A toxic substance is a substance that is considered to be harmful to the human body, especially in certain quantities. Toxic exposure occurs when an individual comes into contact with a toxic substance.
There are numerous different types of toxic exposure. Toxic exposure may also occur in many different environments.
Examples of toxic exposure include, but are not limited to:
- Exposure to chemicals in the workplace;
- Exposure to mold, especially dangerous types of black mold;
- Exposure to Asbestos;
- Exposure to lead paint;
- Exposure to toxic fumes from certain activities, for example, welding;
- Dangerous chemicals in defective medications or drugs;
- Environmental contamination which results from the release of certain toxins or gasses; and
- Groundwater or soil contamination which results from the dumping of waste and chemicals.
What are Toxic Torts?
Personal injury laws address situations in which one party is harmed by another party. Toxic torts, specifically, refer to a personal injury case in which a plaintiff alleges harm occurred due to some type of chemical or toxin.
The factors which are necessary for a plaintiff to prove in a toxic tort case are similar to those which are necessary to prove in a typical negligence case, including:
- That the Defendant Owed a Legal Duty: This is generally straightforward in toxic torts cases;
- An example of this would be a case involving contamination of the environment, the plaintiff can prove that a company had a duty to the residents of the locality to avoid dumping any chemicals which would contaminate the soil or groundwater;
- That the Legal Duty was Breached: Duty is determined based on the reasonable person standard, which considers how a reasonable party would act in the same or similar situation;
- For example, in a case of environmental contamination, the plaintiff could prove that another company in a similar situation would have exercised more care to avoid dumping chemicals which are toxic;
- Additionally, the plaintiff could prove that another company would have complied more strictly with relevant environmental regulations;
- That the Breach of Duty Caused Harm: The breach of legal duty must have been the direct or proximate cause of the harm;
- This may be complex to prove, for example, if the owner of a property with toxic chemicals claims that a builder is responsible for the contamination, while the builder claims that the owner did not properly inspect or maintain the property; and
- That the Plaintiff Actually Suffered a Particular Harm: This requires the plaintiff to prove that they suffered a particular harm because of the defendant’s actions;
- In order to prove this, a plaintiff will need to use different types of evidence, such as medical bills or evidence of missed work days.
What is Benzene?
Benzene is a clear liquid which is used to manufacture:
- Medical products;
- Plastics; and
- Other chemicals.
Individuals are most commonly exposed to Benzene by the inhalation of gasoline fumes and automobile emissions as well as in their homes through common:
- Household cleaners;
- Paints; and
The most toxic form of exposure to Benzene is due to industrial exposure, which usually occurs at a job site or while using the chemical.
What are the Adverse Effects of Benzene?
The adverse effects of Benzene will depend upon the amount and duration of the exposure. In industrial exposure cases, the effects of Benzene may be severe, including:
- Numerous types of cancer;
- Congestive heart failure; and
- Liver and kidney damage.
In cases where the exposure is to a small amount and is brief in duration, an individual may experience:
- Vomiting; and
- Excessive bleeding.
Being exposed to a large amount of Benzene for as little as one minute can be fatal.
What is a Class Action Lawsuit?
A class action lawsuit is a lawsuit which is brought by one or more individuals on behalf of a group of other individuals who suffered the same or similar types of harm. All of the members of the lawsuit are required to share similar legal issues.
In addition, there must be a large enough number of individuals involved so that it would not make sense to bring separate lawsuits. In addition, the class is required to be certified by the court in order to bring the class action.
A court will consider several factors before certifying a class, including:
- The plaintiffs is required to adequately represent the interests of the entire class;
- There cannot be any conflicts of interest between the plaintiffs;
- The plaintiffs must be competent;
- The claims of the representatives must be similar and represent the entire class; and
- The question of fact is required to arise from one act or a pattern of conduct engaged in by the defendant.
To begin the process, an individual or a group of individuals bring a putative class action lawsuit against a defendant. Then, the court will determine whether or not to certify the lawsuit as a class action.
If certified, the original group of individuals will represent the entire class action group and the case will proceed as a class action lawsuit. If the court does not certify the class, it will typically provide a reason.
This commonly occurs when the court does not believe the class is complete, which means that there may be more potential plaintiffs who join the class in order to strengthen the case. Any individual who may be affected by the class action lawsuit will be entitled to receive notice of the initiation of the lawsuit.
The notice must include a description of the claim being litigated as well as information that the individual is permitted to opt out of the class action if they wish to do so. If an individual does opt out, they must be aware that they will not be permitted to bring their own claim in the future.
Due to the fact that many class action claims are considerably large, the notices for class actions may be placed in:
- Television commercials; and
- Mailing lists.
Depending upon the circumstances, it may be possible for a potential class member who did not join the class to bring forward a lawsuit if they were not aware that there was a class action.
What Should I Do If I Have Been Injured by Benzene?
The majority of toxic Benzene exposure cases involve prolonged low-level exposure. If an individual has experienced any of the symptoms which are related to Benzene exposure, they should consult their physician as soon as possible.
What is a Statute of Limitations?
A statute of limitations is a time limit in which a claim can be brought against a defendant. For a personal injury claim, the statute of limitations is typically 2 to 3 years following the incident.
It is important to keep this in mind because if the statute of limitations runs, an individual will not be able to bring their claim and recover for their injuries. It is also important to note that these time frames may be longer or shorter, depending on the state.
Should I Consult an Attorney?
Toxic exposure is a serious hazard which may result in numerous different medical conditions. If you believe you have suffered from toxic exposure to Benzene, it may be helpful to consult with a class action attorney.
Your attorney can assist you with preserving your legal rights, organizing your case and recovering for your injuries. In addition, your attorney can advise you of your rights and options under the personal injury laws of your state and will also have knowledge of any existing class actions lawsuits which you may be able to join.