The process to file a Camp Lejeune Water Contamination claim is unique from any other mass tort litigation: it is part administrative and part judicial, requiring a keen oversight from lawyers handling cases for victims.
In this blog, we discuss the administrative portion of the filing process and the use of the Camp Lejeune Claim Form.
The Administrative Process and CLJA Claim Form
The administrative process for Camp Lejeune Water Contamination claims begins with the filing of a Camp Lejeune Justice Act (CLJA) Claim Form. A claim must be filed within two years from the date the PACT Act was signed: August 10, 2022.
The administrative process is handled by the Navy, particularly the Office of the Judge Advocate General (JAG) of the Navy’s Tort Claims Unit (TCU). While the Navy provides an address to send the CLJA Claim Form, it is highly recommended that qualified individuals utilize the online option, and email the JAG a .csv file of the relevant information, as detailed below.
After filing the CLJA Claim Form, the qualified individual (if filing pro se) or the authorized agent of the qualified individual (likely a Camp Lejeune lawyer) will receive an email acknowledging receipt of the claim or an email noting why the claim was not valid. Shortly after perfecting the claim, the TCU will provide a claim number for future reference.
It is currently unknown whether the TCU will attempt to adjudicate any claims at the administrative level. The TCU has 6 months from the date of filing to adjudicate or deny the claim. If the TCU denies the claim, a Camp Lejeune lawyer will likely file suit in the Eastern District of North Carolina.
The Camp Lejeune Justice Act (CLJA) Claim Form
While most civil lawsuits require the plaintiff to prove their claim by a preponderance of evidence, the Camp Lejeune Justice Act (CLJA) was written to give the victims of contamination the benefit of the doubt.
Instead, the Camp Lejeune statute adopts an “equipoise” standard. Equipoise requires only that the plaintiff prove that contamination is as likely as any other reason for the plaintiffś diagnosis.
In keeping with the Equipoise requirement, the CLJA claim form asks for basic information about the dates the service member and-or civilian was stationed or working at Camp Lejeune. In addition, the claim form must include the signature of an authorized agent who can vouch for the information provided on the form (unless the plaintiff is filing pro se). This claim also requires that the plaintiff include a specific monetary demand amount.
There are many pitfalls that could hurt a plaintiff’s claim for compensation if they do not hire an experienced lawyer to assist with the filing of the claim form and the complaint as needed. Furthermore, gathering information from social media, friends or family members rather than hiring a lawyer to assist you could ruin the protection of attorney-client privilege.
One of the biggest issues is how much to demand on the CLJA form. It is important that claimants discuss this issue with an expert, as the Navy will treat this number as a “cap” on any future compensation, and will not provide any compensation over the requested amount.
For victims of Camp Lejeune Water Contamination, it is highly recommended that you seek legal representation to help with the filing of your claim form so that it is completed correctly and maximum compensation is sought for your injuries and damages.
If a Claim is Denied, What are the Next Steps?
If a client’s claim is denied in the administrative portion of the claims process, the plaintiff has a right to file a claim with the United States District Court for the Eastern District of North Carolina.
The original Camp Lejeune Claim form and the documents that prove diagnosis and military record are likely to be sufficient in proving general causation. But, to recover damages in a personal injury lawsuit, the plaintiff still must prove that it is just as likely that the contamination at Camp Lejeune caused this specific injury. This is called specific causation.
We don’t yet have guidance from the court regarding how specific causation will be proven. It is likely that each diagnosis will have its own list of questions that will be used to determine the strength of association with the contamination. For example, it is likely that individuals diagnosed with lung disease, which is a presumptive disease, will be treated differently based on whether they were a “smoker”.
Camp Lejuene lawyers will hire medical experts to determine which clients meet the standard of equipose to prove specific causation.
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As more information comes out about filing Camp Lejeune water contamination claims and the administrative and judicial processes that control them, we will know more about how victims can be compensated for their injuries, average settlement amounts for certain injuries, and any hurdles law firms may encounter in filing claims on behalf of their clients.
As mentioned above, this process is totally unique to the Camp Lejeune Water Contamination Litigation and we will discover more every day on how to properly handle these cases.
If you suffered adverse health issues after being exposed to contaminated water while living at Camp Lejeune in North Carolina, TruLaw can help. Visit our Camp Lejeune Contaminated Water Lawsuit page and get an instant case assessment.