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Exposure to Toxic Substances

Exposure to Toxic Substances

Exposure to toxic substances can happen in any industrial working environment. Workers often work with toxic chemicals and if they are not provided with suitable work wear to protect them from exposure to the toxins, they can suffer short term injuries such as chemical burns, but also long-term life-threatening diseases. It is the employer’s responsibility to ensure that workers have adequate safety gear and that the working area is sufficiently ventilated and that there is an evacuation plan in place to ensure that their employees do not suffer from exposure to toxic substances.

What are the most common toxic substances that people are exposed to

The top three toxic substances that cause injury in work environments due to faulty machinery are ammonia, carbon monoxide, and sulfuric acid. Human intervention has also resulted in serious injuries due to chlorine and hydrochloric acid spills. Of these, chlorine and carbon monoxide exposure are more common in the general public while ammonia, sulfuric acid and hydrochloric acid exposure most commonly occur in a work environment.

What are the most common symptoms of toxic substance exposure

The most common side effects of carbon monoxide poisoning are headaches, dizziness, weakness, nausea, vomiting, chest pain, and confusion. High levels of carbon monoxide inhalation can cause loss of consciousness and death. Exposure to high levels of ammonia can cause irritation and serious burns on the skin and in the mouth, throat, lungs, and eyes. At low levels of exposure to chlorine, nose, eye, and throat irritation can occur. Immediate chest pain, coughing, changes in breathing rate, and vomiting might occur and lung damage can occur at higher levels of exposure. Very high levels of exposure to chlorine can result in death. Hydrochloric acid is corrosive to human tissue; upon exposure it can harm respiratory organs, eyes, skin, and intestines irreversibly. Sulfuric acid is highly corrosive. Exposure to sulfuric acid at a high concentration can cause very serious damage (e.g., chemical and thermal burns). Sulfuric acid burns the cornea and can lead to permanent blindness if splashed onto eyes.

Claiming compensation for exposure to toxic substances can be tricky

What happens if there is an accident and you do get exposed to a toxic substance that results in an injury or an illness? Claiming compensation for exposure to harmful toxins is a tricky business. The most difficult aspect to prove is that your illness was actually a direct effect of being exposed to the toxin. This is difficult since illnesses sometimes manifest a long time after you have been exposed to the toxin. In the cases of asbestos poisoning, it is easier, since asbestos can directly be linked to the development of mesothelioma. In most other cases it is more difficult to prove direct causation.

Where to file your complaint

If you’ve been exposed to a toxic substance at work, the best is to file a complaint via workers compensation. However, an employer may be reluctant to compensate claims if the symptoms manifested years after the incident. In this case you may want to involve a personal injury lawyer to take over your case.

If you have been exposed to a toxic substance in another location, let’s say toxic mold in your apartment, you may file a civil case against your landlord, or whoever had a legal duty to ensure that you live in a safe environment. In this case, you would file a civil lawsuit using a personal injury lawyer to make your case.

When to file your complaint

In New York, you have three years to file a personal injury complaint from the time that the injury has occurred. However, in the case of toxic substances, symptoms sometimes only show up years after the actual exposure. In this case, the three-year clock starts ticking after you’ve first noticed the symptoms. It is imperative to get a lawyer’s advice as soon as you start noticing symptoms that may be related to exposure to toxic substances. Of course, the first priority is to get medical attention. At this point it is a good idea to refer back notes regarding the medical treatments for the initial injury if there were any.

What you need to prove

In order to successfully claim compensation for damages suffered due to exposure to toxic substances, you have to prove that:

  • The party owed you a legal duty to protect you from harmful substances. This means that they should have been aware of the fact that you may be exposed to toxic substances on their premises and that they should have had all the necessary measures in place to avoid exposure to toxic substances.
  • The party breached that legal duty: This means that they must have neglected the measures that were supposed to be in place. For example, the ventilators in a room may not have been working properly or the protective gear that has been provided was faulty.
  • That the breach of duty caused you harm. To prove this, you must have evidence that it was, to use the above examples, the broken ventilator or defective protective gear that caused the exposure to toxic substances. It also means that the harm that you suffered was in fact due to the exposure to the toxic substance.
  • That you really suffered harm and to what extent. Not everyone who is exposed to toxic substances is actually negatively affected. If the exposure period was very brief, you may have only suffered superficial damage. This is not enough to substantiate a personal injury case. You’ll have to prove that you suffered real damage through the negligent actions of the party involved.

Linden Law specializes in personal injury cases and takes cases involving exposure to toxic substances very seriously. Our expert lawyers will be able to guide you through the legal process, even if you’ve only noticed the symptoms years after the event. We will be by your side all the way and will do our utmost to get you all the compensation that is due to you.

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Linden Rozenberg
Personal Injury Lawyer New York

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Since construction accidents happen so often, the New York State laws allow for additional protection to construction workers who get injured on site, making it easier to claim for compensation for injuries sustained on a construction site. New York State's industrial Code and the Federal OSHA regulations force.