What is a Toxic Tort?
A “toxic tort” is a legal term that refers to the harm caused by toxic substances. A tort is a wrongful act that is treated differently than a crime. Instead of the wrongdoer being prosecuted in a criminal court and maybe getting fined or sent to jail, the wrongdoer is instead sued in a civil court and may have to pay money to the person who was harmed. In some cases, a wrongdoer may be both criminally prosecuted and sued in a civil lawsuit, but those are handled separately.
With toxic torts, the wrongdoers usually have been negligent or careless, and have failed to do what they were supposed to do. For example, a manufacturer of potentially dangerous chemicals has a duty to warn customers of the danger. If the manufacturer fails to provide the warning on their packaging, and you used the chemicals and were harmed, you might be able to sue the manufacturer. If you could prove that you were harmed by the chemical, and the manufacturer’s negligence exposed you to that harm, then the manufacturer may have to pay you to compensate you for your injuries. The lawsuit is called a toxic tort claim, and it is a type of personal injury lawsuit.
Examples of Toxic Torts
People can be exposed to toxic substances at work, at home, or even in the environment, where dangerous toxins may be in the water we drink or the air we breathe. In the home, potentially toxic substances include mold, lead, and chemically-treated wood or carpets. Medication can be toxic if it is contaminated or defective. In the workplace, toxic substances can be especially dangerous when workers are exposed to them in high concentrations day after day.
What Could I Gain From a Toxic Tort Claim?
If you or a loved one were harmed by a toxic substance, and you win a toxic tort claim, the company or person you sued may have to pay you compensation for your expenses and losses that stemmed from the harm. This may include payment for your lost wages, including future losses, your medical and rehabilitation expenses, and compensation for emotional distress, pain, and suffering.
What Do I Have to Prove to Win a Toxic Tort Claim?
To win a toxic tort claim, you and your lawyer need to show that you were exposed to a toxic substance and were harmed by it.
You also have to show that the defendant — the company or person you are suing — had a legal responsibility and failed to meet that responsibility. This responsibility usually will fall into one of these four categories:
- Negligence: In a negligence claim, you need to show that the defendant had a legal obligation to be careful, that the defendant did not meet the standard of care, and that you were harmed as a result.
- Product liability: In a product liability lawsuit, the defendant is often the manufacturer, but could also be the distributor, seller, or someone else involved with the product. You will need to show that the product was defective or unreasonably dangerous, or that there was a failure to warn about the risks of using it.
- Intentional tort: In an intentional toxic tort case, you need to show the defendant knew that the product was dangerous and deliberately lied or was deliberately misleading about the risks.
- Strict liability: A strict liability toxic tort claim is different from the ones described above because you don’t need to prove that the defendant was careless, intended to mislead, or anything else about their state of mind. Strict liability may apply in situations where the defendant’s actions were extremely dangerous.
Proving Causation in a Toxic Tort Claim
Toxic tort claims are exceptionally complex areas of the law. One reason is that the harm from exposure to toxic substances generally builds up over a long period of time. The connection between the long-term exposure and the eventual harm may not be immediately obvious. Also, if the exposure began a long time ago, it may be hard to find evidence from the past — documents may have been lost, and witnesses may be hard to find. The lawyers for the defendant may try to argue that your illness or injury was caused by something else.
You need a skillful and experienced toxic tort claim lawyer to gather evidence and present a strong proof that the exposure to the toxic substance was the cause of the harm you suffered. Your lawyer should have an in-depth knowledge of toxic tort law as well as experience working with scientific experts. Your lawyer may need to find scientists who can provide expert testimony about how the specific toxic substance in your case affects people who have been exposed to it.
Contact an Experienced Toxic Tort Lawyer for a Free Consultation
At the Raynes Lawn Hehmeyer law firm, we have more than 50 years of experience fighting for the rights of our clients. We are honored to have been included in many lists of the country’s top lawyers. Our experienced toxic tort attorneys leave no stone unturned in their search for compelling evidence to prove toxic tort claims. They are highly skilled negotiators and, if your case needs to go to trial, fierce and experienced courtroom advocates.
If you believe that you or a loved one were harmed by exposure to a toxic chemical or other toxic substance, call us at 1-800-535-1797. Don’t wait too long because there are deadlines for filing toxic tort claims, and if you miss them, you won’t be able to file. We would be glad to set up a free and confidential consultation where we can answer your questions, evaluate your case, and tell you about your options.
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