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Getting Started With a Toxic Tort
In a toxic tort case the burden of proof is always on the claimant. You have to help your client prove that the exposure to the toxin is the cause of the claimed condition. It is the Certified Legal Nurse Consultant's (CLNC's) responsibility to report the effects of the exposure to the toxin, along with other potential sources of the alleged condition. It is essential to know the complete history of the plaintiff which includes where he or she lived and worked, his or her family history and any other relevant details.
When your office starts to review the case, the focus should be primarily on the chemical or toxin involved. The following are resources and suggestions that may provide information about the toxin in question:
An assessment of the chemicals the person was exposed to will give you a foundation for validating the illnesses or diseases. This search will be referred back to constantly. You can find current news or information about the toxic chemicals by using a search engine or by checking www.chemfinder.com.
Obtain the CAS number, chemical name, and MSDA sheets.
The NIOSH Pocket Guide to Chemical Hazards (National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health) can be found at http://www.cdc.gov/niosh/npg/npgname-a.html
Make a list of the conditions or illnesses the chemical or toxin is known to cause. Place your focus there. In toxic tort cases, the history of the plaintiff is just as important asor sometimes more important thanthe incident itself. Remember to look at the billing statements or admission papers and obtain geographical information.
Note the absences of the plaintiff in school records. Some school records will even document why the child was out of school.
Is there a military history? Where were the plaintiffs stationed? (Radiation exposure can take 20 years to manifest.)
Determine from the work history where they worked and what their occupation was. Check the dates and hours of work. Was a typical workday 8 hours? Did they work overtime? How many times did they call in sick?
As you review the medical file, focus on the medical concerns, but continue to look for history and build your report based on the facts.
On billing statements note addresses and whether they changed. Take note of where the home is and what type of neighborhood it is. Is the home a farm (many potential chemical exposures) or trailer, or near a factory, railroad or golf course? (See http://maps.google.com/ for satellite pictures).
Also found on billing statements is the employer. What is the profession? Might there be chemicals in the workplace?
Do they smoke? Did they stop smoking? How long? (There are many toxins in cigarette smoke and the exposure is so prolonged that it is something all parties will need to know.)
List the medications they take. (Medications are chemicals too!)
Are there prior hospitalizations? Often you will see emergency room or urgent care visits for upper respiratory infections, itching skin, shortness of breath and chest pain.
Is there a history of diabetes, autoimmune diseases, allergies, arthritis or hypertension?
It is easy to see that these cases can require diligence and a careful, discerning eye to accurately interpret the facts. A CLNC can be invaluable in every phase of such cases.
About the Author: By Juriscope, provider of legal nurse consultants to help clients put together necessary information for medical cases.