Proving Damages in Product Liability Cases
Proof of damages is an important element in a products liability lawsuit. The plaintiff has the burden of proving any damages that were caused by using a defective product. Products are defective when they have an inherent flaw or are improperly manufactured. If the defective product causes personal injuries or property damage when used by a consumer, the consumer can sue the manufacturer to recover damages.
Types of Damages
Compensatory damages consist of money awarded to the plaintiff to return him/her to the position he/she occupied before being injured by a defective product. Compensatory damages include economic damages and non-economic damages. Economic damages (also called pecuniary damages) are any out-of-pocket expenses incurred by the plaintiff. An injured person can recover medical expenses, hospital and nursing costs, lost income, loss of future income and future medical expenses. Any personal property damage will also be compensated. Non-economic damages (also called non-pecuniary damages) include any expenses in addition to out-of-pocket costs. Pain and suffering (physical pain and mental or emotional anguish), emotional distress, permanent impairment, disfigurement, loss of enjoyment of life and loss of consortium (damages awarded to a spouse who has been deprived of the plaintiff's companionship) are all considered non-economic damages.
Punitive damages (also called exemplary damages) are damages that are meant to punish the wrongful conduct of the defendant . State laws govern whether punitive damages can be awarded in products liability cases.
Nominal damages consist of a small amount of money that is awarded when the plaintiff proves that an injury occurred but is unable to show any real loss or damage as a result of the injury.
Evidence of Damages
The plaintiff frequently has in his or her possession medical bills, hospital bills and receipts for prescription medications. Also, medical records and reports can be used to prove economic damages. The records of the plaintiff's employer can help establish loss of income, and tax records can show the loss of future earnings. Family members, friends, co-workers, supervisors, doctors and nurses can provide the plaintiff's attorney with information about the plaintiff's main complaints. Such testimony is helpful for proving pain and suffering, emotional distress and loss of enjoyment of life.
On the other hand, the defendant seeks to introduce evidence minimizing the effects of the plaintiff's injuries. For example, the defendant might try to prove that there was no permanent disability by using the plaintiff's medical records and vocational rehabilitation experts. The defendant might also use expert testimony to show that the plaintiff's future earning capacity is greater than that claimed by the plaintiff.