Damages Available in a Defective Product Lawsuit

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 What is a Defective Product Lawsuit?

Sometimes, products are sold to the public that are flawed and more dangerous than they should be. For example, the product might have been manufactured incorrectly, and the mistake makes the product more likely to cause injury. Alternatively, the product may have been designed improperly from the beginning.

Since the defect is a flaw in the overall design, the defect most likely affects the entire product line. For example, a design defect may mean that a lawnmower blade can come off while mowing, making the mower dangerous to use. The design defect will affect all of the lawnmowers in this model, not just one singular example of the product.

Design defects can be expensive for manufacturers to fix to avoid future liability, especially since a problem in the product’s design means that the entire run or batch of the product is defective. In many cases, the best way (or only way) to fix the problem is to go back and redesign the product from scratch.

What Types of Damages are Available in a Defective Product Lawsuit?

In legal terms, the word “damages” refers to the amount of money you can recover in a lawsuit to compensate you for injury or punish the defendant for wrongdoing. In a defective product case (which is a type of product liability case), you may be able to recover a significant amount of damages, depending on the facts of the case.

Punitive damages are large amounts of money meant to be significant enough to punish the defendant for their wrongdoing. Punitive damages usually aren’t available in product liability claims because this type of award requires that the defendant acted with malicious intent or acted purposefully to harm the plaintiff.

Since most defective product claims are based on negligence (accidental harm) or strict liability (which is not affected by the defendant’s intentions or state of mind), in most defective products cases, the defendant didn’t act to see anyone get hurt (particularly not the plaintiff/end-user of the product, who is a stranger to the manufacturer).

It is important to estimate your financial losses up front to help you decide whether or not to pursue your case. If your injuries and losses are relatively minor, then spending the time and energy pursuing a lawsuit may not make sense. If you have large monetary losses due to your injury (such as many expensive medical bills), you should keep track of them at the beginning of your lawsuit to ensure you receive the best possible award after the case.

What Do Compensatory Damages Cover in Defective Product Lawsuits?

Compensatory damages are awarded to compensate a plaintiff with enough money to cover the amount of their injury and other losses. With most personal injury claims, including product liability and defective product claims, there are generally two types of compensatory damages: economic and non-economic.

Economic damages are relatively easy to calculate since they cover particular money losses the plaintiff suffered because of the injury. Non-economic damages are more difficult to put a dollar amount on because they relate to aspects of the injury that do not involve monetary loss.

What Do Economic Losses Include?

Economic losses, sometimes called “special damages” or “monetary damages,” refers to money a plaintiff lost or missed out on due to injury. Economic losses can include a variety of things, depending on the circumstances surrounding the case, including:

  • Medical Costs: Medical costs can include bills from doctor visits, hospital stays, pharmacy prescriptions, physical therapy, and other medically relevant treatments. If your injury will require ongoing medical care, your claim should also include a demand for your future medical expenses.
  • Disability Costs: If your injury resulted in a disability that requires you to change your lifestyle somehow, you may be awarded damages for the costs you incur in making those adjustments.
    • For example, if you experience a loss of mobility that requires you to renovate your home (like adding a ramp), you may be awarded damages to cover the cost of that renovation. You can also be compensated for the purchase or rental of a wheelchair.
  • Lost Wages: If your injury caused you to miss work, you may be able to claim lost wages for the time that you missed. If you run your own business, you may be able to claim lost profits. And if your injury is such that you are likely to miss more work in the future, you can also include a demand for your loss of future wages or profits.
  • Property Damage: Defective products can cause property damage. If a car suddenly and violently loses its wheel while in your driveway, the tire may have caused damage not only to yourself but also to the car and to anything the wheel hit, like a wall. In such a case, you can also claim the repair or replacement of the car and the wall.

Are There Damages for Non-Economic Losses?

Non-economic losses, sometimes referred to as “general damages” or “non-monetary damages,” are a little bit more difficult to evaluate because they are intended to compensate plaintiffs for the injury’s more ambiguous aspects, like physical or emotional suffering. Because of the difficulty of calculating fair payment for losses that are, by their definition, non-monetary, some states place limits or caps on these awards in defective product cases.

Non-economic losses generally include claims for:

  • Pain and Suffering: This claim provides for the largely emotional and physical pain, suffering, anguish, or general loss of enjoyment that resulted from the injury. Depending on the circumstances of the case, these damages can be quite substantial and cover long periods.
    • However, due to the difficulty in calculating a monetary amount for this type of injury and instances where juries have awarded unreasonably high amounts, many states have capped the amount of the award for pain and suffering.
  • Loss of Consortium: This claim is sometimes called “loss of society.” In cases where the injury harms the plaintiff’s relationship with their spouse, partner, or parent (for a child), there may be a claim for loss of consortium. This can include a variety of aspects of the relationship, including sexual relations, loss of affection or companionship, and distancing of emotional support.
    • Examples would include couples who can no longer engage in sexual relations or children whose injuries require them to be hospitalized somewhere far from their parents’ home.
  • Injunction: A third form of non-economic damages is an injunction, which is a court order that instructs the defendant to cease the troublesome conduct or orders them to do something specific. For example, in a case involving toxic waste, in addition to a monetary damages award to the plaintiff for medical costs, the court might order the company to cease doing whatever is causing the toxic waste.

Should I Consult a Lawyer for Help with Damages in a Defective Products Claim?

In any defective product case, you can recover both economic and non-economic damages. However, the laws governing damages can vary from state to state, so it is best to talk to an experienced local defective products lawyer.

Your lawyer can explain how best to protect your rights under the circumstances, what types of damages are available to you, and represent you in court so that you can get the best possible result in your case.

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