A plaintiff who has suffered injuries or losses because of a defective product may be able to recover compensation through a personal injury claim based on a products liability theory. You should determine the extent of your damages at the outset of your case, since this will guide your strategy. If you have not suffered significant damages, it may not be worth taking legal action. If you decide that litigation makes sense, an estimate of your damages will help you respond to settlement offers and determine whether to accept a settlement or go to trial. An attorney will be more willing to take your case if your damages are substantial, unless you are joining similarly situated plaintiffs in a class action.
You should set out the full scope of your damages at the outset of your claim to make sure that you do not waive any rights. Damages may include compensatory damages and punitive damages. Compensatory damages are meant to put the plaintiff in the position in which they would have been if they had not been injured. This may be hypothetical in some cases because it can be hard to completely undo the impact of an accident. However, compensatory damages usually catalogue each type of harm or loss related to an injury and quantify each item to reach a total. Punitive damages are not directly related to the harm that a plaintiff suffered, although there are constitutional limits on how greatly they can exceed compensatory damages. These are generally meant to punish defendants for egregious or intentional wrongdoing, but the specific standard varies from state to state.
Compensatory damages are divided into two types: economic damages and non-economic damages. Economic damages are also known as special damages. They are the easier of the two types to calculate, since they are meant to compensate for financial losses or property damage resulting from a defective product. Medical bills and lost income are common examples of economic damages. Medical bills may include not only previously incurred and ongoing expenses but also the costs of future treatment. You can place hospital bills, doctors’ bills, and the costs of prescriptions and physical therapy in this category. Lost wages are meant to account for missed time at work. People who run a business may be able to recover similar damages for lost profits. As with medical bills, you can recover future damages related to lost wages or profits.
Property damage is relatively uncommon in product liability cases. If you do suffer property loss because of your injury, though, you can recover compensation for replacing or repairing it. You also can recover compensation for household adjustments if your injury results in a long-term disability. A victim might receive compensation for renovations to their house or assistants hired to help with activities of daily living.
These damages can be harder to define in monetary terms. They are often known as general damages. Pain and suffering is the most obvious type of non-economic damages. This can involve not only the pain and anguish resulting from the injury but also any long-term reduction in your quality of life. Settlements and jury awards in this area can be challenging to predict, but insurers and their attorneys often use previous settlements and awards for similar injuries as benchmarks. If an injury resulted in a substantial impairment or is a type known to involve pain or arduous treatment, such as burns or complex fractures, the pain and suffering award is more likely to be substantial.
Another type of non-economic damages is known as loss of consortium or loss of society. Traditionally, loss of consortium damages involved harm to the sexual relationship between spouses, but they also can cover diminished affection, companionship, and other non-physical elements of the relationship. Both the victim and their spouse may be able to seek this type of damages. (It generally will not be available if a victim is not married to their partner.)