Radiation can be defined as the release of energy in the form of small particles or waves. Although we are exposed to small amounts of radiation on a daily basis, the term “radiation exposure” is typically used to refer to an individual who has been exposed to high levels of radiation over a long period of time. This can be very dangerous because excessive exposure to radiation tends to cause illness, injury, and sometimes death.
It is helpful to know that there are two kinds of radiation: ionizing and non-ionizing. While both can cause harm, the more dangerous of the two is ionizing radiation. This kind is found in various chemicals, coal and metal mines, nuclear weapons, X-rays, medical imaging equipment, and even in some airport security scanners.
Remember, unless it is an extremely high level or you work in an industry where you are exposed to radiation over long periods of time, you generally should not be affected by something as quick as an X-ray or CT scan. However, if you do think that you have been unnecessarily exposed to excessive amounts of radiation, then you may want to speak to a lawyer to find out whether you have a claim for damages.
How Does Radiation Exposure Take Place?
One major source of radiation exposure stems from diagnostic testing. Healthcare providers frequently use diagnostic tests, such as X-rays and CT scans, to detect certain medical issues in patients without having to perform invasive surgery. Due to the ease and efficiency they provide for healthcare providers in diagnosing patients, more individuals have faced radiation exposure today than they have in the past.
The average person’s exposure to medical radiation has gone up by at least seven-fold in the last thirty years. Although ionizing radiation is toxic, which is the kind found in these types of medical exams, the exposure to it is typically not long enough to cause harm to patients. However, studies have shown that there is a correlation between the radiation used in these exams and an increased risk of cancer over a patient’s lifetime.
In addition, radiation exposure can also result in hair loss, cataracts, and skin burns. For instance, radiation therapy used to treat certain forms of cancer can cause hair loss. Prolonged use of radiation therapy can cause other related injuries as well like if a person is exposed to too much radiation in one particular area.
Some other ways that a patient may be exposed to harmful radiation occurring in a healthcare facility include:
- Inadequate staffing and/or training of medical personnel;
- Failure to follow a good quality-assurance plan;
- Inaccurate calculations;
- Software glitches;
- Manufacturing defects with the medical equipment; and
- Exposure to a high dose of radiation in one sitting.
What is Radiation Poisoning and What are the Symptoms of Radiation Exposure?
Radiation poisoning, also known as “Acute Radiation Syndrome (ARS)”, is a medical condition that is caused by excessive exposure to radiation. This type of exposure is caused by high levels of ionized radiation (i.e., the harmful kind discussed above) and will usually have a permanent impact on the cells in a person’s body.
Symptoms of radiation exposure can vary, but will largely depend on the level of radiation that exists at the time of exposure and also on the length of the exposure. Sometimes, these symptoms may not appear all at once, but will become apparent over time. This is especially true in cases where there is repeated exposure to the radiation. Some common symptoms of radiation exposure may include:
- Hair loss;
- Spontaneous bleeding;
- Ulcers; and/or
- Bacterial, fungal, and viral infections.
Who Can Be Held Liable for Radiation Exposure?
Depending on the facts and circumstances surrounding each case, there are a number of different parties who can be held liable for radiation exposure. These parties may include:
- Employers: If an employer exposes their employees to harmful levels of radiation, such as by requiring the employee to perform certain tasks and procedures, then the employer may be held liable. For instance, forcing a worker to mine for coal or metal in unsafe conditions.
- Product manufacturers: Individuals can be exposed to harmful radiation through the use of certain devices and technologies, particularly in a healthcare setting. If this happens enough times due to a defective product, then the injured parties may hold the manufacturers of these products liable.
- Suppliers: Even if a supplier does not manufacture a particular product, the supplier can still be held responsible if they did not take reasonable care to ensure that the equipment was safe for use.
- Contractors: Contractors can also be held responsible if they improperly install or administer equipment that ends up leading to harmful radiation exposure.
- Property owners: Property and building owners have a duty to maintain a safe building and/or premises. If they do not abide by that duty, then can be held responsible for the damage they cause to tenants or visitors. As such, if there is radiation in a building due to commercial or other reasons, then the owner can be held liable for any harmful effects that were caused by exposure to the radiation.
What are Class Action Lawsuits?
In some cases, if a group of individuals experiences an incident where they are exposed to harmful levels of radiation, then they may want to consider bringing a class action lawsuit (as opposed to filing separate actions).
A class action is generally defined as a type of lawsuit in which one plaintiff, known as the “class representative”, will file a claim on behalf of a large group of people (i.e., the “class”). This situation usually arises when all of the plaintiffs are permitted to sue the same defendant because they have all suffered either the same or a similar injury, which was caused by that defendant’s conduct.
However, this is not the only requirement that must be met in order to bring a class action lawsuit. The class will also have to be certified by a court. To certify a class action, they must demonstrate that:
- The class has the same or a similar type of injury;
- The injury can be clearly defined and identified;
- The class has similar legal and factual claims; and
- There are enough persons in the class to justify joining the individuals.
In addition, there may be other requirements depending on the laws of a state and the type of class action being filed. There are also rules regarding notice and opt-out requirements, which again will vary by state and the form of class action.
So, for instance, if a class action lawsuit is filed on behalf of a group of plaintiffs who have been exposed to radiation and the suit is successful, the plaintiffs will split the amount of damages they recover. In cases where there was an accident or product that exposed many plaintiffs and caused a lot of harm, the defendant involved in the class action might opt to settle out of court.
Retaining a lawyer for a radiation lawsuit settlement can be very beneficial. They can help the parties reach an amount that will satisfy those who were harmed, and can negotiate a better settlement if they believe the defendant is being unfair or unreasonable in the amount of damages that they offer.
Should I Contact a Lawyer for Help with a Radiation Exposure Lawsuit?
In modern society, being exposed to radiation has become more commonplace due to various advancements in technology. For instance, your cell phone, laptop screen, and even light bulbs emit a small amount of radiation. However, if you have been exposed to dangerous amounts of radiation and have suffered an injury, then you should contact a local personal injury attorney as soon as possible.
An experienced personal injury attorney can discuss whether you have a claim, can determine what damages you may be able to recover, and can help you prepare and file a case. Your attorney will also be able to advise you of your rights and provide representation in court if necessary.