What You Can Recover in a Product Liability Claim

For the past few weeks, I have been writing about the law of products liability. Products liability law is very important to us because we live in an often fast-paced and very technical world. The products we buy are no longer made by the small company down the street. This is true even in the beautiful Borough of Conshohocken. Rather, we buy many products that are mass produced. Many times, the companies that mass produce these products will only check perhaps one out of every 1,000 products before shipping them for you and your family to use. Many of these products are made in foreign countries. Many products are mass assembled, they are put together from parts made by the lowest bidder or made in overseas factories. Some of the parts may not be quite right but they are put together anyway and the product is sold to you and your family. Sometimes, companies are blinded by the profit motive, if they can save a few pennies during the mass production process, even if those pennies relate to safety features, the product will be made on the cheap and it will be sold in this unsafe condition. Some companies are just not concerned about your safety.

Fortunately, that description does not apply to many companies. Indeed, many of us work for responsible companies that market safe products. Sometimes, however, even responsible companies market a product that turns out to be defective. This week, I will describe what you can recover in a product liability claim.

Product liability claims are brought on behalf of injured persons to compensate them for those injuries. The compensation is in the form of money damages and the amount that can be recovered varies from person to person. Generally, the total amount of money damages that a person can recover consists of the sum of various categories of damages. For example, a person who is injured because of a defective product can recover what are called compensatory damages, these are damages designed to compensate you for your medical bills, your lost wages and your out-of-pocket expenses like payments for household help and medical supplies. Compensatory damages also consist of future losses, for example, you may no longer be able to work or you may only be able to work part-time or in a less-physical or sedentary job or lower paying job. Thus, you may be entitled to recover not only your past lost wages but also wages that you will lose in the future. Similarly, your injury may require medical treatment for many years to come and the cost of that future medical care can be recovered now. Thus, compensatory damages consist of your financial losses, the aim is to put you in about the same financial position you would have reached if you were never injured by the defective product.

The next category of damages focuses on how the injury has affected the quality of your life. Some people generally refer to these as pain and suffering damages. This can be a difficult task but the judge or jury or perhaps the arbitrator or mediator will have to consider how the injury has affected your lifestyle, your ability to perform your activities of daily living, your ability to raise your family, to participate in sports, to enjoy family activities and to enjoy your hobbies. Evaluating that impact, that is, assigning a dollar value to it, can indeed be difficult. Obviously, these evaluations vary greatly depending on the nature of the injury and the life situation of the injured person.

Your spouse may also have a claim for what is known as lost consortium. These damages are designed to compensate your spouse for the impact upon him or her caused by your injury. Even though your spouse may not have been directly injured by the defective product, your spouse can recover these damages if, for example, your spouse must take care of you, miss work to bring you to medical appointments, and assume many more responsibilities for you, your family and your home.

Remember that products liability cases focus on the product, not the companies or the persons who make them. By almost any measure, Toyota was and probably still is a very fine company. The men and women along the assembly line who build those cars are dads and moms just like you and me. However, drivers are claiming that certain Toyota vehicles were defective and that those defects caused injuries. Sometimes, defective products are not marketed only by those less than reputable companies that I described in the first paragraph. The point is, we are at times exposed to defective products and some people are injured by them. Hopefully, you will not have the misfortune of being injured by a defective product. But, if an injury occurs, you now know what to expect after you consult an experienced attorney.

Next time, I plan on preaching to you about the evils of underage drinking. Until then, let’s be careful out there.

John A. Orlando, Esquire can be reached in his office at 115 Fayette Street, by phone at (610) 897-2576 or by email at orlandoj@whiteandwilliams.com. Please visit our website at www.thepanjinjurylawyers.com