A tort is a legal term that describes a type of civil wrong in which a person suffers harm to his or her body, finances, or other interests. Usually, torts are caused by another party’s negligence or recklessness. In these situations, the victim would have the right to pursue a legal claim against the responsible party.
When a toxic substance is the cause of the victim’s injury, the tort will become a toxic tort. Dangerous chemicals, medications, and many other materials can lead to devastating illnesses and injuries, from cancer and brain injuries to internal organ damage and lung disease. If you are injured by a toxic substance, you may qualify for legal action.
Examples of Toxic Tort Substances
There are several dangerous substances in the environment that cause serious injuries and illnesses to people across the United States. Often, people encounter toxic materials at work, but many others are exposed at home or in public.
Below are a few examples of substances that often lead to toxic tort claims.
- Toxic waste
- Drugs and pharmaceuticals
- Dry cleaning chemicals
- Industrial chemicals such as benzene
- Heavy metals like mercury
Types of Compensation Available in Toxic Torts
If you are exposed to a toxic substance and develop a serious illness or injury as a result, you may be eligible for financial compensation. By filing a toxic tort, you could recover a settlement for the losses that you experienced.
Generally, you can recover two types of damages in a toxic tort: economic and non-economic. Economic damages refer to your financial losses, like medical care, lost wages, and property damage. Non-economic damages refer to the physical and emotional pain and suffering that you endured due to your injury or illness.
How to Prove a Toxic Tort Claim
Different states have different laws regarding torts and toxic torts. Your optimal course of action will depend on where you live and the circumstances surrounding your exposure.
In most cases, you will need to prove that the substance was dangerous; that you were exposed to the substance; and that you suffered harm as a result. You may also need to establish the at-fault party’s negligence for your injury or prove that the party was liable for a defective product.
Negligence refers to a person or entity’s failure to uphold a certain duty of care. If the at-fault party’s negligent actions cause injury to another person, the victim has the right to pursue a lawsuit and recover compensation for the losses that he or she experienced.
Liable parties in negligence-based toxic torts may include property owners who use toxic paint, companies that fail to dispose of toxic waste safely, and schools that expose students to asbestos in aging buildings.
You will typically need to prove the following facts in order to establish negligence.
- The at-fault party owed you a duty of care.
- The at-fault party breached the duty of care.
- The at-fault party’s breach of duty caused your exposure and injuries.
For example, say that you move into an apartment and your landlord fails to replace lead-based paint with a safer material. Years later, you develop brain damage due to long-term lead exposure.
In this situation, your landlord had a duty to maintain safe premises and breached this duty by using lead paint, which has been considered dangerous for years. You can use medical records, expert witness testimony, and scientific evidence to prove causation.
Product Liability Claims
If your toxic tort involves a dangerous and defective product, you could file a product liability claim against the product’s manufacturer, distributor, and even retailer. Manufacturers are liable for any injuries that occur due to a defective product.
Unlike negligence-based claims, you do not need to prove carelessness or recklessness in order to prove your case. Instead, you will need to prove the following four facts.
- You were injured or suffered losses.
- The product was defective in its design, manufacturing, or warnings and instructions.
- The product’s defect caused your injuries and losses.
- You were using the product as the manufacturer intended.
For example, say that you were prescribed Zantac for your heartburn. Zantac was recalled in April 2020 due to the presence of a carcinogenic substance, which has increased patients’ risk for cancer. After taking Zantac regularly for two years, you are diagnosed with kidney cancer.
In this situation, you could prove your diagnosis and use of Zantac with your medical records. You can establish the product defect and causation by presenting scientific evidence establishing the carcinogen’s danger. Expert witnesses can also testify on your behalf, strengthening your Zantac attorney’s claim.
How to Choose the Right Toxic Torts Attorney
Toxic torts can be complex cases. For many people, the illness or injury may not appear for several years or even decades. It can be difficult to identify the cause of the exposure and establish the at-fault party’s liability. In these situations, hiring a tort attorney can help.
If you believe that you qualify for a toxic tort, you need a lawyer on your side who can represent your case and prove your right to recovery. There are several benefits to hiring a toxic torts attorney, such as the following.
- Your lawyer will have likely represented clients in claims similar to yours and can leverage case strategies, scientific evidence, and more to prove your right to recovery.
- Your attorney has the time and resources necessary to conduct a full investigation into your toxic exposure and identify the liable party.
- Your lawyer will have built a wide network of connections with expert witnesses who can testify on your behalf, supporting your case and establishing key facts for your claim.
- Your attorney can help you take inventory of your losses and accurately calculate your potential settlement, including long-term expenses and intangible losses.
- Handling a legal claim while living with a serious injury or illness can be a challenge. Your lawyer will handle all stages of your case so that you can focus on recovery and treatment.
As soon as you realize that you may qualify for a lawsuit, start looking for an attorney with experience handling toxic tort claims. Contact your lawyer immediately to discuss your legal options and identify your optimal path to recovery.