A toxic substance is something which is harmful to the human body. Toxic exposure occurs when the human body comes into contact with a toxic substance.
There are many different types of toxic exposure can and it can occur in many different environments. Some example of toxic exposure are:
- Exposure to chemicals in your workplace;
- Exposure to mold such as dangerous types of black mold;
- Exposure to Asbestos;
- Exposure to lead paint;
- Exposure to toxic fumes from activities such as welding;
- Dangerous chemicals in medications/drugs which are defective;
- Environmental contamination because of the release of certain gases or toxins; and
- Soil or groundwater contamination because of the dumping of wastes and chemicals.
Personal injury law deals with situations where one party is harmed by another. Toxic torts refer to personal injury cases where the plaintiff alleges harm because of exposure to some type of toxin or chemical. The factors to prove in a toxic tort case are similar to the factors you have to prove in a typical negligence case. You will have to prove that:
- That the Defendant Owed You a Legal Duty: This is often straightforward in toxic torts cases.
- For example, in cases which involve contamination of the environment, you can prove that a company had a duty to the residents of the locality not to dump 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 looks at how a reasonable party would acted in the same situation.
- For example, in cases of environmental contamination, you can prove that another company in a similar situation would have exercised more care to avoid dumping chemicals which are toxic and that another company would have complied more strictly with the relevant environmental regulations.
- That the Breach of Duty Caused You Harm: The plaintiff will have to prove that the breach of legal duty was the direct or proximate cause of the harm.
- This can be quite complicated especially if more than one party is potentially involved. For example, an owner of a property with toxic chemicals can claim that the builder is responsible while the builder can claim that the owner did not properly inspect or maintain the property.
- That You Actually Suffered a Particular Harm: This involves proving that you suffered a particular harm because of the defendant’s actions. You can use different types of evidence such as medical bills or missed work days to prove this.
Personal injury lawsuits are not the only way that someone affected by toxic exposure can recover compensation. For example, work-related injuries are not handled through a typical personal injury lawsuit even if the employer was directly responsible for the exposure which occurred.
Rather, these injuries are handled through the workers compensation system which all the fifty states have enacted. A workers compensation claim is usually 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, then the employee may be able to bring a claim against the manufacturer of the substance in a standard civil lawsuit. Also, cases which involve defective medications/drugs may be brought as a product liability case rather than a toxic tort case.
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However, if a toxic substance affected a large number of individuals, a plaintiff may not bring an individual claim but rather a collective one. A class action lawsuit is a legal claim which is brought by a group of individuals who all suffered either the same or a similar injury because of the same defendant’s conduct.
Statute of limitations set the time limit in which a particular claim can be brought against a defendant. It is important to keep this in mind because claims for damages have to be brought within a set time period. For personal injury cases, it is usually two or three years after the incident occurred although it can be longer or shorter in some states.
This can be complicated for toxic exposure cases. This is because an injury from exposure may not show up right away but may show up several years later as a serious medical condition. Many states have a “discovery rule” to deal with this issue. In states which have the discovery rule, the statute of limitations does not start ticking until the injury is known or reasonably should have been known.
Toxic exposure is a serious hazard and can cause many different medical conditions. If you feel that you were injured because of exposure to a toxic substance, it is important to consult with a local personal injury attorney who can help you recover compensation and represent you in court if necessary.