In the summer of 2022, veterans in Camp Lejeune and their family members received the long-awaited news they were expecting for years. The Camp Lejeune Justice Act, enforced in August, authorized veterans to seek reimbursement from the government for ailments after using the tainted water at the North Carolina military base.
It is a bipartisan initiative and a part of the Honoring Our PACT Act, which expanded care and benefits for those exposed to toxic substances. To date, over 65,000 people have filed their Camp Lejeune claims, but the U.S. Navy has yet to settle these cases.
Tennile Karnes, the Navy’s attorney, attributed the delays to staffing shortages and financial issues in an email to the claimants’ lawyer last month, providing a detailed picture of the problems. She mentioned that they are still building the case and cited several contributing factors hindering the Navy’s progress.
The water contamination began in the 1950s and persisted until the 1980s, indicating that most of the victims are elderly and may not have much time left. Lawyers emphasized the need for effective management of the claims and expressed concerns about the ongoing delays in the settlement process.
Camp Lejeune Fees Is Under the Scanner
In December 2022, a Bloomberg report stated that Republican lawmakers decided to restrict attorney fees for claims filed for toxic water exposure at Camp Lejeune, which can comprise hundreds of thousands of veterans and their families. This happened right after the signing of the Promise to Address Comprehensive Toxics Act, enabling veterans to get covered for the damages due to exposure to tainted water at the base.
Senator Dan Sullivan, the American attorney and politician, proposed a measure aiming to limit attorney fees to 10% or below of the payout, but it did not pass in the current Congress. Nonetheless, advocates plan to reintroduce the proposal once the new Congress gets formed.
According to the Department of Veterans Affairs, close to 1 million veterans got affected by the polluted water. Also, the Congressional Budget Office estimates the claims can cost the government as much as $6.1 billion for about 10 years.
Several law firms are proactively seeking and advertising for such claims. And the veterans have reported that these lawyers are charging a high percentage of the probable settlement.
But let this not discourage you if you are waiting to get compensated for getting affected by the Camp Lejeune polluted water. This is not the overall situation. Some scrupulous lawyers are working toward the welfare of the veterans and their family members so that they can recover the damages.
Filing a Legal Complaint and Navigating the Legal Path Correctly
According to the July 2023 update on the Camp Lejeune lawsuit, 1,067 cases are pending in the Eastern District of North Carolina. And that is much more than the overall number of civil cases filed in the district the entire year. The majority of the cases were filed by the veterans within the first 2 or 3 months of their eligibility deadline and the monthly average is close to 100.
The contaminated water of Camp Lejeune resulted in several health issues. Some of the presumptive conditions include bladder cancer, non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, adult leukemia, liver cancer, kidney cancer, Parkinson’s disease, and multiple myeloma. If you or anyone you know had suffered from any of these ailments because of the Camp Lejeune polluted water, they can file a legal complaint and get compensated for their loss.
However, the Camp Lejeune settlement amounts can vary between $10,000 and $5,00,000. It is case specific and depends on the degree of suffering for each individual and the strength of the legal case. It also depends on how the lawyer has used the medical records and evidence of the victims and presented it to the court to develop a strong case.
TorHoerman Law states that these settlement amounts are estimations which are based on the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) budget catering to the Camp Lejeune claims. No victim should take these estimates as a guaranteed compensation amount as that will only bring disappointment. The lawsuit settlements comprise the damages incurred, like lost wages, medical bills, emotional damages, and pain and suffering.
The unresolved cases have raised questions about the efficiency of the settlement process and the need for effective management to provide timely assistance to the affected veterans and their families. Moving forward, lawmakers and stakeholders must work together to find viable solutions that strike a balance between protecting veterans’ rights and ensuring fair legal representation.
One can hope that the upcoming Congress provides an opportunity to revisit the proposed measure to cap attorney fees, aiming to prevent unscrupulous practices while enabling veterans to access the help they rightfully deserve. Navigating through this challenging issue, it is essential to keep the well-being of the veterans at the forefront, recognizing the urgency of addressing their health concerns and providing them with the support they need to get justice.