Toxic tort cases arise from injuries cases that result from the exposure of a person or property to a hazardous substance or chemical. As a result of the exposure,
- A person may suffer physical injury, psychological trauma, and require medical treatment and monitoring.
- Property may need to be cleaned, may be destroyed, and may be reduced in value.
It may be difficult to prove that the exposure to a small amount of a hazardous substance has caused an injury, or has caused the injury an injured person attributes to the exposure, but that difficulty does not necessarily preclude the recovery of damages.
A person who is exposed to hazardous substances may suffer a physical injury as a result. It is also possible to suffer psychological trauma following exposure.
Where exposure to a hazardous substance causes a person to suffer a physical injury, the injured person may claim damages that include:
Medical Care: A person exposed to a hazardous substance may claim the cost of medical care and treatment necessitated by the exposure;
Pain and Suffering: Where a physical injury occurs, the person may claim compensation for the pain and discomfort associated with treatment and from any disability that results from the exposure; and
Economic Losses: Any financial loss suffered as a result of the exposure, potentially including lost wages and out-of-pocket expenses.
Some toxic substances have a very long latency period, meaning that a person might not develop symptoms from the exposure until many years have passed.
Thus, depending on the facts of the exposure and the laws of the jurisdiction in which the claim is made, in addition to compensation for known physical injuries a person exposed to hazardous substances may be able to claim compensation for:
Psychological Injury: Mental distress resulting from the exposure and fear of its consequences;
Medical Testing: Periodic medical testing administered to ensure that an exposure-related disease has not developed; and
Increased Risk of Disease: Where exposure increases the risk of the development of disease, it may be possible to receive compensation for that increased risk even if the disease has not yet developed or where it would not be possible to conclude that the disease, should it develop, was caused by the exposure.
When property is damaged through exposure to hazardous substances, damages may involve:
Remediation and Clean-Up: The cost of removing the hazardous substance (to the extent possible) such that the property may be safely used;
Diminution of Value: Compensation for any reduction in market value that results from the exposure; and
Replacement Value: When remediation is not possible, the reasonable market value of the property.
Toxic tort cases are often pursued as class action torts, or as mass actions in which multiple cases are combined into a single proceeding. Due to their complexity and the cost of litigation, most people seeking recovery for an injury from chemical exposure will benefit from representation by a qualified personal injury lawyer.