In 2012, former President Obama signed the Honoring America’s Veterans and Caring for Camp Lejeune Families Act of 2012, making it easier for veterans and their families with specific medical conditions related to Camp Lejeune toxic water to receive health care and VA disability benefits.
However, it didn’t cover a lot of medical problems arising from exposure to the contaminated drinking water at the Marine Corps Air Station. It also didn’t cater to families who lost their loved ones to diseases linked to contaminated drinking water at the Marine Corps base.
After decades of advocacy for veteran’s rights, on 9 August 2022, President Biden signed the Honoring Our PACT Act 2022 in the United States law, a $300 billion legislation aimed at helping improve access and benefits to veterans and their families exposed to burn pits, Agent Orange, and other harmful substances.
The PACT Act 2022 includes a special provision called the Camp Lejeune Justice Act of 2022 (CLJA) that specifically caters to veterans and their family members exposed to contaminated water during their time at Camp Lejeune.
Let’s go over what CLJA is and what it means for the veterans.
The PACT Act is the most significant legislation for Veterans since the Agent Orange Act. The CLJA is the first of its kind, aimed at improving the lives of Camp Lejeune victims.
Hundreds of victims filed lawsuits in the past seeking financial compensation for their contaminated water injuries. Although there is clear scientific and medical evidence linked to volatile organic compounds found at the Marine Corps base and various medical conditions, the court dismissed all lawsuits.
Under Federal Tort Claims Act, one such lawsuit consolidated 850 plaintiffs into multi-district litigation seeking damages from contaminated water at Camp Lejeune. Unfortunately, the federal courts dismissed cases based on the North Carolina statute of repose.
The dismissal of water contamination lawsuits sparked outrage among the public because thousands of victims would never receive Camp Lejeune settlements for their Camp Lejeune water contamination injuries. In response to that, lawmakers worked together to create CLJA.
With the new CLJA, Camp Lejeune water contamination victims now have until 10 August 2024 to file a civil lawsuit in Federal Court in the Eastern District of North Carolina against the government to recover monetary compensation. The law aims to rectify the injustice arising from the state’s statute of repose.
Although the new CLJA allows individuals exposed to Camp Lejeune toxic water to pursue legal action against the government, advocates have serious concerns about the outcome of those lawsuits. Many warn veterans to analyze all the risks before filing a case as the chances that they won’t recover a penny are pretty high. Advocates also believe that successful lawsuits won’t see a payout for a long time.
According to Shane Liermann, legislative director at Disabled American Veterans, a lawsuit could cost veterans more money.
The growing concerns of advocates led to the Veterans Affairs (VA) officials making an official statement. They stated that the VA would not cut on the benefits or deny veterans’ claims when they file a lawsuit. However, the VA will offset any amount awarded on a successful case with the existing benefits related to exposure to contaminated water at Camp Lejeune.
Although the VA official’s statement might seem welcoming news, considering they won’t cut on the benefits, what happens when the lawsuit is successful?
Liermann believes that veterans or their family members who are not receiving any benefits can consider filing a lawsuit since they don’t have anything to lose. However, those who are already receiving help could see a dollar-for-dollar offset.
Another concern is the waiting period. Payouts from Camp Lejeune toxic water lawsuits could take months or even longer. The first Camp Lejeune settlement payouts won’t materialize until summer 2024, and these are for cases that are easiest to prove. Complicated lawsuits could take much longer.
We’ve gone over what advocates are saying about the lawsuit. However, it’s also important to understand that lawmakers designed CLJA to compensate veterans for exposure to contaminated Camp Lejeune water supply beyond the benefits they already receive under VA.
If you had already approached the VA, two scenarios could’ve happened.
Like any other civil lawsuit, the outcome of your case depends on many factors, including your attorney’s experience. Advocates are stating that offsetting settlement compensation from the lawsuit and VA benefits could put plaintiffs in a worse position.
In most lawsuits, the initial settlement offer is often lower, and it is up to the client to accept or reject that offer. Our attorneys understand the pain and suffering a plaintiff goes through, which is why we always advise our clients not to take the first offer that comes their way.
If the settlement offer is low, you can reject it. Our Camp Lejeune lawyers have trial experience and are ready to fight for fair compensation for the harm you suffered while residing or working at Camp Lejeune.
Individuals can easily file claims, but where lawsuits are considered, these are often challenging, and the process is much more complex. Hiring a qualified attorney can help you increase your chances of securing compensation for a Camp Lejeune lawsuit.
Ehline Law is a leading personal injury law firm that is continuously advocating for the rights of veterans and individuals exposed to toxic substances, burn pits and other toxic chemicals.
Our Camp Lejeune attorneys are ready to assess your case and help you understand the risks involved to make an informed decision. We can also assist in gathering medical records and proving your service-related illnesses. Contact us at (833) LETS-SUE for a free case evaluation with our legal experts.
Michael is a managing partner at the nationwide Ehline Law Firm, Personal Injury Attorneys, APLC. He’s an inactive Marine and became a lawyer in the California State Bar Law Office Study Program, later receiving his J.D. from UWLA School of Law. Michael has won some of the world’s largest motorcycle accident settlements.