What Damages Can I Collect For a Product Injury?
UPDATED: June 19, 2018
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When a person suffers a product liability injury, they should immediately begin to document all of their damages. It is important to document both medical and property damages as soon as possible after the product injury as the injured party will need to prove what damages they suffered in a lawsuit. In the aftermath of a product injury, the injured party needs to diligently record and document any costs, losses, and change in lifestyle caused by their injury.
What Are the Types of Damages for a Product Liability Injury?
Damages generally refer to the sum of money that the defendant must pay the plaintiff to compensate for the plaintiff’s product injury. There are two basic types of damages for a product liability injury case: compensatory damages and punitive damages.. Product liability law varies from state to state, so the amount of product injury damages that a person can collect depends on where they live. However, the basic ideas behind the two types of product liability injury damages are very similar from one state to another.
Product Injury Compensatory Damages
The goal of compensatory damages for a product liability injury is to restore the plaintiff to the condition they were in before they were injured. Although a plaintiff’s injuries may be so severe that they will not reach their previous physical condition, essentially, compensatory damages seek to place a monetary value on their injuries. There are two categories of product liability injury compensatory damages: economic and non-economic.
Economic Product Injury Damages
Economic damages seek to compensate the plaintiff for monetary losses he or she suffered as a result of the product injury. These damages include both current losses and future money the plaintiff may miss out on due to his or her injury. Some of the most common product injury economic damages include:
- Medical Costs: These include all bills for doctors, hospitals, pharmacies and physical therapists. In addition, a plaintiff must also demand any potential future medical expenses resulting from the product injury.
- Disability Costs: If a product injury causes a person to be disabled for a period of time or permanently, the injured person should include the amount it will cost for them to adjust their lifestyle. For example, adding wheelchair ramps to a residence or paying a home nurse.
- Lost Wages or Profits: If the victim of a product injury is forced to miss work, they should demand damages in the form of lost wages for the days they have already missed and for future days they may miss. In addition, if the victim of the product injury owns a home business, they should demand any lost profits the business missed out on while the victim was recovering.
- Property Losses: A plaintiff should demand payment of damages for any property that was damaged or destroyed as a result of the defective product.
Non-Economic Product Injury Damages
Non-economic damages are more difficult to value because they seek to compensate a plaintiff for emotional and physical pain resulting from a product injury. Two of the more common types of non-economic damages, pain and suffering and loss of consortium are discussed below:
- Pain and Suffering: The amount of pain and suffering damages will vary greatly from case to case. Pain and suffering damages depend greatly on the severity of the product liability injury and the circumstances surrounding the injury-causing event. These damages seek to compensate a plaintiff for the emotional anguish and loss of enjoyment of life they have suffered as a result of their product injury.
- Loss of Consortium: Loss of consortium damages seek to compensate both spouses if one’s product injury has a negative impact on the marital relationship. Loss of consortium covers loss of sexual relations, companionship and emotional support. Each spouse (even the uninjured one) may have a claim for loss of consortium.
Product Injury Punitive Damages
Punitive damages will only be awarded for a product injury if the judge or jury determines that the defendant’s behavior was especially offensive. Essentially, punitive damages are reserved for defendants who need to be punished for their behavior. Just because a company manufactured, designed or failed to properly warnabout a product that later caused a product injury, does not mean the company will be forced to pay punitive damages. Mere negligence on the part of the defendant is not enough. The judge or jury must find that the defendant acted reckless or malicious in assembling or selling the product.
In terms of calculating punitive damages, the amount awarded to the plaintiff will depend on the nature of the defendant’s behavior in relation to the defendant’s wealth. If a small company recklessly designs a new type of riding lawnmower that causes a plaintiff a serious product injury, the punitive damages awarded to the plaintiff would be far less than if a multinational company designed the lawnmower.
Punitive damages law varies from state to state and is constantly evolving. If you have any questions about whether you may be entitled to punitive damages, or want to know which compensatory damages your product injury would entitle you to, you should contact an experienced product liability attorney.