Take Action To Collect Evidence For Your PFAS Case
As a homeowner, your property and water supply are among your most valuable assets. However, if you've discovered your water has been contaminated by PFAS chemicals, the value and safety of your home may now be in jeopardy. PFAS chemicals like PFOS and PFOA are widespread pollutants used in products like nonstick cookware, stain-resistant fabrics, and firefighting foams. Due to their prevalence and links to health issues, many are now banned—but the damage has already been done. If high levels of these "forever chemicals" have been found in your drinking water or on your property, you may be able to take legal action against the companies responsible to recover costs. A PFAS class action lawyer can help you take the first step towards recovery. Here is what you need to know about building a case to sue for PFAS contamination.
What Are PFAS Chemicals and How Do They Contaminate Water?
PFAS chemicals are a group of man-made compounds known as per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances that have been used in consumer and industrial products since the 1940s. PFAS have contaminated water supplies through production, use, and disposal of PFAS-containing materials.
To determine if your water supply has been contaminated with PFAS, you should first have your water tested by an accredited laboratory. If the results show PFAS levels above the EPA's health advisory limit of 70 parts per trillion, you may have grounds for legal action against the parties responsible for the contamination.
You will need to identify the potentially responsible parties (PRPs), such as chemical manufacturers, industrial facilities, airfields, or landfills that used or produced PFAS chemicals in proximity to your water supply. Gather records of their use and disposal of PFAS materials to build your case.
Retain a lawyer to file a lawsuit against the PRPs to recover the costs of medical monitoring, alternative water supplies, property value losses, and other damages. Your complaint should allege negligence, nuisance, and strict liability causes of action related to the contamination of your drinking water supply with hazardous PFAS chemicals.
During legal proceedings, your lawyer will need to prove a causal connection between the PRPs’ actions and the PFAS contamination of your water. Expert witnesses such as environmental scientists and toxicologists can testify to establish this causal link and the health risks posed by exposure. Settlements in other PFAS contamination cases can also be used to support your damage claims.
With perseverance and a strong case, you can hold polluters accountable for PFAS contamination and gain compensation for the impacts to you and your community. Staying informed about your legal rights and options regarding PFAS pollution and water contamination is key to achieving environmental justice.
Finding Out if Your Water Is Contaminated With PFAS
To determine if your drinking water has been contaminated with PFAS, you will need to get it tested. Many private laboratories offer testing for various PFAS compounds. However, the EPA has established health advisory levels only for two specific types: PFOA and PFOS. At a minimum, you should test for these two compounds.
Collect water samples from any tap where you drink the water, like the kitchen sink. Follow the instructions from the lab carefully for proper sampling. Usually, this involves running the water for a few minutes, sterilizing the sample bottle, and then collecting at least a quart of water. Be sure to note the date and time of collection as well as the specific tap the sample came from.
Once you receive the results from the lab, compare them to the EPA's current health advisory levels for PFOA (70 parts per trillion or ppt) and PFOS (70 ppt). If your results are at or above these levels, your water may present health risks, especially if exposed over many years. In this case, you should consider alternative water sources and may need to pursue legal action against parties responsible for the contamination.
You may also choose to test for other unregulated PFAS compounds, although health advisory levels have not yet been established. Some states have set their own limits for certain PFAS chemicals. Checking with your state environmental agency is advisable to determine if any PFAS have standards in place. Any detection of these potentially toxic chemicals at measurable levels could warrant concern, especially if you have been drinking the water for an extended time.
If testing confirms PFAS contamination in your drinking water, additional steps will need to be taken to limit exposure, hold polluters accountable, and ensure safe water for your community. Speaking to a lawyer regarding your legal rights and options is strongly recommended.
Build Your Case: Collecting Evidence of PFAS Exposure and Health Effects
To build a strong case for PFAS exposure and health issues, you will need to gather and document several types of evidence.
Obtain copies of medical records from your doctors, hospitals, and healthcare providers showing any symptoms or health conditions that could be linked to PFAS exposure. These may include issues like high cholesterol, thyroid disease, kidney cancer, testicular cancer, or ulcerative colitis. Review records going back as far as possible to determine when health issues first arose.
Have your blood tested for a panel of common PFAS compounds like PFOA and PFOS to determine your exposure levels. Elevated levels of these chemicals in your blood can help conclusively prove exposure. Work with an attorney to determine appropriate labs and tests. They can also help interpret results and determine if levels are high enough to warrant legal action.
Records of PFAS Use
Gather records showing the use of PFAS-containing products at locations where you lived, worked, or attended school. Things like firefighting foam, nonstick cookware, waterproof clothing, carpets, and food packaging may have exposed you. Check with local water treatment plants or private well testing to determine if drinking water was contaminated. The more evidence of exposure routes the stronger your case.
Statements from Family or Co-Workers
Written statements from people familiar with your situation can provide valuable anecdotal evidence to support your case. Ask family members, co-workers or anyone else with knowledge about your exposure, symptoms or medical issues to provide a written statement detailing what they observed. Their accounts, combined with other evidence, help paint a complete picture of how and when you were exposed to these toxic chemicals.
