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Steps to Take before Proceeding on Legal Actions on Water Damage/Mold Exposure

From a medical expert witness' perspective, I believe certain preliminary steps a law firm should consider undertaking before taking on a client who claims to have suffered illnesses from water damage/mold exposure. This is not intended to offer any legal advice but suggestions which may help you to decide whether the case may be valid or not. Obviously the ultimate decision can only be made by your medical expert. Remember that not everyone who is exposed to water damage or molds gets ill.

In a related article in this site, I have provided a description on the various illnesses and symptoms which can afflict susceptible individuals after exposure to water damage and molds. The current discussion focuses more on whether one should proceed with legal actions should the responsible party fail to provide a prompt and satisfactory solution. This article however is not intended to offer any legal advice which is not my area of expertise. However having examined several hundred patients with alleged illnesses from water damage exposure, I hope the following suggestions may be helpful in ascertaining whether a case merits legal actions.

(1) You will need evidence such as photos and sampling reports to ascertain whether there is indeed excessive exposure to molds. When possible, the source of the water intrusion should be established.

(2)Ask one of your staff to obtain a detailed history of the client's illnesses. The most clear-cut case would be the development of the symptoms or illnesses during his/her occupancy of the building. Alternately, one can also make a case even if these symptoms or illnesses were pre-existing but have become worse ( more frequent and/or more severe) after the water damage exposure. These symptoms or illnesses should preferably subside or improve but may be unchanged following satisfactory remediation or vacating from the affected building. Preferably their alleged illnesses or symptoms should have been reported to be related to exposure to molds, house dusit mites, rodents, and/or cockroaches in peer-reviewed medical or toxicology journals. In certain cases such as chronic hypersensitivity pneumonitis, bronchial asthma, and Allergic Bronchopulmonary Mycosis, the severity of the disease condition may progress even in the absence of further exposure.

The most common ones include asthma, hay fever, allergic conjunctivitis and etc.
However you should not dismiss any health condition simply because it has not yet been noted in current publications since we still have much to learn. Some of the problems may be a complication or comorbidity associated with the illnesses.

If you are satisfied with the responses, the next step will be to decide on whether the damages incurred warrant the time and expenses to pursue further legal action. Since every case is different, I can only offer a couple of pointers:
(1) Obviously the more frequent and severe the symptoms , the higher the treatment expenses.
(2) The younger the client, the higher the medical expenses involved for the remainder of his/her lifetime.

Precaution: In my experience with quite a few medical experts acting on the defendants' behalf, virtually none of the nearly 300 people with health problems associated with water damage exposure had positive skin test responses to the molds detected in the environmental assessments. Thus it may be worthwhile for your expert to video the skin test session whenever possible.

In summary:
Before you decide on whether to proceed with legal action on a case after negotiations with the responsible party failed, be sure that the client's symptoms and illnesses indeed developed or worsened following his exposure to the water damage. The case is more clear-cut when the client's problems subsided or improved after the water damage exposure has been eliminated. If you have any question about the merit of a case, you should consider consulting your experts before formally filing a suit.

Disclaimer: While every effort has been made to ensure the accuracy of this publication, it is not intended to provide legal advice as individual situations will differ and should be discussed with an expert and/or lawyer.For specific technical or legal advice on the information provided and related topics, please contact the author.

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