Litigating a Hazardous Waste Claim

An environmental injury lawsuit is a lawsuit based on exposure to something hazardous in your environment. There are a number of different potential hazards that could cause the type of injury that would lead to environmental injury litigation including:

  • Hazardous Waste Disposal
  • Toxic Torts

Hazardous Waste Litigation

Hazardous wastes are waste products that are dangerous. According to the EPA, over 40 million tons of hazardous waste are produced each year.  If these wastes are not disposed of properly and find their way into your land or water supply, they can make you sick.

Hazardous wastes include:

  • Liquid waste (used oil, natural gas byproducts, and radioactive water from nuclear power plants)
  • Medical waste (soiled bandages, human tissue, used needles)
  • Mineral Waste (Sulfides, acids and heavy metals)
  • Radioactive waste (from nuclear power plants, the healthcare industry, and the corporate world)

Love Canal is one of the most famous examples hazardous waste lawsuits. Although environmental protection has become more important since the 1970’s when Love Canal was referred to as one of the worst environmental disasters ever, hazardous waste litigation isn’t a phenomenon of the past. In January of 2009, 90 New York residents filed suit against IBM alleging that improper disposal of hazardous waste from the IBM manufacturing plant caused kidney cancer and congenital heart defects.

Toxic Torts

Toxic torts occur when you are exposed to a toxin in your environment. Toxic tort cases include:

  • Exposure to environmental toxins (asbestos, lead paint, toxic mold)
  • Exposure to unsafe chemicals (industrial chemicals, pesticides, herbicides)
  • Exposure to unsafe drugs (drugs that cause unforeseen side effects)

Asbestos litigation is one type of toxic tort litigation. As of May 2004, asbestos litigation had bankrupted over 70 different companies. Experts estimate that between $200 and $275 billion dollars will be paid out in asbestos claims.

Taking Action And Litigating an Environmental Law Claim

If you believe you were the victim of hazardous waste exposure or a toxic tort, you have 2 major choices for recovery:

  • Join a class action lawsuit: When toxins enter the environment, they affect everyone within the geographic area. The same is true for drugs; if you are taking a drug that causes damage, chances are millions of others took it too. Class actions are made up of many victims who were exposed to the same toxin.Instead of proving your case in court, you just have to prove you should be a member of the class. Companies are more likely to settle class action lawsuits, so joining a class action may increase your chance of recovering damages. However, you are bound by any decisions the class makes about accepting settlements.
  • Sue the offender yourself. This can be more difficult, since you have to prove that the company exposed you to the toxin, that they violated a duty by exposing you, and that you were harmed as a result. You should consult with an environmental law attorney who can evaluate your case and help you determine if bringing a private lawsuit is your best course of action.

Getting Legal Help

Deciding whether to sue or join a class action can be a difficult decision. A qualified environmental law or toxic tort attorney can help you determine what your best course of action is.  An experienced environmental litigation attorney can also offer you guidance on hazard exposure, proving causation, and recovering damages for your illness or injury.

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