Environmental Accidents and Catastrophes
Attorneys in Practice
When an environmental accident or catastrophe occurs, confronting key legal issues is critical. This is because environmental regulatory agencies and investigators are present at the scene of the event almost immediately, gathering information and evidence. Companies must balance the competing interests of full cooperation and disclosure with protection of individual and corporate rights against self incrimination. The hard truth is that facts and evidence gathered in the immediate aftermath of a catastrophic event may be used by the government later in criminal prosecutions and civil enforcement actions. This means that in-house counsel must be involved from the beginning, and outside counsel should be brought in as soon as possible to develop legal strategies and coordinate communications with regulators.
In the aftermath of an environmental incident, companies may face a multitude of legal challenges, including shutdown of the facility, administrative and civil penalty actions, workers’ compensation and personal injury claims, property damage claims and criminal charges. The legal responses to each type of case must be integrated, as statements and admissions in one case may be used against the company and its executives and employees in the other cases. The order of the cases may be important, with litigation stays necessary to protect 5th Amendment rights.
Our firm has significant experience providing effective legal counsel to companies preparing for and responding to environmental incidents, including catastrophic releases and accidents. Our attorneys have investigated, prosecuted, and defended companies who have experienced environmental disasters, and know the agencies, players, and issues involved. Our firm conducts focused internal investigations, identifies and manages effective technical and public relations experts, and develops coordinated strategies for handling environmental crises.