How Much Is Your Camp Lejeune Lawsuit Worth?

The Camp Lejeune Justice Act allows people harmed by exposure to contaminated water to sue the U.S. government for money damages.

By , Attorney · UC Law San Francisco

Camp Lejeune (luh-jern) is a military base in North Carolina. For over 80 years, the base has been home to retired and active service members, civilian employees, and their families.

Camp Lejeune is also the site of one of the worst water contamination disasters in U.S. history. From the 1950s through at least 1987, as many as one million people may have drank and bathed in contaminated water at Camp Lejeune. Scientists have linked the chemicals found in the water at Lejeune with the development of cancer and other medical conditions.

On August 10, 2022, President Biden signed the Camp Lejeune Justice Act. The law gives veterans and others impacted by toxic water at Lejeune two years to sue the U.S. government for losses (called "damages") related to illnesses and injuries caused by the toxic water.

Who Is Eligible to File a Camp Lejeune Justice Act Claim?

You may file a Camp Lejeune Justice Act (CLJA) claim if you:

  • lived, worked, or were exposed to Camp Lejeune water (including in utero exposure) for at least 30 days between August 1, 1953, and December 31, 1987, and
  • suffered harm in connection with the exposure.

When calculating the 30-day requirement, consider the total number of days you spent at Camp Lejeune. The 30 days don't have to be consecutive.

(S.3373 - Promise to Address Comprehensive Toxics Act (PACT) of 2022,§ 804(b).)

How to File a Camp Lejeune Claim

Before you can file a Camp Lejeune lawsuit, you must first submit an administrative CLJA claim form to the Department of the Navy (DON). You'll need to provide your contact information, describe your connection to Camp Lejeune, describe your injury, and say how much money you want to settle your claim.

You should talk to a lawyer before you submit your administrative claim. A lawyer can help you figure out how much your claim is worth. Don't make the mistake of asking for less than the full value of your claim.

After you submit your CLJA claim, the DON has six months to respond. If your claim is accepted, you may negotiate a settlement with the government at this point. If your claim is denied or you don't get a response within six months, you have six months to file your lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of North Carolina.

According to the Reuters, as of January 2024, nearly 150,000 administrative CLJA claims and 1,500 CLJA lawsuits have been filed. To help deal with the backlog of claims and get Camp Lejeune victims compensation more quickly, the Department of Justice (DOJ) and DON developed a new voluntary process, called the "Elective Option."

The Elective Option for Camp Lejeune Claims

On September 6, 2023, the DOJ and DON announced a new framework for resolving CLJA claims. The Elective Option (EO) offers some Camp Lejeune victims a quicker, more streamlined pathway to payouts.

The EO approach is a tiered system of payments based on certain qualifying injuries (diagnosed or treated before August 10, 2022) and length of exposure. The EO authorizes another $100,000 payment for claims involving death. The minimum EO offer is $100,000 and the maximum is $550,000.

The Navy will evaluate all CLJA claims under the EO framework, including the tens of thousands of claims that have already been submitted.

If you receive an EO offer, you'll have 60 days to decide whether to accept or reject it. If you don't receive an EO offer or you reject the offer, you can still try to resolve your claim through the normal administrative claim process and file a CLJA lawsuit in federal court.

The Elective Option Grid

30 to 364 Days of exposure 1 year to 5 years of exposure More than 5 years of exposure

Tier 1 Qualifying Injury: Kidney Cancer, Liver Cancer, Non-Hodgkins Lymphoma, Leukemias, Bladder Cancer

$150,000 $300,000 $450,000

Tier 2 Qualifying Injury: Multiple Myeloma, Parkinson's Disease, Kidney Disease/End Stage Renal Disease, Systemic Sclerosis/Systemic Scleroderma

$100,000 $250,000 $400,000

Camp Lejeune Lawsuit Filing Deadlines

You have a limited time to file your Camp Lejeune water contamination lawsuit. Don't delay. The CLJA imposes a strict deadline (called a "statute of limitations") for Camp Lejeune victims (or their surviving relatives) to bring claims.

You will not be able to file a lawsuit after August 10, 2024 (two years after the CLJA went into effect), or six months after your administrative claim is denied, whichever is later.

If you have any questions about how the CLJA statute of limitations applies to your claim, talk to a lawyer as soon as possible.

(PACT of 2022, § 804(j).)

"Damages" in a Camp Lejeune Lawsuit

As with any injury-related claim, figuring out the value of your Camp Lejeune claim starts with an understanding of "damages," which is the legal term for losses suffered by the person suing (the "plaintiff").

In a Camp Lejeune lawsuit, damages will be paid by the federal government. Whether you settle your case with the Navy or you receive a verdict in your favor after trial, the money you receive is compensation for your damages.

