Environmental justice cases are important for the future of communities, according to the Department of Energy (DOE). While it may seem like it takes a special lawyer, the type of lawyers that handle environmental justice cases are personal injury lawyers. Personal injury lawyers handle tort cases, which include any case where a negligent party injures you in some way.
In these cases, the actions of others damaged the environment, which also damaged people within the community. A personal injury lawyer takes action to address those injuries with legal proceedings. If environmental injustice is hurting your community, connect with a personal injury lawyer to learn about your legal options.
Environmental justice is taking action to ensure that everyone is represented in decisions that affect the environment and their community. This includes everyone regardless of any distinguishing features such as race, religion, or socioeconomic status.
When decisions are made that affect a group of people without their input, we can take legal action to reverse these decisions and create a better situation for everyone involved. Without environmental justice, people or organizations with a lot of influence would be able to make decisions that hurt communities and the environment without any recourse.
Environmental justice policy
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) oversees the enforcement of environmental laws across the United States. When there is a violation, local and federal authorities turn to the EPA for guidance and to take legal action. The EPA also guides the development of legislation related to protecting the environment.
If you think that regulations are being broken in your community, the EPA makes all of its research and information available so that you can see what the government’s position on any environmental action is. You can also discuss your case with an environmental justice lawyer for legal guidance.
Environmental injustice in the U.S.
Whether they realize it or not, everyone is familiar with examples of environmental justice. The predominant culture in the sixties and seventies produced many examples of people trying to protect their right to influence how the environment is treated within their communities. There are many examples of companies that made decisions that negatively impact the environment, while communities across the country fight to stop the negative impact of those decisions.
For example, the situation in Flint, Michigan—where the water is highly contaminated by lead and other contaminants—is a good example of a community pushing for environmental justice. The company that built and installed the pipes used inferior products that contaminated water across the city. Residents of Flint and many people around the world are pushing the government to hold the company responsible and help clean up the mess they made.
Understanding your rights with an environmental justice lawyer’s help
It is your right to decide to pursue legal action in environmental injustice cases. It is also your right to secure legal representation and to find a type of lawyer that handles environmental justice cases. You may discover that some attorneys specialize in environmental injustice while others accept these types of cases in addition to others.
Be sure to discuss your case with their respective legal teams before deciding who to work with. You want to be comfortable and work with a responsive law office you can trust.
What environmental justice lawyers do
There is no “one-size-fits-all” solution to correcting environmental injustices. The path a lawyer takes will depend on the specifics of each case, including what damage was done and who was responsible for it.
As an example, consider the case of the Marines stationed at Camp Lejeune from 1953 to 1987. Anyone living there for at least 30 days was at increased risk of developing serious medical conditions—such as cancer and Parkinson’s disease—due to contaminated water.
If a Marine or one of their relatives chose to hire a lawyer, that lawyer could guide them through the process of seeking healthcare benefits from the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). The benefit-seeking process is often difficult, and many deserving applicants are denied unjustly. Their lawyer could:
- Collect evidence establishing the Marine’s presence at Camp Lejeune during the time in question
- Collect evidence establishing the severity of the Marine’s condition
- Represent the Marine during hearings and meetings with VA judges
Other situations may require different tactics. An environmental justice lawyer can even go to court and fight on your or your loved one’s behalf if necessary.
Seeking environmental justice
Seeking legal action is not always required. It is possible that you can work with the other party to resolve your issues. For instance, if the environmental injustice occurs on a smaller level and impacts fewer people, such as the residents of a single apartment complex, it might be possible to utilize other legal strategies and methods to correct the problem. If this does not work, there is still the legal system you will be able to work through in the event you cannot utilize other strategies.
However, with larger issues related to environmental injustice, where it impacts many people, remediation could be expensive and significant. The other party may not want to invest the money into doing the right thing if they do not have to. In this event, seeking legal action could be the only way to correct the issue.
For example, if you live in a town with lead-contaminated water, discussing the issue with your landlord may not do anything to correct it. You may need to take on the city’s water provider, treatment plants, or the city municipality itself to see any possible changes. Unless you have experience working on legal cases against large entities, working with a lawyer could help you throughout the process to keep the case on track.
Speak with our team member about your case
If you have been the victim of environmental injustice, you could speak with our team member about your legal options for recourse. Contact Ben Crump Law, PLLC,
for a free consultation to learn more. We work on a contingency-fee basis, so you do not owe us anything upfront. We handle many different types of environmental justice cases.