Questions About Toxic Torts
Personal Injury Lawyers - Representing People Nationwide
What is a toxic tort?
A toxic tort is a personal injury or damage to property caused by exposure to a toxic substance. They usually involve large settlements or awards because of the typically high costs associated with injuries and damage caused by exposure to a toxic substance or substances.
How does one become exposed to toxic chemicals?
There is a wide variety of ways someone can come into contact with toxic chemicals. Exposure can take place on the job, at home, or through environmental contamination. An example of toxic chemical exposure on the job is that of navy shipbuilders who were exposed to asbestos before the dangers of mesothelioma and its link to asbestos was known. At home, exposure to toxic chemicals can occur through defective consumer products such as tankless water heaters that may leak carbon monoxide. An example of environmental exposure is the chromium (VI) contamination of drinking water popularized in the movie Erin Brockovich.
Which chemicals are most commonly involved in toxic torts?
- The largest and best-known toxic tort in American history is related to asbestos, exposure to which can cause mesothelioma, asbestosis, and lung cancer among other medical conditions that are often deadly and extremely expensive to treat.
- Benzene, another extremely dangerous chemical, is linked to acute myeloid leukemia, reproductive and immunodeficiency problems, and other diseases and conditions.
- Lead poisoning can cause neurological and developmental problems among others, especially among children.
- Metalworkers are at risk of exposure to manganese when welding or smelting, which can cause manganism, a condition that closely resembles Parkinson's disease.
- Mold exposure can cause numerous health problems, including allergic reactions and respiratory conditions.
- Carcinogens and neurotoxins are particularly dangerous when exposure to them is in close proximity and over extended periods of time, as certain workers are.
- Chemicals in medical devices.
What do I do if I suspect that my or a loved one's illness was caused by exposure to a toxic chemical?
First seek medical help. Your primary physician, however, may need to refer you to a specialist familiar with toxic chemical exposure cases. In some cases, establishing a causal link between the chemical and the condition is straightforward. Mesothelioma, for example, is almost always caused by exposure to asbestos, and asbestos fibers can be detected in the body. Lead levels can also be detected in the body, and the symptoms of lead poisoning are well known.
Some cases may not be as straightforward but the causative chemical may be stored in the blood or in fat lipids. In yet other cases, exposure to a toxic chemical can take place for years before any symptoms appear. A qualified toxic tort attorney can research similar cases in the area where you live and any relevant class action lawsuits that may be ongoing. He or she can also refer you to a medical specialist in toxic chemical exposure.
Why else do I need an attorney?
Toxic tort cases tend to be complex and require much medical and other scientific expert consultation and testimony. Liability for such cases, for instance, can be grounded in a variety of different legal theories including negligence, breach of warranty, premises liability, misrepresentation, and product liability, so knowledge in all these areas of the law is valuable. Furthermore, despite which theory is used, not only does a link need to be established between the chemical and the medical condition, it must also be shown that there was "proximate cause". Proximate causation in most cases requires that it be shown that the defendant had a duty to the plaintiff, and that the harm was foreseeable by the defendant.