Building a compelling case through medical records, blood testing, exposure documentation and witness statements gives you the best chance of success in a lawsuit against PFAS polluters. An experienced attorney can help you gather all necessary evidence to prove both exposure and damages. Together you can work to hold companies accountable and recover costs for medical bills, pain and suffering, and other losses.
Understanding Your Legal Options: Lawsuits, Settlements and Class Actions
Understanding the legal options available to you is crucial when seeking compensation for PFAS contamination. The two primary paths are filing a lawsuit or joining an existing class action.
Filing a personal injury or property damage lawsuit against the parties responsible for the PFAS release allows you to seek damages for your unique situation. You would need to prove negligence, trespassing, nuisance, or other claims relating to the contamination of your property. Lawsuits can be time-consuming and expensive, but may result in higher compensation than other options. You should consult with a lawyer to determine if you have grounds for a viable lawsuit.
Class Action Settlements
Class action lawsuits combine many individual claims against the same defendants into one suit. If a settlement is reached, class members can receive compensation without having to file their own lawsuit. However, settlement amounts are typically lower than what may be awarded in an individual lawsuit. You will need to meet certain criteria to qualify as a class member, such as living in a designated area of contamination during a specific time period. Class actions also do not allow you to have as much control or input over the proceedings as an individual lawsuit.
In summary, while class action settlements may provide an easier path to compensation, individual lawsuits maximize your ability to seek damages tailored to your own situation. The optimal approach depends on factors like the severity of your damages, your location relative to the contamination site, and your ability to afford legal counsel to represent you should you file a lawsuit. Discussing your options with a lawyer experienced in PFAS cases can help determine the best strategy based on your unique circumstances.
FAQ: Common Questions About PFAS Lawsuits
Many property owners have questions about the legal process of filing a lawsuit over PFAS contamination. Here are some of the most frequently asked questions and their answers:
How do I know if I have a case?
If your property has been contaminated by PFAS chemicals released from a manufacturer, processor, or other responsible party, you may have grounds for a lawsuit. High levels of PFAS in drinking water, soil, or other resources on your land can negatively impact property values and human health. Consult with an attorney who specializes in environmental law to determine if you have a viable claim.
What are the steps to filing a lawsuit?
The key steps to filing a PFAS contamination lawsuit include:
- Conduct testing to confirm high levels of PFAS on your property and determine the source.
- Gather evidence that links the contamination to a particular party or parties. This may include public records, reports, permits, etc.
- Consult with an environmental attorney to evaluate your case. They can advise you on the merits of your claim and likelihood of success in court.
- File a complaint in the proper court against the responsible parties. This details your allegations and the damages you have incurred.
- Proceed through the litigation process which may include motions, discovery, depositions, settlement conferences, and ultimately trial.
- If successful, you may be awarded financial compensation for damages like medical bills, lost property value, and pain and suffering.
How long do PFAS lawsuits take?
PFAS contamination lawsuits can take several years to resolve depending on the complexity of the case and number of parties involved. The discovery and litigation process itself often lasts 2 to 5 years for these types of environmental claims. Some cases are settled out of court, while others proceed to trial which can add additional time. In many instances, class action PFAS lawsuits or multidistrict litigation may be formed to consolidate cases, which can also lengthen the overall time frame.
Contact Fletcher Law For Help With Your PFAS Claim
If you believe your property or health has been harmed by PFAS contamination, you may be entitled to compensation. To file a claim and pursue legal action, here are the steps to take:
Consult With a PFAS Litigation Attorney
The first step is to consult with an attorney who specializes in PFAS and environmental litigation. They can review the details of your specific situation, determine if you have grounds for a claim, and advise you on the best way to proceed. Look for attorneys with experience representing clients in PFAS exposure and pollution cases. Initial consultations are often free or low-cost.
Gather Evidence of PFAS Exposure and Damages
Work with your attorney to compile evidence that PFAS chemicals were released or spilled on or near your property and that you or your land were exposed or harmed as a result. This may include water testing results, medical records, property records, and statements from witnesses. The more evidence you can provide, the stronger your case will be.
Determine the Potentially Responsible Parties
In many cases, large companies that manufactured or used PFAS chemicals are liable for the resulting pollution and damages. Your attorney will investigate to determine which entities may be responsible for the contamination that impacted you. They can then file legal claims against these parties on your behalf to pursue compensation.
File a Lawsuit or Negotiate a Settlement
Based on the details of your situation, your attorney may recommend filing a personal injury lawsuit, property damage lawsuit, class action lawsuit, or other litigation against the responsible parties. They can also attempt to negotiate an out-of-court settlement to obtain compensation for you. Lawsuits and settlements for PFAS exposure and pollution are still emerging, so outcomes can vary.
The key to success in a PFAS contamination claim is working with an experienced attorney. At Fletcher Law, our environmental litigation team has been representing clients in PFAS exposure cases for over a decade. Contact us today for a free consultation and to learn more about your legal options for obtaining compensation and justice.