How to File a Claim for the Camp Lejeune Lawsuit
We believe that most successful Camp Lejeune Water Contaminations Claims will be settled after a formal complaint is filed in federal court. In our opinion, a successful claim will require an attorney. Attorneys will do four things in order to get the maximum recovery by settlement or verdict at trial:
- Determine eligibility;
- Gather evidence;
- File an administrative claim; and
- File a formal complaint and prove that toxic exposure caused an illness.
The first step in filing a claim is determining whether or not a claim should be filed. In order to have a valid claim a person must show that 1) they were at Camp Lejeune for thirty days between 1953 and 1987 2) they were exposed to toxic water 3) they have an illness related to toxic exposure.
The second step in filing a claim is gathering evidence that shows eligibility. The most common way to show that a person was at Camp Lejeune is through military records of themself, their spouse, or their children. The most common military documents are the DD214 or NAVMC118. Other proof of presence might include photographs or old letters from addresses within the Lejeune area. Proof of illness is typically proved through medical records.
The next step in filing a claim is the formal administrative claim process. The form is sometimes referred to as a “form 95”. The form requires the claimant to clearly state who they are, how they were exposed, the illness they have experienced due to toxic exposure at Camp Lejeune, and the amount of damages sustained. Once the formal administrative claim is filed the government has 180 days to accept or deny the claim. The administrative claim will be handled by lawyers for the Navy.
The next step in filing a claim is a formal complaint in federal court. A complaint is a pleading that sets out how a person was exposed, their illness, and the damages that were sustained because of the illness. The complaint begins a lawsuit. In this case, the defendant will be the United States and they will be represented by the Department of Justice. Once the lawsuit begins the government will respond. The next step in a lawsuit is the exchange of information between the parties. In a case of this size, the judge will likely set very specific rules of how the cases will proceed – in order to maximize efficiency.
The final step in the claim process will be proving to the government what you are entitled to. Nobody knows what the eventual value will be for settlements. We expect a number of Bellwether trials that are used to suggest the value that a Jury would award. The settlement amounts represent economic loss and pain/suffering. The evidence of exposure and illness will be the most important thing to successfully resolve the claim. Below, you will find a comprehensive guide to the key things that you need to know about how to file a claim for Camp Lejeune water contamination.
Table of Contents:
Who Qualifies for Filing a Claim?
Many veterans were affected by toxic water at Camp Lejeune and will file a claim. In addition to Marines and members of the Navy that were at Lejeune, many spouses and children that lived at Camp Lejeune were affected. In fact, the family housing area known as Tarawa Terrace was one of the most highly toxic areas on the base. Here are two key things that you or your loved one needs to establish to qualify for financial compensation through a Camp Lejeune toxic water claim:
- Presence on the Site for a Minimum of 30 Days Between 1953 and 1987: In order to qualify to file a Camp Lejeune water contamination claim an individual must show: presence at Camp Lejeune for at least 30 days between August 1, 1953, and December 31, 1987. The individual must also show exposure to contaminated water. Most people that were on the base during that time were exposed to contaminated water at their homes, where they worked, or where they spent time. To be clear, claimants do not have to have lived on Camp Lejeune itself to qualify to bring a toxic water claim. If you worked on the base for at least a month during the affected years, you can still qualify. Additionally, a person who was in utero while their mother lived or worked on Camp Lejeune may also qualify to bring a toxic water claim.
- Development of an Illness/Medical Condition that is Linked to Toxic Water: The individual filing a claim must also show that they have an illness that may be caused by toxic exposure. There are many illnesses that qualify for coverage under the Camp Lejeune Justice Act. The legal standard is known as Equipoise. This means it must be as likely as not that an illness was caused by toxic exposure at Camp Lejeune. The government conducted several studies that show the toxic exposure at Camp Lejeune caused higher rates of many illnesses. Significant proof exists for illnesses like bladder cancer, leukemia, scleroderma, multiple myeloma, kidney cancer, liver cancer, lung cancer, heart disease, kidney disease, nerve damage … The Camp Lejeune Justice Act has shed light on many other illnesses that may be related to toxic exposure. Many other forms of cancer and diseases of major organs are being studied as potentially related to toxic exposure at Camp Lejeune. You should contact a lawyer if you have a significant illness that you believe may be linked to contaminated water at Camp Lejeune. An attorney can help you gather the evidence to prepare a claim.
It is important to emphasize that claims can be brought on behalf of the deceased. In order to bring a claim for the estate of a deceased family member a legal representative must be appointed by a court in the state where the affected person died. In summary, any person or their estate may bring a claim, if they were present at Camp Lejeune for a minimum of 30 days between 1953 and 1987 and they developed an illness/medical condition that was more likely than not linked to toxic water.
