compensation, you get a settlement that reflects your unique hardships. This is different than a class action lawsuit, where you would split the awarded amount with the other plaintiffs.
When you join a mass tort, you get to share resources with others involved in your case. This could create a compelling argument that convinces the liable party to settle.
How Many People Are Involved in Your Case
You might file a toxic contamination claim and list yourself as the only injured party. However, if the contaminant affected multiple people in your household, you could seek recovery for multiple people. The more people involved in your case, the more damages you could seek.
Whether Any Damages in Your Case Are Taxable
Most damages in your personal injury or wrongful death case aren’t taxable, per the Internal Revenue Service (IRS). However, your case may warrant punitive damages, which punish the at-fault party for their negligence.
Punitive damages aren’t meant to compensate you for any particular expense. So, the IRS can tax them. This could reduce how much you can ultimately recover if punitive damages make up a significant portion of your case’s value.
Your Quality of Life
Toxic contamination exposure can result in cancer and other life-threatening conditions. If your condition affects your mobility, day-to-day function, and overall happiness, you could include these hardships in your case’s value. How much you get depends on the court or the insurance company’s discretion. Your lawyer can fight for everything you’re owed.
Recoverable Damages in Toxic Contamination Cases
There are many damages you could include in your toxic contamination lawsuit. But what you can claim depends on the ways in which you suffered. For example, you can only claim lost income if your condition caused you to miss time from work. You can only claim wrongful death-related expenses if you lost a loved one.
Still, some general compensable losses in your case may comprise:
- Current medical expenses: You may have hospital bills piling up, outstanding health insurance claims, and out-of-pocket costs for medication. You can claim all of these medical expenses and more, such as emergency care, surgeries, in-home health care, and more.
- Future medical expenses: Many toxic contamination victims suffer from chronic illnesses or hard-to-cure diseases that require many months or years of treatment. It can be hard to estimate what kinds of treatment you may require. A personal injury lawyer can consult with medical professionals to understand your prognosis and determine your future expenses.
- Lost income during your recovery: Many toxic contamination injuries and illnesses require victims to take time off from work. This could leave you and your family struggling to pay bills. You can claim any income you lost during your recovery period, which may include lost tips, bonuses, commissions, freelance work, and benefits.
- Reduced earning potential: If you are unable to return to work in the same capacity or at all, you can also claim lost income in that regard, too.
- Property damage: Some types of toxic contamination, including water contamination, can cause serious and costly damage to a person’s, family’s, or business’s property. You can get your property damage appraised and add up repair costs you’ve already paid out, then pursue a claim to cover those expenses.
- Pain and suffering: Victims of toxic contamination can suffer physical pain, emotional anguish, trauma, inconvenience, discomfort, and an overall loss of quality of life. All of this and more can be claimed in a toxic contamination case.
- Any out-of-pocket expenses. You may have already spent some of your own money on various expenses, including relocation costs. Those losses are compensable.
- Wrongful death-related expenses: If you lost a loved one due to toxic contamination, you could recover compensation for any resulting expenses. You can claim funeral expenses, leftover medical expenses, lost household income, loss of emotional support, and more.
Every toxic contamination case comes with its own set of recoverable damages. That goes for your case, too. What you can recover (and how much) ultimately depends on your situation.
How Long Does It Take to Recover Damages in a Toxic Contamination Case?
Your case’s progression depends on many factors, primarily, the negligent party’s willingness to settle. If the negligent party refutes liability, it may offer what you need without a complicated courtroom battle. However, not all cases progress in that way. Some claimants must wait months (or even years) to recover the funds they need.
When you partner with an attorney, they aim to resolve your case with the best possible outcome. However, the best possible outcome doesn’t always mean a speedy one. Your lawyer can do everything possible to secure fair compensation and advocate for what you deserve.
You Could Get Damages Through a Lump Sum or Structured Settlement
If you’re awarded compensation, you could get it as:
- A lump sum settlement. Here, you would get compensated for your losses all at once. This would award immediate compensation for your losses.
