What damages can I recover in a defective product liability case?
The damages that are recoverable under California law in a defective product case depend on the type of case of course. But in a typical case where the plaintiff was injured but survived, that plaintiff would be entitled to his economic damages and his non-economic damages. Economic damages include past and future medical expenses, past and future wage loss, future lost earning capacity. Because of an injury sometimes a person either has to exit the workforce early or can no longer do what they did before being injured, and as a result they have what we call a lost earning capacity. In addition to that, other out of pocket or consequential damages that flow from that injury are also recoverable. In addition to the economic damages you can get your non-economic damages. This is what people typically refer to as pain and suffering. And pain and suffering you can recover for both the past pain and suffering and the pain and suffering that you’ll suffer in the future. Those numbers are determined by a juror, or by a jury or the fact finder. And those are typically the damages that are recoverable in a personal injury product defect case where the plaintiff survives. If the plaintiff or the party that was injured by the product does not survive, then the relatives and heirs of the decedent or the dead person are entitled to file a lawsuit on his behalf.
That is what we call wrongful death and survival actions. In a wrongful death case, all the heirs are entitled to recover for are economic damages for burial expenses, and things that flow from the death of the person. What the relatives cannot recover for is the pain and suffering of the decedents, of the dead person. The jury doesn’t get to award them money for the pain and suffering that the decedent experienced prior to his death in a wrongful death case. They’re only entitled to recover for their loss of comfort, society from that person no longer being in their life. In a survival action, which is a type of wrongful death case, is where the heirs recover for the dead person’s pain and suffering from the time of the injury-causing event up until the time of his death. So sometimes, death is instantaneous. Other times, it takes a while. And in the survival action, the decedent’s heirs are entitled to recover for that injured party’s or the decedent’s pain and suffering that he or she went through prior to his or her death.
What about economic damages? For example, someone dies as a result of a defective product, he’s 30 years old and he had another 35-40 years of earning potential.
Right. So in that sort of a case, the decedent’s heirs for example, if he had children, are entitled to recover what the dad would’ve provided for those children throughout their lives. So in a typical case involving the death of a parent, the children are entitled to recover the money that that parent would have provided to that child over his or her life. So things like college expenses, medical expenses, food – all sorts of normal daily things that a parent provides to their children – the heirs or the children are entitled to recover for in a dangerous product case.