Product Liability FAQ

What kinds of compensation can I ask for in my defective product liability claim?

One of the most important aspects of evaluating a products liability claim is determining what types and amounts of damages you have suffered. The term "damages" is legalese for a sum of money paid to the plaintiff in a lawsuit either to compensate for some form of injury or loss or to punish the defendant for wrongdoing.

All damages fall into two basic categories: compensatory damages and punitive damages. Compensatory damages are intended to restore you to the condition you were in before the injury occurred by attaching a dollar value to each of the bad things that happened to you as a result of the injury. These damages include "economic" losses such as medical expenses, lost wages or profits, and any damage to your property. They also include certain "non-economic" losses, such as pain and suffering.

In many cases, compensatory damages are the only form of damages awarded. If a judge or jury finds that the defendant has acted particularly badly, however, you may also be entitled to punitive damages. The purpose of punitive damages is to punish a defendant for its conduct and to deter others from engaging in similar conduct. Punitive damages are roughly analogous to a fine and are calculated based on the nature of the defendant's misconduct in relation to its wealth (the idea is to make it hurt in proportion to the misconduct). (To learn more, read Nolo's article Damages in Defective Products Cases.)

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