A toxic substance is something which is considered to be harmful to the human body, especially in specific quantities. As such, toxic exposure occurs when the human body comes into contact with a toxic substance.

There are many different types of toxic exposure, and it can occur in many different environments. Some examples of toxic exposure include, but may not be 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 various activities such as welding;
  • Dangerous chemicals in defective medications or drugs;
  • Environmental contamination resulting from the release of certain gasses or toxins; and
  • Soil or groundwater contamination resulting from the dumping of wastes and chemicals.

Personal injury law addresses situations in which one party is harmed by another. Toxic torts more specifically refer to personal injury cases in which the plaintiff alleges harm because of exposure to some type of toxin or chemical. The factors necessary to prove in a toxic tort case are similar to the factors necessary to prove in a typical negligence case. As such, you will need to prove:

  • That the Defendant Owed You a Legal Duty: This is generally straightforward in toxic torts cases. An example of this would be how in cases which involve contamination of the environment, you 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 situation. To further the example of cases of environmental contamination, you could prove that another company in a similar situation would have exercised more care to avoid dumping chemicals which are toxic. Additionally, you could prove that another company would have complied more strictly with relevant environmental regulations;
  • That the Breach of Duty Caused You Harm: The breach of legal duty must have been the direct or proximate cause of the harm. Proving this can be considerably complicated, 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, while the builder can claim that the owner did not properly inspect or maintain the property; and
  • That You Actually Suffered a Particular Harm: This involves proving that you suffered a particular harm because of the defendant’s actions. In order to prove this you will need to use different types of evidence, such as medical bills or evidence of missed work days.

What Is A Class Action Lawsuit?

A class action is a lawsuit that is generally brought by one or more people on behalf of a group of others, who are in a similar situation. Everyone is required to share similar legal issues, and there must be enough individuals involved that it would not make sense to bring separate lawsuits.

Additionally, the class must be certified by the court in order to bring an action. The court will consider the following before certification:

  • The plaintiffs must adequately represent the interests of the whole class;
  • There must be no 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 must come from one act, or a pattern of conduct by the defendant.

Initially, a person or group of people will bring a putative class action lawsuit against the defendant. The court will then decide whether to certify the lawsuit as a class action; when certified, the original group will represent the entire class action group, and it will move forward as a class action lawsuit.

Should the court refuse to certify the class, they will generally give their reason why. This would most likely be because they do not think the class is complete, meaning that there could be more potential plaintiffs to join the class in order to strengthen the case.

Any person who may be affected by the class action lawsuit is entitled to receive notice of it being initiated. Included in the notice must be a description of the claim, as well as information that they can opt out of the class action if they wish to do so. If they do opt out, they must be aware that they will not be able to bring forth their own claim in the future.

Because many class actions are considerably large, notices of class actions can be put in newspapers, TV commercials, and/or mailing lists. Depending on the circumstances, it is possible for a potential class member who did not join the class to bring forward their suit if they simply had no idea that there was a class action.

Are There Other Causes Of Action For Toxic Exposure?

Personal injury lawsuits are not the only way in which someone who was affected by toxic exposure can recover compensation. An example of this would be how work-related injuries are not addressed through a typical 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, which all fifty states have enacted. A workers compensation claim is generally the sole remedy for injuries which happened on the job.

However, if the employee was injured by a substance such as asbestos which was manufactured by a third party, they may be able to bring a claim against the manufacturer of the substance in a standard civil lawsuit. Cases which involve defective medications or drugs may be brought as a product liability case, rather than a toxic tort case. When a toxic substance affects a large number of individuals, a plaintiff may not bring an individual claim, but rather a class action lawsuit as was previously discussed.

Statutes of limitations set the time limit in which a particular claim can be brought against a defendant. It is imperative to keep these statutes in mind, especially because claims for damages must be brought within a set time period. For personal injury cases, this time frame is generally two or three years after the incident occurred. However, this can be longer or shorter in some states.

This can be especially complicated for toxic exposure cases, because an injury from toxic exposure may not show up right away. The injury may show up several years later as a serious medical condition. In response, many states have enacted a “discovery rule” to address this issue. In states which have enacted a discovery rule, the statute of limitations does not begin until the injury is known, or reasonably should have been known.

Do I Need A Lawyer For A Toxic Exposure Class Action?

To reiterate, toxic exposure is an especially serious hazard which can cause many different medical conditions. If you were injured because of exposure to a toxic substance, it is imperative that you consult with a local class action attorney.

An experienced attorney will be aware of your legal rights and options under your state’s specific personal injury laws, and will also be aware of any existing class action lawsuits that you may be able to join.