Our environment is not the only thing that can be damaged by pollutants, toxic gasses, and hazardous chemicals. Exposure to these toxic products in the workplace has caused numerous injuries and illnesses to individuals. When injuries from dangerous products occur, an injured party may have a toxic tort claim. Toxic tort claims are often brought before the courts by a group of people in what is known as a class-action lawsuit. A group of workers who are exposed to chemicals that cause them to get sick might bring a toxic tort claim. Additionally, a group of residents might bring forth a claim if their water has been contaminated. Class action lawsuits are more common in toxic tort claims, but an individual may also bring a toxic tort lawsuit before the court if they were injured.
Toxic tort claims exist in several different contexts. The first context is occupational exposure. Workers who are exposed to toxins either at high levels for a short period of time or low levels for an extended period may sustain injuries because of the chemicals. Toxic injury can also be found through pharmaceutical drugs. Pharmaceutical drugs that have unintended side-effects can be the subject of a toxic tort. Exposure to chemicals in the home can be another type of toxic tort. Exposure to toxins in the home are most often found when residents breathe in or ingest substances such as toxic mold, or contaminated drinking water. Finally, consumer products can cause injuries because of the toxic materials present in them. For example, individuals suffering unintended consequences from the use of pesticides could potentially have a toxic tort claim.
It can be a complicated proposition knowing which party or parties to name as defendants in a toxic tort matter. There are various defendants that an action may be pursued against depending on the nature of the toxic injury or illness. The manufacturer could potentially be named. Manufacturers would likely be named as defendants if, for instance, they were the manufacturer of asbestos or a defective drug that caused harm to an individual. It may be in the best interest of the plaintiff or plaintiffs to pursue action against a larger company. In circumstances where a company improperly disposes pollutants that end up in the drinking water of a community, the company would be the liable party. Finally, a negligent individual could be a potential defendant. A landlord, for instance, who does not adequately rid a living space of mold or lead paint, could be considered liable for the injuries causes by those toxins.
Bringing forth a toxic claim under the statute of limitations has been made easier by what is known as the discovery rule. Due to the fact that many of the injured parties in toxic matters do not have symptoms show up until many years after the harm occurred, the courts implemented the discovery rule. The discovery rule means that the clock on the statute of limitations time period does not begin until the plaintiff discovers that they suffered the harm. The delayed clock, in this sense, alleviates the need for plaintiffs to be aware of the harm they suffered right away. The time period to file a claim of a toxic tort in North Carolina is three years after the discovery of the injury.
Once the plaintiff or plaintiffs has discovered, they suffered harm because of dangerous toxins they are now saddled with the burden of proof. A plaintiff must prove that the defending party owed them a legal duty. Legal duty means that the plaintiff must prove that they were owed a duty to be protected by the defending party from the toxins they were exposed to. Failure to live up to the legal duty could look like a landlord failing to provide a safe and habitable living space, or a company disposing of chemicals improperly poisoning the drinking water of residents.
Plaintiffs that can prove that a legal duty existed will proceed with proving that the legal duty they were owed was violated. The defendant in a toxic tort matter could be found in breach of their legal duty if they were negligent in their actions or inactions. Individual defendants or companies who are found to have broken the law will also be considered to have breached their legal duty.
Once a legal duty is established by a plaintiff, and it is proven that the legal duty was breached by the defendant the plaintiff must show that the breach actually caused the injuries or illness the plaintiff suffered. Proving that the defendant was the cause of injuries in toxic tort claims can be the most challenging aspect of a trial. A plaintiff who is diagnosed with cancer because of contaminated drinking water would have to prove that they would not have gotten cancer but for the toxins dumped in their water supply. Proving the defendant liable in this matter can be extremely arduous. Tracing the toxic injury back to one source can create difficulty for the plaintiff, especially when symptoms take years to appear.
Provided that a plaintiff is able to establish a legal duty, show that legal duty was breached, and prove that the breach was the actual cause of their injuries the plaintiff may be entitled to receive damages. Typical damages that are seen in toxic tort cases include lost wages. If a plaintiff is not able to work because of an illness sustained from mold in their apartment, they would be able to recover those losses. Many plaintiffs also have medical expenses, and medical monitoring arise from toxic tort matters. Medical expenses include any medical bills and treatment that would have otherwise not been needed, but for the pollutants, the plaintiff was exposed to. Medical monitoring only comes into play in certain toxic tort cases. Medical monitoring refers to diagnostic testing that is necessary due to the fact that plaintiff was exposed to toxic materials and could be at risk of a latent disease developing in the future. Finally, a plaintiff can recover any pain and suffering that was endured because of toxic materials.
Plaintiffs who are able to prove the essential elements of a toxic tort will be entitled to some or all of the above damages. If you or a loved one was injured by a toxic tort please contact us. You will speak with a personal injury lawyer who can best answer your questions. There is no fee for the initial consultation.