Toxic Torts: Do You Have A Case?

Posted by & filed under Personal Injury, Workers' Comp.

Working with chemicals and other material like asbestos is understandably a hazardous job, and employers often take every precaution to safeguard their employees. However, sometimes, things go wrong. If you are exposed to hazardous materials on the job, there are times when it is directly because of someone’s negligence. You may be due compensation for what you have suffered. 

Examples of Toxic Torts

Chemical exposure is what attorneys refer to as a ‘toxic tort.’ A tort is committed when a person is the victim of a wrongful act – an action can be both a crime and a tort simultaneously. Torts are tried as civil offenses, while crimes are tried in criminal court. Toxic torts occur when people are exposed to hazardous materials or chemicals they ought to have been able to avoid.

While most people think of asbestos when they are asked about hazardous substances in the workplace, there are many different varieties of chemicals and other dangerous compounds that one might encounter. Examples include:

  • Benzene and other industrial solvents, which can cause lung disease
  • Lead in old plumbing or paint
  • Radiation, from overexposure to x-rays or certain gaseous compounds containing radon
  • Toxic mold
  • Groundwater contamination (wells and contaminated reservoirs)

These can be difficult to prove simply because, like mesothelioma and asbestos cases, it can take years for symptoms of disease to appear. For example, byssinosis, or brown lung disease, is common in textile workers, and does not appear often until many years after the person has stopped working in the mills. Causation may not be immediately apparent.

Proving Your Case

Cases of this nature are most commonly filed in one of two ways: either via the workers’ compensation system, or via a personal injury suit. Most people file under the Workers’ Compensation Act, but if an employer’s conduct has been especially negligent or malicious, it may be possible to file a personal injury suit.

A personal injury suit over harmful chemical exposure is usually grounded in negligence law. This means that four parts of the case must be proven. They are:

  • Duty. The person you are suing must have had a duty of care toward you under the law. Employers generally have a duty to exercise reasonable care toward their employees, and to ensure their safety to a reasonable degree while on the job.
  • Breach of that duty. Essentially a failure to exercise reasonable care.
  • Causation. You must prove that the defendant employer’s actions were the direct cause of any harm you suffered.
  • Damages. You must be able to prove that you suffered actual damages as a result of the defendant’s conduct. They need not be physical in nature – mental and emotional harm count – but the damage must be tangible, as opposed to ephemeral. Bruises and minor irritation are not sufficient grounds for a lawsuit – a long-lasting disease would more appropriately fit the bill.

Get A Lawyer With Toxic Tort Experience

Because toxic exposure-related conditions are so difficult to diagnose and link back to the original experience, it is important to have the right attorney. The North Charleston personal injury attorneys at Callihan & Syracuse know the ins and outs of this type of litigation, and will work hard to get you what you deserve. Contact us today for a free initial consultation.