Although we can't be sure when Camp Lejeune settlements will be paid, it appears that things are moving along in the right direction. On September 6, 2023, the Justice Department put out a press release talking about the new Elective Option, which was designed to resolve qualifying Camp Lejeune claims as quickly and efficiently as possible.
The proposed settlement values may not be attractive to many folks, especially because many law firms are charging clients a significant percentage of their settlement to take their case. Our firm has remained dedicated to handling Camp Lejeune Justice Act claims for a 20% attorney fee up until a lawsuit is filed and 25% attorney fee after a lawsuit is filed. We're still handling cases for this fee if we can take a person's case, and we work with firms that charge that same fee for cases we cannot take on.
Getting back to the matter at hand: When will Camp Lejeune claimants get paid under the Camp Lejeune Justice Act.
Although the proposed settlement values under the Elective Option are underwhelming, especially for folks who weren't at Camp Lejeune for more than 5 years, this press release confirmed one important fact: They're putting money on these claims, and it looks like qualifying claimants will be paid. Thus, there's hope that things are moving toward resolution.
There are three main ways a claimant will get a settlement under the Camp Lejeune Justice Act: (1) through the Elective Option; (2) through the administrative claims process; and (3) through litigation or filing a lawsuit. It looks like the folks who accept an offer under the Elective Option will get paid first, followed by folks who settle a claim through the administrative process. Common sense would tell us that folks who pursue a lawsuit will be the last to get paid. Let's talk more about when claims will be paid, based on the information we have at this time.
When Will Camp Lejeune Settlements be Paid Under the Elective Option?
The Elective Option announced on September 6, 2023 doesn't just confirm that claimants will be paid; it also gives us insight into when Camp Lejeune settlements will be paid out. In fact, it's some of the first useful information we have regarding when the first Camp Lejeune settlements will be paid.
Here's the timeline for getting a settlement for a Camp Lejeune Justice Act claim under the Elective Option
- The Department of the Navy (DON) will propose eligible Elective Option offers to the Department of Justice (DOJ).
- If the DOJ confirms that the claimant meets the requirements for the Elective Option and approves the DON's Elective Option determination, then the DON will notify claimants through their attorneys, if they're represented, of the Elective Option offer. If a lawsuit has already been filed, the DOJ will screen the cases and use a similar process as the DON regarding the Elective Option.
- Once notified of an Elective Option offer, the claimant will have 60 days to accept or decline the offer.
- If the claimant accepts the offer, the claimant will have 14 days to sign a release of claims that releases the United States from any liability relating to exposure to contaminated water at Camp Lejeune.
- Claimants who go through with this Elective Option settlement process will receive payment within 60 days or less, provided they accurately complete all the necessary documentation in a timely manner.
So, let's break this down. Let's say you get an Elective Option offer today. You'll then have 60 days to accept or decline the offer. Let's say you accept that offer 60 days from now. Then, you have 14 days to sign the documents they want you to sign, including a release of claims.
After that, you should receive a check within 60 days. Thus, just adding up the days (60 + 14 + 60), it looks like some people will be getting paid within 134 days of getting an offer under the Elective Option.
When Will a Camp Lejeune Settlement be Paid Through the Administrative Claims Process?
As we've talked about, when a Camp Lejeune settlement will be paid out will depend on which process a claimant chooses. It appears that Camp Lejeune Justice Act claims settled through the administrative process could take a while longer than those settled via the Elective Option. However, they should settle more quickly than those claims that proceed through a lawsuit or litigation.
Administrative Claims Process for CLJA Claims
The Department of the Navy has provided some guidance to us via email as to what the administrative claims process will look like. It should look something like this, although details regarding the administrative process could change any day.
