Toxic torts are a special element of personal injury law that involves injuries caused by exposure to toxic substances. While some personal injury cases involving things like car accidents are fairly straightforward, toxic tort cases can be some of the most complex civil claims and require skilled representation by a Nassau County personal injury attorney. It is essential to understand what a toxic tort is and how a typical lawsuit for a toxic tort will progress.
It is also vital to know how the statute of limitations for such a case works because most toxic torts involve long-term exposure or indefinite exposure times. The victim of a toxic tort may not be able to notice the damage from toxic exposure until several months or even years after the exposure occurred.
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Types of Toxic Torts
Toxic tort lawsuits may arise from many possible situations and involve different types of defendants. Any party who exposes others to toxic chemicals or substances may bear liability in a toxic tort lawsuit. Some examples of possible defendants in a toxic tort lawsuit include:
- Companies that illegally dump waste and chemicals and contaminate groundwater or release dangerous toxins and gases into the air, causing air pollution.
- Employers who negligently allow toxic hazards to persist on a worksite or fail to provide adequate safety equipment to workers. Construction workers, utility workers, and other employees who encounter toxic hazards while working need appropriate safety equipment to perform their work.
- A building owner who knew of asbestos in a building but failed to appropriately address it in a timely fashion.
- A landlord who painted over or hid toxic mold growth in a rental home or apartment. Landlords and other property owners may also face liability for lead paint exposure.
- Manufacturers of defective medications that cause toxic shock or drugs that contain toxic substances.
If you or your loved ones suffer medical issues from toxic exposure, the next step in recovery is determining the responsible party. For example, if you and your family live near a sewage treatment facility and start noticing foul odors in your home, this could be a sign that the sewage facility managers are not performing their jobs correctly. Over a few months, you start developing serious headaches and other symptoms that indicate a medical issue requiring long-term treatment. It would be reasonable to assume the sewage treatment plant would bear some liability for this toxic tort.
Taking Legal Action for a Toxic Tort
After sustaining injuries or illness from a toxic tort, it is crucial to determine the statute of limitations that will apply in your future lawsuit. Most states allow two years for personal injury claims, starting on the date an injury occurs. However, most states will “toll” or delay the statute of limitations if the plaintiff is not reasonably able to discover his or her damages immediately.
The “date of discovery” refers to the date a plaintiff noticed the harm caused by a defendant or the date the plaintiff should have reasonably learned of the harm with normal diligence. For example, a homeowner develops cancer due to harmful substances released into the environment by a company nearby. The homeowner does not notice adverse symptoms for several months and then receives a cancer diagnosis. In this case, the statute of limitations would likely begin on the date symptoms appeared since that is when the victim “discovered” the harm, not the date of the diagnosis.
Succeeding with a toxic tort lawsuit depends on the plaintiff’s ability to prove the defendant owed a duty of care, breached that duty, and directly caused the plaintiff’s damages. Toxic exposure can lead to serious medical issues, long-term sickness, extensive recovery time, and even permanent disability. A toxic tort lawsuit can help a victim of negligent toxic exposure recover significant compensation for these and other damages such as lost income and pain and suffering.