Diesel Injury Law has received numerous inquiries from diesel-exposed workers suffering from memory deficits, balance issues, tremors and personality changes. Some describe acute episodes of carbon monoxide poisoning and then a rather sudden development of the symptoms. Others describe longstanding exposures to toxins over time and the development of these symptoms.
After the exposed workers begin to notice symptoms, they typically undergo a round of diagnostic tests which often leave their treating doctor perplexed. Because of the accompanying personality changes, these workers are often treated with prescription drugs like Prozac and sent on their way. They don’t receive a firm diagnosis. What may be happening in these cases is a condition called toxic encephalopathy.
In order to be diagnosed with toxic encephalopathy, see a doctor qualified in occupational medicine or a specialist in neurotoxins. Generally, toxic encephalopathy is not difficult to diagnose if a patient develops a well-described history of symptoms after exposure to a well-known neurotoxin, or if other workers at the same site develop similar symptoms. The more difficult (and more common) situation is when an individual presents symptoms and has either an unclear history of exposure or an apparently trivial exposure to a known or suspected neurotoxin. Neuro-psychological testing is often required to support the diagnosis.
A patient’s exposure history is particularly important for diagnosing a toxic encephalopathy. A patient’s exposure history is also significant for legal purposes. For example, in McNeel v. Union Pac. R.R., 276 Neb. 143, (2008), the defendant railroad was found not guilty because plaintiff’s expert could not identify any specific cause for the diagnosis of toxic encephalopathy. In other words, the plaintiff lost because he couldn’t identify the specific toxin that caused his occupational illness. However, in Hose v. Chi. Nw. Transp. Co., 70 F.3d 968 (8th Cir. 1995), a jury awarded plaintiff $1,333,279.31 for personal injuries resulting in toxic encephalopathy. The primary difference between these two cases is that the plaintiff in Hose was able to identify that he was exposed to substantial amounts of fumes and dust containing manganese while working as a welder for Chicago and North Western Transportation Company. Thus, a history of exposure is imperative in toxic encephalopathy cases.
If you or a loved are suffering from some of the symptoms listed above, contact Diesel Injury Law today for a free consultation with an experienced toxic tort attorney. We will consult with our experts and determine if those symptoms are work-related and if so, bring a claim on your behalf.