Many people have been exposed to benzene and are worried about developing a benzene-related disease, including leukemia, lymphoma, anemia and myeloma. These are serious and often fatal conditions. There are other people who have confirmed they have an illness related to benzene exposure but are not sure what their legal rights are. This page has more information about how to file a benzene lawyer lawsuit as well as other related medical and legal information you may need.
What Is Benzene?
Benzene is a colorless liquid chemical with a rather sweet odor that evaporates fast when it is exposed to the air. Benzene is one of the most commonly used chemicals in the US, with more than 14.5 billion pounds of the substance being produced every year. The federal government banned the use of the chemical in pure form as a solvent more than two decades ago.
It is still used however to produce solvents, degreasers, mineral spirits, rubber products, plastics, glues, dyes, resins, pesticides and various detergents. It also occurs in petroleum products and cigarette smoke.
Benzene is recognized by the EPA as a human carcinogen. The EPA regulates the level of benzene in our environment and drinking water. Also, OSHA regulates the amount of benzene that workers can be exposed to on the job.People can be exposed to benzene by breather the vapors, through contact with the skin, as well as ingestion. When workers are wearing pieces of clothing that are tainted with benzene, they are putting their family at risk for exposure.
Some workers have a higher risk of dangerous exposure to benzene, including:
- Steel workers
- Floor layers
- Carpet cleaners
- Lab techs
- Workers in petroleum refining and extraction
- Workers in the printing industry
Filing a Benzene Claim
Lawsuits related to benzene exposure are filed in state court. Each state has its own laws for claims that must be filed within a certain time period of the diagnosis. The statute of limitations is usually one to three years. The time that is required to review the claim to examine the extent and nature of exposure to benzene and the different companies that may have been responsible, starting the legal process should never wait until the time limit has nearly run out. As soon as you are made aware of a medical condition related to benzene exposure, you should talk to a benzene lawyer.
How to Investigate and Prove Benzene Exposure
In most states, the employer of the plaintiff is not named as a defendant; this is because workers compensation laws shield the employer from liability from most lawsuits that are brought by their workers. That is why investigation by your benzene attorney is needed to determine the entities responsible for manufacturing, installing and/or maintaining products containing benzene to which you were allegedly exposed. In some cases, the exposure source will be easy to establish. But other cases are more difficult. They could require a major investigation to show sufficient links between companies that manufacture benzene and your work and history of exposure.
Your benzene attorney will investigate your personal and work history to determine potential sources of benzene exposure. Your attorney then will provide that history and your medical history to a physician expert in benzene exposure and related diseases. This medical expert will look at your case and determine in their professional opinion whether benzene exposure was a possible cause of your illness.
If it is confirmed that benzene exposure led to your disease or injury, you may be entitled under state and federal law to seek actual and punitive damages.
Types of Benzene Lawsuits
The most common type of benzene exposure occurs on the job. In these lawsuits, a worker or group of workers can allege that long term exposure at work caused cancer, anemia and other health conditions. The typical claims in these cases may involve:
- Product liability: A product that contains benzene is dangerous and the manufacturer did not provide enough warning or instructions for safe handling of the product.
- Unsafe working conditions: The employer failed to give safe working conditions by having employees work around toxic products and chemicals.
- Failed protective equipment: Safety equipment provided by your employer that is used to reduce or eliminate benzene exposure did not work as intended.
There are other types of benzene lawsuits that are brought by plaintiffs who were exposed in other ways. Some are brought by people who were exposed through a spill or leak of chemicals that contain benzene. For example, an underground storage tank with oil or gasoline leaked into the local water supply. Residents may claim that poisoned water or even benzene vapor in the air caused serious health issues.
Also, exposure to benzene can occur in soft drinks. This type of benzene lawsuit alleges that under certain heat and light situations, benzoate salts in the drink can combine with ascorbic acid to form an unsafe level of benzene, per consumer product safety guidelines. These lawsuits have led to several soft drink makers, including Coca Cola and PepsiCo, to redesign how some of their drinks are made.
Proceeding with the Benzene Lawsuit
When possible responsible parties are identified, medical conditions have been confirmed and experts consulted, your benzene lawyer will prepare a legal complaint and submit it to state court. The defendants typically have 30 days to form a response. After that, a hearing is held to talk about motions and to set up a schedule for litigation:
- The first major phase is called discovery. This is where each side of the benzene lawsuit is given a chance to collect evidence from sources that it can locate. This can include subpoenaing documents, filing of interrogatories and taking depositions and other legal statements.
- Settlement negotiations: In most cases, the state court will encourage each side to negotiate with one another to determine if a financial settlement can be arranged. This can avoid a lengthy and expensive trial, and can get the plaintiff the financial compensation they need faster to deal with medical bills and lost wages.
- Trial: If the case cannot be settled, it will be presented to a jury. The jury will listen to evidence and will provide their verdict. It may find one or more of the defendants liable and assess financial damages. Or, it may find insufficient evidence to establish the firm’s liability.
People who have been affected by benzene exposure should find an attorney who is a specialist in these types of hazardous chemical lawsuits. Remember, it is the responsibility of employers and manufacturers to ensure safety of workers and the public by taking extensive measures to reduce exposure to benzene. Failure to do this means the company or entity is negligent and is liable.
Our benzene lawyers are here to help you if you are one of the thousands of victims who are suffering with lymphoma or leukemia after being exposed to benzene. Our attorneys will work with you to evaluate your medical and legal situation to determine if you have a case. Please contact us now for a complimentary consultation.
- Benzene Laws. (n.d.). Retrieved from http://www.environmentallawyers.com/hazardous-chemicals/benzene-lawsuit-and-attorney-help.htm
- Dangerous Chemical: Benzene Risks and Lawsuit Information. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.avvo.com/legal-guides/ugc/dangerous-chemical-benzene