The Process of Filing a Camp Lejeune Lawsuit
The process for filing a toxic water claim under the Camp Lejeune Justice Act includes three main steps: 1) Information gathering, 2) Administrative Claim, and 3) Complaint in court (lawsuit). To be clear, our law firm does not expect that most cases will actually go to trial. Your Camp Lejeune toxic water claim could be settled by the government at the administrative stage of the process. Here is a more detailed overview of the different steps of the process for filing a Camp Lejeune claim:
- Information Gathering:Information gathering is the process of getting proof that shows an individual is eligible to file a claim, as well as the damages they have experienced because of the illness caused by toxic exposure. In many ways, this is the most important aspect of the process. You need to put together a strong, well-supported claim. The formal filings that will come next will rely on the evidence gathered by the law firm during this first critical step. The most important way to gather evidence is by conversations between the law firm and the individual. To start, you will need to prove your (or your loved one’s) presence at Camp Lejeune during the relevant dates. This will typically be shown by military records of the individual or their spouse/parent. The claimant will sign an authorization allowing the law firm to access military records in possession of the government. The form we are using at the time of this writing looks like this: Standard Form 180 (SF-180) to Request Military Service Records. From there, our law firm will gather evidence of illness through medical records. VA medical records will be accessed using VA Form 10-5345 Form Request for and Authorization to Release Health Information. You may also need to include general medical records, which can be obtained through your doctor or healthcare provider.
- Administrative Claim: The next step in the process of filing a Camp Lejeune lawsuit is filing an administrative claim. The law states that administrative processes must be exhausted before you can take your case to court. In order to do so a complaint must be filed with the Department of the Navy. The Navy has requested claimants to use the official CLJA Claim Form. The form is the information the Navy would like to have. The answers that are used on the form will be binding on the claimant.This is VERY IMPORTANT. We must be able to prove everything that is on the form because it is the only thing that we can prove later. In other words, you must submit a comprehensive initial administrative claim. If you fail to include relevant information on your CLJA Claim Form, you could actually be denied access to that evidence in any future Camp Lejeune water lawsuit. Protect yourself: Get help from an attorney when filing an administrative claim. After the filing of the administrative claim the government has 180 days to respond.
- Complaint in Court: The next step in the process of filing a Camp Lejeune lawsuit is to file a Complaint in federal court. A complaint is a legal pleading that sets out the allegations against the government. A Complaint begins a formal lawsuit. After a complaint is filed the government will file an “Answer”. The lawsuit process will be controlled by an “order” from a federal court judge. The cases must be brought in the Eastern District of North Carolina – the location of Camp Lejeune. The Eastern District of North Carolina has only four judges. They hear both civil and criminal cases. This is a smaller district in the federal system. The Camp Lejeune litigation will be a very large project for the Court there. In order to resolve the cases in an efficient manner the court will set strict rules and schedules. One of the largest parts of the lawsuit process will be “discovery.” Discovery is the exchange of information between the plaintiff (claimant/the individual affected) and the government). The judge will then hear legal arguments from both sides. The final step in the process is a Jury Trial. A jury will determine whether the claim has been proven as well as the amount the government must pay as damages. We do not expect most cases to go to trial.
The Administrative Claim Process
The Camp Lejeune Justice Act includes a comprehensive administrative claims process. As noted by Reuters, the Department of the Navy is the government agency that is responsible for accepting and processing Camp Lejeune toxic water claims. Here are three key things to keep in mind about the administrative claims process:
- You have to go through the administrative claims process first. While every person exposed to toxic water at Camp Lejeune has the right to a jury trial, they can only access that right once the administrative claims process has been exhausted. Ideally, your claim will be accepted at the administrative level and settled without a trial.
- You need to use the CLJA Claim Form to file your administrative claim. This form was created by the Department of the Navy specifically for Camp Lejeune water contamination lawsuits. It has sections for all of the information that will be needed to process your claim.
- You should hire an attorney before you submit an administrative claim. It is crucial that you get your CLJA Claim Form completed properly. As explained previously, the information included on the claim form will be the only thing that you can prove later should your case go to trial.
The Court Claim Process
You have the right to take your Camp Lejeune toxic water claim to court. This will only be necessary (and allowed) if you have filed an administrative claim with the Department of the Navy and you were denied compensation. Here is an overview of how the court claims process works in toxic water at Camp Lejeune cases:
- Draft a Complaint: Your complaint is your allegations against the United States government—including their failure to properly pay your claim. It should be filed in federal court (Eastern District of North Carolina).
