The term “damages” generally refers to the amount of money that you can recover in a lawsuit, either to compensate a person for their injury or to punish someone for wrongdoing. In a product liability case, which revolves around an injury from a defective product, you may be able to recover several different types of damages depending on the facts of the case.

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 product liability claims are usually based on negligence or strict liability, the heart of the case indicates that the defendant didn’t act with intent to harm the plaintiff.

It is important to estimate your financial losses up front in order to help you make the decision to pursue your case. If your injuries and losses are relatively minor, then it may not make sense to spend the time and energy pursuing a lawsuit.

If, however, you have large damages as a result of your injury (like medical bills), then you should keep track of them at the beginning of your lawsuit in order to make sure you receive the best possible award at the end of your case.

What Do Compensatory Damages Cover in Defective Product Lawsuits?

Compensatory damages are commonly 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 pretty easy to calculate, since they cover particular money losses that a plaintiff has suffered during the course of the case. Non-economic damages are a little bit more difficult to put a dollar amount on, because they may relate to aspects of the injury that are more difficult to quantify.

What Do Economic Losses Include?

Economic losses, sometimes called “special damages” or “monetary damages” refer to money that a plaintiff lost or missed out on due to their injury. Depending on the circumstances surrounding the case, economic losses can include a variety of things, 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 include a demand for your future medical expenses, as well.
  • Disability Costs: If your injury resulted in a disability that requires you to change your lifestyle in some way, 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.
  • 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 include a demand for your loss of future wages or profits, as well. 
  • Property Damage: Defective products commonly cause damage to property. If the defective product also caused destruction to your property, you can also make a claim for the repair or replacement of the item.

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 aspects of the injury that are more ambiguous, like physical or emotional suffering. Non-economic losses are not as frequently awarded because of the difficulty in quantifying the amounts, and many jurisdictions place limits or cap 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 of time. 
    • However, due to the difficulty in calculating a monetary amount for this type of injury, many areas have capped the amount of the award for pain and suffering.
  • Loss of Consortium:  This particular claim is also sometimes called “loss of society.” In cases where the injury has a negative effect on the plaintiff’s relationship with their spouse or partner, 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 emotional support. 

Do I Need to Consult a Lawyer for Help with Damages in a Defective Products Claim?

In any given product liability case, you can recover a number of different types of damages in the same claim–both economic and non-economic. However, the laws that govern damages can vary from state to state, so it is in your best interests to talk to an experienced 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.