First, they will assign a claim number to filed claims, and then they will issue perfection letters. Next, they’re going to investigate the claim and issue requests for substantiation. Once we return to them the documents they have requested, they will either deny the claim or begin negotiations. That process looks something like this:
- Assign a claim number
- Issue perfection letters (everything points to this taking at least 6 months from date of filing)
- They'll investigate the claim
- They'll issue requests for substantiation
- Negotiations or Denial
Below is a more detailed breakdown of the administrative process for a claim filed under the Camp Lejeune Justice Act.
Step 1: Claims Intake
The claims intake process takes place after the Department of the Navy receives the administrative claim form, either through snail mail or email. Then, they're going to review the claim and assign a claim number. After that, they will mail out perfected claim letters.
Step 2: Claims Management
During this phase of the process, they're going to be putting claims into some sort of document management system. Then, they're going to be looking for duplicates.
Here, they will have to untangle claims where there were multiple claim forms filed. For example, some folks filed claims on their own before and/or after they hired an attorney. This creates a very serious situation because a denial of one claim counts as a denial of all. The DON will have to figure this out, which won't be easy.
Another issue arises where multiple law firms file a claim on behalf of the same client. This puts the DON in the middle of a potential battle between the firms regarding who truly has the case. Again, this could slow down the process significantly.
Step 3: Adjudication
During this phase, the DON will determine whether a case is in litigation (whether a lawsuit has been filed in the Eastern District of North Carolina). If so, they will issue what's called a "Parker Denial." At that point, the case will then proceed through litigation.
If a lawsuit has not been filed, then the claim will proceed to investigation, which is also called "substantiation" in this context. The DON will send out substantiation requests, which will likely include the following:
- Request Claimant to fill out Questionnaire(s);
- Request Documents that Prove Standing;
- Request Documents that Prove Causation; and
- Request Documents that Prove Damages.
Once they have all the documents they need, they can determine whether the claim has been properly substantiated. If so, the claim will move into negotiation.
Step 4: Negotiation and Settlement
If an offer is accepted, the claim will be settled. If no agreement can be reached as to case value, the claimant can proceed to filing a lawsuit.
We don't know how long this will take. Certainly, some cases will involve a lot more documentation than others. Thus, the timeline for settling claims through the administrative process could vary tremendously.
We do know that it's taking more than 6 months in a lot of cases for the perfected claim letters to be sent out. Additionally, they're working on finalizing the Elective Option, which could slow the administrative claims process temporarily as they try to propose the Elective Option to existing claimants.
What Can You Do to Speed Up the Administrative Process?
Claimants can help speed up this process by gathering all the documentation that will be needed during the substantiation phase will include things like:
- Birth Certificates;
- Death Certificates;
- Employment Records;
- Military Records; and
- Medical Records.
If you have all these records ready to go, you may be able to shave weeks or months off of the administrative claims process.
When Will a Camp Lejeune Settlement be Paid Once a Claimant Files a Lawsuit?
If a claimant under the Camp Lejeune Justice Act gets denied or refuses to settle their claim with the Department of the Navy, they can file a lawsuit in the Eastern District of North Carolina. At that point, the case will proceed through the typical lawsuit process, which includes filing a complaint, waiting on an answer, and proceeding through discovery.
Note that some claimants who have already filed their lawsuits will likely get to choose whether to accept the Elective Option. However, for those claimants who refuse the Elective Option and for those claimants that file a lawsuit more than 30 days after the announcement of the Elective Option, their case will proceed to litigation in Federal court.
It's unknown how long this will take, but we can assume that this process will take longer than claims settled through the Elective Option process or the administrative claims process. Note that our law firm has one attorney licensed in the Eastern District of North Carolina, and we are prepared to file lawsuits for our clients if that's the route they choose.
What is the deadline for Camp Lejeune claims?
The deadline for filing a claim under the Camp Lejeune Justice Act is August 2024, which is two years from August 10, 2022 when the Honoring Our PACT Act was passed.
While it may sound like there's plenty of time, the clock is ticking, and folks need to be sure to get their claim filed so they get the money they're entitled to. Therefore, we urge folks to promptly file their claims to avoid any issues that could cause you to lose the right to seek compensation.