- Await an Answer: The government will have the opportunity to respond to your complaint. You should await their answer, which will give their story for why they believe that you are not entitled to Camp Lejeune Justice Act benefits.
- Navigate Discovery: Discovery is expected to be one of the most important parts of these lawsuits. It is an exchange of information between the parties. An attorney can help you navigate discovery, ensuring that you have the evidence you need to bring your case.
- Go to Trial: A trial is the final step in the process. You have the right to go before a jury to make your case for compensation. To be clear, only a very small portion of these cases are ever expected to make it to a jury trial.
Reaching a Settlement
Millions of military service members, their families, and civilian workers were present at Camp Lejeune between the affected years of 1953 and 1987. As such, there are likely to be hundreds of thousands of claims for toxic water. To be sure, it is not possible for the court to hear that many cases. The widely-held belief is that the vast majority of cases will not go to trial. Instead, the likely process will be “Bellwether Trials” or “test” cases. The court will hear several dozen or several hundred differing cases.
It is expected that the remaining cases will then begin to be grouped based on the results of the test cases. These remaining claimants may then be offered settlements in lieu of going to trial based on the similarities to the test cases. An attorney will still have the opportunity at this point to accept an offer or further advocate for a larger settlement. It is expected that the entire process from the initial filing to reaching a settlement could take at least two years. Our firm is closely monitoring all legal developments to help our clients secure the maximum available financial settlement.
Settlement and Payout Amounts
Settlement amounts in a civil case, like a Camp Lejeune contaminated water lawsuit, represent economic loss and pain and suffering. Economic loss is both past a future economic loss for things like time missed from work, or out-of-pocket medical expenses. Pain and suffering represents the physical and mental pain that a victim has suffered because of an injury or illness. You or your loved one may be entitled to a settlement that includes compensation for both economic damages and pain and suffering.
At this point, nobody is sure what the settlement amount will be for illnesses caused by toxic exposure at Camp Lejeune. As this is still a fresh process, there are still open questions about how the government (and judges/juries) will handle these claims. Still, there is important baseline information available. For example, one thing that lawyers do is look at other settlements in other cases. There is no other case like Camp Lejeune. However, we believe that recent settlements in toxic exposure cases like Roundup offer some guidance as to what settlements might be. Even more closely related may be the settlements surrounding the 9/11 cancer cases.
I am comfortable saying that some settlements will be for large sums of money. The harm caused by the illnesses, in this case, is incredible. Awards should match the incredible suffering of the victims. The confusion comes from different definitions of “a lot.” I expect many cases to be several hundred thousand dollars and some to exceed a million dollars. Our firm is committed to providing personalized legal representation to every client. We work tirelessly to ensure that your clients secure full and fair compensation for economic damages and pain and suffering.
Camp Lejeune Water Contamination Claim Forms
Applying for Camp Lejeune water contamination benefits is a paperwork-intensive process. There are a number of different forms that may be necessary as part of your claim. Here is an overview of some of the notable Camp Lejeune water contamination claim forms:
- Administrative Claim Form (CLJA Claim Form); The Department of the Navy Claim form is the first formal step in the process. The form includes the victim, or claimant, contact info, date of exposure, housing location, and illness. This form provides the government notice of the claim. The administrative claim form is one of the most important documents in the case. The information in the claim form must be filled out properly. If the form is not filled out properly then the entire case could be thrown out. It would not be advisable to try to fill out the form without a lawyer. One of the most important portions of the administrative form is section 12b, the damages section. This is where a claimant gives the maximum amount of their damages. Whatever is on the claim form will bind the claimant.
- Military Records (Standard Form 180 (SF-180)): As part of the claims process, you or your loved one will need to prove presence on Camp Lejeune for at least 30 days between 1953 and 1987. Military records are one of the most straightforward ways to meet this burden.
- Medical Records (VA Form 10-5345): To bring a claim, you will need medical records. The relevant records may be held by the VA or by another medical provider. If the VA has your medical records, you can request the release of that information with VA Form 10-5345.
Frequently Asked Questions
Contact Our Camp Lejeune Water Contamination Attorney for Help Filing a Claim Now
At King Law, our Camp Lejeune water contamination lawsuit attorneys are skilled, justice-focused advocates for our clients. If you have any questions about your eligibility for benefits, the evidence you need to support your claim, or the Camp Lejeune Justice Claims Justice Act more generally, we are here to help. Give us a call now or contact us onlineto set up a free, fully confidential initial consultation. We are accepting Camp Lejeune water contamination cases nationwide.
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