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When is harm caused by toxic exposure legally actionable?

On Behalf of | Jul 2, 2024 | Personal Injury Law

It is a widely-known fact that cancer is the number two cause of death in the United States, second only to heart disease. What is less broadly understood is exactly what causes cancer. Certainly, most people know that smoking causes lung cancer and that many kinds of cancer are genetic. But what about all other kinds of cancer?

One of the primary causes of cancer in the U.S. is exposure to toxic substances, such as chemicals, pollutants or hazardous materials that can cause significant health issues. Headlines like a recent University of California piece entitled “Millions of California women are exposed to cancer-causing chemicals at work,” have become commonplace. Yet, although such exposure is unquestionably harmful, it isn’t always legally actionable. 

Determining when harm caused by toxic exposure is legally actionable involves evaluation of several key concerns, including the source of the exposure, the nature of the harm and whether the law allows those that contributed to the exposure at issue to be held liable for their conduct. 

The basics

For a toxic exposure claim to be legally actionable, the source of the exposure must typically be traced back to a specific entity, such as a company, manufacturer or property owner, who can be held responsible for releasing the toxic substance into the environment.

One of the most challenging aspects of a toxic exposure case is proving causation—showing that the exposure directly caused the harm or illness of the plaintiff who is filing a legal claim. To succeed in a toxic exposure lawsuit, it must be shown that the responsible party was negligent or strictly liable for the harm caused. 

Finally, for a toxic exposure claim to be actionable, the harm suffered must be identifiable and quantifiable. This includes physical injuries, illnesses or conditions such as respiratory issues, cancers, neurological disorders and other health problems directly linked to the exposure. 

Every toxic exposure case is unique. Those who have questions about whether their unique circumstances may be legally actionable can potentially benefit from seeking experienced legal guidance.