- A structured settlement. In this situation, you would get payments spread over a certain period. For instance, you could receive a few hundred dollars each month until the final sum is paid.
Your lawyer intends to recover the funds you need to move forward.
Damages Awarded in Recent Toxic Contamination Cases
Over the past few years, the U.S. has seen multiple large-scale toxic contamination cases, involving water contamination, soil contamination, hazardous or defective products, and more.
One reason for these lawsuits is that the more scientists learn about toxins, the more connections they make to related illnesses. Below, one can read about some toxic commination cases, along with the damages injured claimants are seeking (or have sought).
PFAS Cases in the U.S. Seek Restitution for Healthcare Expenses
Per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) are incredibly harmful toxic contaminants that can pollute water supplies, like groundwater and bodies of water. Also known as “forever chemicals,” PFAS are compounds that take many years to break down and continue to pollute the areas in which they were used.
Reuters reports that, of the cases unfolding right now, plaintiffs are seeking compensation for healthcare expenses. In one case against DuPont, the court awarded the injured party $40 million for their damages. The plaintiff alleged that because of PFAS in a public waterway, he developed cancer.
Camp Lejeune’s Industrial Solvents Lawsuits Seek a Host of Expenses
From 1953 to 1987, the U.S. Navy allowed toxic chemicals to be discarded around the U.S. Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune in North Carolina. Many civilians, military personnel, and their families were potentially exposed to chemicals like trichloroethylene (TCE), tetrachloroethylene (PCE), and vinyl chloride, all of which are linked to serious medical conditions like cancer, infertility, miscarriages, and neurological disorders.
Many of these cases are still unfolding. However, in 2017, the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) received $2 billion to compensate plaintiffs for their losses. Many claimants seek reimbursement for their medical bills and out-of-pocket damages.
Flint Water Crisis Cases Sought Recovery for Many Expenses
In 2014, the City of Flint, Michigan, changed its water supply from safe, clean water in Detroit to the Flint River. This new water source was known to have been polluted for years, and community members in Flint spent multiple years drinking and using this water that contained hazardous amounts of lead.
Settlements from the Flint Water Crisis included compensation for:
- Relocation expenses
- Water filtration systems
- Medical expenses
- Pain, suffering, and other non-economic damages
MBTE Contamination Cases Have Yielded More Than $20 Million in Damages
Methyl tertiary-butyl ether (MTBE) is a gasoline additive linked to cancer, and it’s been found in well water and reservoirs in 17 different U.S. states. Law firms around the country launched a class action lawsuit, representing people from over 150 communities impacted by the negligent chemical disposal of powerful oil corporations.
Per the State of Rhode Island Attorney General Peter F. Neronha, these cases have resulted in $20 million in damages for the state alone. Along with other toxic contamination cases, these damages sought to reimburse claimants for their healthcare expenses and other related losses.
How a Lawyer Can Help Your Toxic Contamination Case
In addition to identifying what damages you can seek in a toxic contamination case, a personal injury lawyer can:
- Investigate the cause of your injury and other damages
- Gather evidence to determine what type of contaminant caused your injuries
- Establish negligence
- Identify all liable parties in your case
- Explore your legal options, including class action lawsuits and individual filings
- File legal complaints and lawsuits on your behalf
- Negotiate a fair settlement
- Represent you in all hearings
- Protect your right to recover compensation
- Stand up against large corporations or government entities
Navigating a personal injury case can be complex for any victim. But when it comes to a toxic contamination case, negligent parties may be more aggressive in undermining claims or pressuring victims into accepting low offers. When you work with a mass tort attorney or a toxic contamination lawyer, you can put the best case forward.
Get a Free Case Evaluation With a Lawyer Near You
If you or a loved one suffered injuries from toxic contamination, you could recover damages. Now that you know how damages are assessed, you should consider connecting with a mass torts lawyer. They can answer your questions and guide you throughout the claims process. Fill out this contact form to get started.