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New York Changes Time Period for Bringing Superfund-Related Claims

If you suffer from a health problem such as cancer due to exposure to hazardous materials at a superfund site, you may have the right to file a personal injury claim against the party that is responsible for this exposure.

A superfund site is a site designated by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) as a site needing further investigation for environmental remediation. These sites are classified as such because they contain hazardous substances. Often, these sites are located where manufacturing, chemical refining and energy plants once operated.

Currently, New York State has 87 superfund sites, according to the New York Department of Environmental Conservation.

In many cases, human beings exposed to the substances found on superfund sites suffer from serious and potentially fatal health problems. It is important for these victims to explore their legal rights and options.

However, personal injury claims are limited by what is called the “statute of limitations.” This is the length of time following an accident in which a victim is allowed to file a personal injury lawsuit.

With an accident like a car collision, it is easy to know when an injury occurred. However, with illnesses caused by toxic material exposure, it can be years before a victim may realize that he or she is suffering.

The delay between exposure to hazardous materials and diagnosis of a related disease may make it difficult or impossible for a victim of toxic exposure to seek the compensation that he or she needs.

To address this issue, Governor Andrew M. Cuomo recently signed a bill into law that alters the statute of limitations for toxic exposure victims seeking personal injury compensation.

Previously, under NY CPLR § 214-C, those seeking damages for an illness caused by “the latent effects of exposure to any substance or combination of substances” had to file a lawsuit within three years from the date they discovered the illness or from the date when “through the exercise of reasonable diligence such injury should have been discovered,” whichever came earlier.

Under the new law, victims have three years following the designation of a new superfund site to file a personal injury claim – even if the victim had known about an illness for years.

This change in the statute of limitations should encourage individuals living near superfund sites to seek legal advice about their rights and options if they or their family members have suffered illness due to exposure to toxic materials.

What Should You Do If You Become Ill After Exposure to Toxic Materials?

If you believe your illness is due to exposure to toxic substances in the area around your home or workplace, seek confirmation from your doctor.  Your doctor’s diagnosis is one of the pieces of evidence you can use when seeking just compensation for the harm you have suffered.

Additionally, it will be important to gather evidence showing that toxic substances were present in your home or work environment. A site’s superfund designation or the data from an investigation by the New York Department of Environmental Conservation may serve as such evidence.

You should also work with a personal injury lawyer who has experience with toxic substance claims, or “toxic torts,” in order to determine the other pieces of evidence you can use to support your claim.

To learn more, please contact Powers & Santola, LLP, and schedule a free initial consultation with us about your case.

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