Toxic materials are substances that could cause considerable harm and/or illness to a person, if it enters their body, which is referred to as toxic exposure. The ways in which toxic materials enter the body are referred to as the route of exposure, the most common of which would be inhalation.
Just as there are many different types of toxic exposure, there are many different types of environments in which toxic exposure can occur. Some of the most common examples of toxic exposure include, but may not be limited to:
- Exposure to chemicals in the workplace;
- Exposure to mold, such as dangerous types of black mold;
- Exposure to Asbestos;
- Exposure to lead paint;
- Exposure to toxic fumes from various activities, such as welding or manufacturing;
- Dangerous chemicals that are found in medications or drugs which are considered to be defective;
- Environmental contamination due to the release of specific gasses and/or toxins; and
- Soil or groundwater contamination due to the dumping of wastes and chemicals.
Lead poisoning occurs when the human body is exposed to high concentrations of lead for a prolonged period of time. The body can naturally address small amounts of lead in the body; however, it cannot process excessive levels that would be considered toxic. Lead poisoning is most commonly associated with old paint and water that is carried through lead pipes. It is important to note that paint containing lead is present in nearly 75% of all homes that were built prior to 1980.
In terms of symptoms that are associated with lead poisoning, there is a wide range of symptoms which often results in a preliminary misdiagnosis. This is because lead poisoning so closely resembles the symptoms that are indicative of many other diseases. Some of the most common examples of lead poisoning symptoms include:
- High blood pressure;
- Learning disabilities; and/or
- Kidney, nervous system, and/or brain damage.
What Are Toxic Torts?
Personal injury law addresses cases in which one party is harmed by another. Toxic torts refer to personal injury cases in which the plaintiff alleges harm because of exposure to some type of toxin or chemical. A case involving lead poisoning would most likely be considered an example of a toxic tort.
The factors that are necessary to prove in a toxic tort case are similar to the factors you would need to prove in a common negligence case:
- The Defendant Owed You a Legal Duty: A legal duty refers to the level of care that a specific party must adhere to. In cases which involve contamination of the environment, you must prove that a specific company had a duty to the residents of the locality not to dump any chemicals which would contaminate the soil and/or groundwater;
- The Legal Duty Was Breached: To reiterate, duty is determined based on the reasonable person standard, which considers how a reasonable party would have acted in the same situation. An example of this would be how in cases of environmental contamination, you could assert that another company in a similar situation would have exercised more care in avoiding dumping chemicals which are toxic. Additionally, you could assert that another company would have more strictly adhered to all relevant environmental regulations;
- The Breach of Duty Caused You Harm: As the plaintiff, you will need to prove that the breach of legal duty was the direct or proximate cause of the harm. This can be considerably complicated to prove, especially if more than one party is potentially involved. An example of this would be how the owner of a property with toxic chemicals could claim that the builder is responsible for the incident, while the builder could claim that the owner did not properly inspect or maintain the property; and
- You Actually Suffered a Particular Harm: This involves proving that you suffered a particular harm, and you suffered that harm because of the defendant’s actions. In order to prove this, you can use different types of evidence, such as medical bills or a record of missed work days.
It is important to note that personal injury lawsuits are not the only way in which to recover compensation. An example of this would be how work-related injuries are not addressed through a personal injury lawsuit, even if the employer was directly responsible for the exposure which occurred. Rather, these injuries are addressed through the workers compensation system.
However, if the employee was injured by a substance which was manufactured by a third party, the employee may be able to bring a claim against the manufacturer of the substance in a standard civil lawsuit.
Can I Recover A Monetary Damages Award For Lead Poisoning?
Compensation largely depends on the extent of injury, as well as the knowledge of the person who is responsible for the injury. Generally speaking, compensatory damages such as medical bills and associated costs are awarded.
An injured plaintiff who proves that the defendant committed intentional or negligent injury is entitled to compensatory damages, of which there are two types: damages for an injury, and damages for the consequences of the injury. The law recognizes this distinction as well as the two types of compensatory damages: general damages, and specific damages.
General damages are awarded for the injury itself, but cannot be readily assigned a monetary value. These damages include examples such as pain and suffering, and mental anguish and trauma. As such, in order to recover such damages, the testimony of an expert such as a physician or psychiatrist is necessary in order to assign a monetary value.
Special damages compensate the plaintiff for a specific consequence of an injury. Specific consequences generally include medical expenses, as well as loss of wages. These are items which can be assigned a precise monetary value.
What Else Should I Know About Lead Poisoning And Toxic Exposure?
As of 2018, an estimated 3.6 million American homes with at least one child, possess considerable lead paint hazards. Lead poisoning generally results from a buildup of lead in the body, generally occurring over several months or years.
If a toxic substance has affected a large number of people, a plaintiff may pursue a class action lawsuit instead of an individual lawsuit. A class action lawsuit is a legal claim which is brought by a group of individuals, who all suffered the same or a similar due to the same defendant’s conduct.
Statutes of limitations set the amount of time in which a particular claim can be brought against a defendant. This is important to note because claims for damages must be brought within a set amount of time; for personal injury cases, such as those involving lead poisoning, it is generally two or three years after the incident occurred. However, this timeframe differs from state to state.
This can be especially complicated for toxic exposure cases, as an injury from exposure may not show up right until several years later as a serious medical condition. Because of this, many states have a “discovery rule” in place to address this issue. In states which have the discovery rule, the statute of limitations does not begin until the injury is known, or reasonably should have been known.
Do I Need An Attorney For Lead Poisoning?
If you wish to file a lawsuit associated with lead poisoning, you will need to contact an area class action attorney. An experienced and local lawyer will be most aware of your state’s specific personal injury laws and statute of limitations, and can collect building or medical records in order to support your claim. Additionally, an attorney will also be able to represent you in court, as needed.