The dollar amount of your contaminated water claim will depend on your individual experience and circumstances. But let's take a look at some common categories of damages to try to get a ballpark estimate of how much your claim might be worth.

Cost of Past and Future Medical Care

Plaintiffs who win or settle their cases will get compensation for all exposure-related medical care.

Veterans and their family members have been able to apply for and receive Camp Lejeune-related disability and health benefits since 2012. A CLJA settlement or court award may be offset by the amount of benefits already paid, but an EO settlement payment will not be.

If you have questions about how a CLJA claim might affect your benefits and health care, talk to a lawyer, preferably a VA-certified Veterans Disability Lawyer, or an accredited veterans service organization.

Lost Income and Diminished Earning Capacity

If your Camp Lejeune-related illness or injury prevents you from working you can ask for compensation for that financial harm in your damages claim.

Specifically, you're entitled to recover past and future lost income.

"Pain and Suffering" in a Toxic Water Case

It's fairly straightforward to add up your medical expenses and lost wages, but putting a dollar amount on the "pain and suffering" caused by a toxic water-related illness is more challenging.

Pain and suffering may include:

  • physical pain and discomfort resulting from your diagnosis and medical treatment for your condition
  • mental stress, worry, anxiety, grief, depression, fear, sleeplessness, and other psychological effects, and
  • loss of enjoyment of life (an inability to engage in certain activities because of your health problems caused by toxic water).

No Punitive Damages

Medical expenses, lost income, and pain and suffering are all categories of compensatory damages, meaning they are meant to compensate plaintiffs for their losses.

Punitive damages are different. Punitive damages are meant to punish the defendant (the federal government in Camp Lejeune cases) for misconduct. Punitive damages aren't available under the CLJA.

(PACT of 2022, § 804(g).)

No Cap on Damages

There is no damage cap on the amount you can recover for your injuries under North Carolina law, which controls CLJA claims.

Who Decides Damages?

In February 2024, a panel of judges ruled that Camp Lejeune trials will be heard and decided by federal judges instead of juries. The decision means that an individual judge, not a group of jurors, will decide how much compensation is necessary to cover a plaintiff's losses (economic damages) and intangible suffering (non-economic damages).

Is There an Average Camp Lejeune Water Contamination Payout Amount?

More than a year after the CLJA went into effect, it's still too early to tell whether the federal government will be looking to settle CLJA claims and, if so, how much an average settlement might be. As of October 2023, a lawyer for the DOJ announced that three people have accepted settlements for their Camp Lejeune-related injuries, totaling $850,000. The government has made offers to settle 23 more claims.

The size of your settlement will depend on many factors, including:

  • the severity and permanence of your harm
  • your past and future medical expenses
  • the impact of your condition on your ability to work, and
  • your pain and suffering.

Camp Lejeune Attorney Fees Capped

In September 2023, less than two weeks after unveiling the Elective Option, the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) instituted a cap on the fees attorneys can charge in cases involving Camp Lejeune claims. Attorneys are now limited to collecting 20% of Camp Lejeune settlements and 25% of the payouts resulting from litigation, considerably less than the 30% to 40% fees that personal injury lawyers typically collect in these types of cases. According to Senator Dan Sullivan (R-Alaska), the caps apply to all Camp Lejeune payouts—not just claims resolved through the Elective Option framework. The caps are in line with limitations on attorney fees that apply to Federal Tort Claims Act (FTCA) settlements and judgments.

According to Bloomberg Law, the government says Camp Lejeune payouts could top $21 billion. The goal of the cap on attorney fees is to keep more of that money in the pockets of sick service members and civilians harmed by the toxic water at Camp Lejeune.

Do You Need a Camp Lejeune Lawyer?

If you believe you or a loved one were sickened by toxic water at Camp Lejeune, talk to a lawyer. CLJA lawsuits are complicated. You'll have to file an administrative claim first. If your claim is denied, you'll have to file a lawsuit in federal court in North Carolina. You'll also have to make a decision about the Elective Option if you're eligible. A lawyer can explain the process to you, answer your questions, and handle the paperwork.

A lawyer will tell you the strengths and weaknesses of your case and help you negotiate a fair settlement. A lawyer will also be able to help you figure out whether you and your family are eligible for VA benefits and how your benefits might be impacted by a CLJA claim.

If you decide to work with a lawyer, the lawyer will collect the records you need to prove that you lived or worked at Camp Lejeune for at least 30 days during the relevant time frame. A lawyer will also gather the right medical records and experts to get you the best possible outcome in your case.

Most lawyers handle toxic water lawsuits under a "contingency fee" agreement. This means if you win your case, your lawyer receives a percentage of your compensation. If you lose, you'll owe no lawyer's fees. (You still might have to pay for costs—like court filing fees and expert witness fees—depending on your fee agreement.)

Learn more about hiring a personal injury lawyer. When you're ready, you can connect with a lawyer directly from this page for free.

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