What is Product Liability and What are Damages?

July 1, 2022

Product Liability

Punitive Damages

When you are injured by a product’s danger or defect, you are entitled to receive compensation, but legally, there are different types of losses that you can be compensated for, depending on the situation. If you use a product and it damages or hurts you in some way, you may have a product liability claim. The first step is to quantify the amount of harm you have suffered. This is a quick cheat sheet that gives an overview of the complexities of a product liability claim.

What Are Damages?

The legal term “damages” indicates the amount of money that the plaintiff is seeking in a lawsuit in exchange for the losses they experienced in an injury or illness. There are also times when a plaintiff will seek to “punish” a manufacturer for blatant neglect or wrongdoing. Damages are typically reduced to a total dollar that the defendant is required to pay to the plaintiff.

In a product liability suit, the amount of damages is one of the first and most critical steps to your claim. Unless your damages or injuries are extensive, it might not be worthwhile to initiate a product liability case. It takes money, time, and energy to pursue a claim.

Also, many lawyers will not take cases unless there is a significant number associated with the claim. When more than one individual sustains damages from a product, that can lead to a “class action” suit, which is usually a high dollar amount. For product liability, you can seek compensation for two different types of damages: compensatory and punitive.

What Are Compensatory Damages?

Compensatory damages are sometimes referred to as “actual damages,” and they seek to compensate the plaintiff for illness or injury caused by a product. In practical terms, they are designed to “restore” the plaintiff to the condition that they were in before they were harmed. A dollar amount is allocated to the number of “bad things” that a person has to suffer through.

Although in many cases, “restoring” someone is not really possible, money is used as an “equivalent” value the person had to suffer from their illness or injury. Within compensatory damages there are two categories: economic and non-economic.

What Are Economic Losses?

Economic losses are also called “monetary” or “special” damages, and they are meant to compensate a person for either property or money loss due to their illness or injury.

  • Medical Expenses – The medical expenses include hospital, doctor, physical therapy, and pharmacy bills. They are related to any medical care that a person had to seek due to their injury or illness. Medical expenses also include any additional medical care that a plaintiff will require in the future related to the injury or illness.
  • Cost of Disability – When an injury is severe enough to alter someone’s lifestyle, these types of economic damages are meant to help make up the difference of what they used to be able to do and no longer can. One example is if someone is disabled and cannot clean house, and they now need to hire someone to do it for them.
  • Property Loss or Repair – If a defective or dangerous product caused destruction of a plaintiff’s property, they might be allowed to recoup the cost to replace or repair it.
  • Loss of Profits or Wages – If a plaintiff misses work due to the injury or illness, they are entitled to lost wages compensation, and business owners can file for loss of profits. If the injury will keep you from being able to perform in the capacity that you did and will cause future wage loss or profit loss, you might be able to recover those, too.

What Are Non-Economic Losses?

  • Non-economic losses differ from economic losses; they are difficult to quantify because they are more subjective. Things like emotional and physical suffering are included in non-economic losses, but since everyone experiences suffering differently, it can sometimes feel very arbitrary.
  • Pain and Suffering – Plaintiffs are typically entitled to pain and suffering for things such as pain, loss of enjoyment, or anguish resulting from an illness or injury. Although it might be difficult to define, the severity of the pain and suffering is decided on a scale of one to five multipliers.
  • Loss of Consortium – If an injury or illness affects your relationship with your spouse negatively, then you are entitled to be compensated for loss of consortium.

These types of damages can be anything from the loss of a sexual relationship to losing the emotional support of your spouse due to the injury or illness.

What Are Punitive Damages?

In some instances, the manufacturer of a product’s actions can be so egregious that the plaintiff wants to “punish” them. The point of punitive damages is not only to compensate the plaintiff, but also to deter other manufacturers from doing the same.

A product liability claim is one that seeks to compensate a plaintiff for any injury or illness that results from using a product. In some cases, you can’t ever give back to someone what they lost, but compensating to make their lives better for the future and to recoup the economic devastation is at least an attempt. If you have been injured by using a product, you might be entitled to receive fair compensation. Contact Califf Law today to discuss your claim!