PCBs, or polychlorinated biphenyls, are a group of industrial chemicals used in a variety of consumer products, including consumer electronics, paints, plastics, rubbers and dyes. Commercial brand names for PCB mixtures include Aroclor and Pyranol. PCBs were banned by Congress in 1976, but because they do not break down naturally, they can persist in the environment for centuries. When PCBs are concentrated in water, humans risk exposure from drinking water and eating fish, meat and dairy products. Potential exposure risks in the home include use of florescent lights and electronic capacitors made before 1977. PCBs are classified by the EPA as a probable carcinogen in humans; other health effects of PCB exposure include skin rashes, immune deficiency, impaired neurological development and birth defects.
Filing Your PCBs Law Suit – Frequently Asked Questions
If you have experienced the health effects of PCBs from occupational exposure, you may be eligible for benefits and compensation. Once you have found competent medical care for your PCB-related illness, such as burning eyes and skin, lesions, cancer, or reproductive or developmental effects, you should consider filing a PCB law suit with an experienced attorney. But what does PCB litigation entail? This article will answer some frequently asked questions about filing your PCB law suit.
What does “occupational exposure” mean?
“Occupational exposure” means that you were exposed to the agent that caused your PCB-related illness – usually toxic PCBs in the indoor air supply of your job, at hazardous waste sites or during work with PCB transformers and old electrical or flourescent devices – in the usual course of business. If you worked with PCBs and then contracted an illness, you experienced occupational exposure.
What does a PCB law suit entail?
Litigation is a long and often confusing process. When you contact a lawyer about a potential PCB claim, you will typically present your medical records and diagnosis for his assessment before he can tell you if you have a chance in court. If the lawyer determines that your case is sound and will probably recover some monetary compensation and damages, he will take on your case, usually with a retainer or fee agreement. The lawyer will then file a complaint and summons suing the appropriate parties for the exposure leading up to PCB.
The court will set a series of dates for discovery and trial and, if the case does not settle, both parties will begin to work towards building a case. Since PCB causes a range of diseases, an Independent Medical Examiner (IME) will probably be involved in your case. An IME conducts an unbiased medical investigation into your PCB-related illness(es) and examines your medical records. The other side will probably request your medical records, as well, in order to determine if you had a pre-existing condition or other medical problems that may relieve them of responsibility for your occupational PCB exposure. Be prepared to sign waivers releasing this medical information to the requesting parties. Your attorney will advise you which documents to sign and which releases to give. During the discovery process, your attorney may also consult with medical and other experts, who perform a variety of services such as document review and reports, medical examinations and detailed expert testimony on issues related to PCB exposure, related diseases and employment.
If your case goes to trial, expect your lawyer to consult with other experts such as trial preparation specialists, who conduct mock trials and coordinate convincing exhibits, multimedia experts who can help present the evidence at trial in the most convincing manner, and witnesses who can bolster your own testimony in your PCB trial. In an effort to avoid the cost and expense of a lengthy jury trial, many states require a mandatory settlement conference (MSC) or arbitration at which both parties sit down for a last-ditch attempt to resolve your complaints. This may or may not result in a monetary settlement. If a jury finds in your favor, you may be eligible for damages above and beyond just your medical treatment; pain and suffering, loss of employment, and other damages may apply.
Do Patients Win PCB Law Suits?
It may seem like a daunting process, but patients do effectively fight and win against employers who have caused them to be exposed to PCBs and their devastating health effects. Often, employers knew of the health dangers of PCBs, but did not warn their workers or enable them to work in safe conditions. This negligence, both willful and accidental, means that employers bear some responsibility for the health damages of PCB exposure incurred during occupational work. Patients can and do win PCB law suits, and many multi-million dollar payouts have been recorded for the victims of PCB and their families. If you have health effects as a result of occupational exposure to PCBs, it is vital to contact an experienced and competent PCB lawyer in order to recover your rightful compensation.
What Are Polychlorinated Biphenyls (PCBs)?
Polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) are mixtures of up to 209 individual chlorinated compounds (known as congeners). There are no known natural sources of PCBs since PCBs are no longer produced in the United States but are still found in the environment. PCBs are either oily liquids or solids that are colorless to light. Some PCBs can exist as a vapor in air. PCBs have no known smell or taste. Many commercial PCB mixtures are known in the U.S. by the trade name Aroclor. PCBs have been used as coolants and lubricants in transformers, capacitors, and other electrical equipment because they don’t burn easily and are good insulators. The manufacture of PCBs was stopped in the U.S. in 1977 because of evidence that PCBs build up in the environment and could cause harmful health effects. Products made before 1977 that may contain PCBs include old fluorescent lighting fixtures and electrical devices containing PCB capacitors.
What happens to PCBs when they enter the environment?
PCBs entered air, water, and soil during their manufacture, use, and disposal; from accidental spills and leaks during their transport; and from leaks or fires in products containing PCBs. PCBs can still be released to the environment from hazardous waste sites; illegal or improper disposal of industrial wastes and consumer products; leaks from old electrical transformers containing PCBs; and burning of some wastes in incinerators. PCBs do not readily break down in the environment and thus may remain there for very long periods of time. PCBs can travel long distances in the air and be deposited in areas far away from where they were released. In water, a small amount of PCBs may remain dissolved, but most stick to organic particles and bottom sediments. PCBs also bind strongly to soil. PCBs are taken up by small organisms and fish. They are also taken up by other animals that eat these aquatic animals as food. PCBs accumulate in fish and marine mammals, reaching levels that may be many thousands of times higher than in water.
How might I be exposed to PCBs?
Exposure to PCBs may occur if old fluorescent lighting fixtures and electrical devices and appliances, such as television sets and refrigerators, that were made 30 or more years ago, are used. These fixtures, devices, and appliances may leak small amounts of PCBs into the air when they get hot during operation and also could be a source of skin exposure. People can be exposed to PCBs by eating contaminated food. The main dietary sources of PCBs are fish (especially sport fish caught in contaminated lakes or rivers), meat, and dairy products. Breathing air near hazardous waste sites and drinking contaminated well water may also expose someone to PCBs. Employees may be exposed to PCBs. In the workplace during repair and maintenance of PCB transformers; accidents, fires or spills involving transformers, fluorescent lights, and other old electrical devices; and disposal of PCB materials.