There are really no two ways about it: if a defective product injures you, the manufacturer is liable for the damages. This is because the California product liability law is a law that applies strict liability.
With strict liability, the intent and negligence of the defendant is irrelevant in attributing liability. For California product liability, all that matters is that the product was defective and it caused damages when used as intended. That’s it.
Many of the questions we field from our product liability clients have to do with product liability settlement amounts. More often than not, our clients are curious about the average product liability settlement.
Unfortunately, there is no average product liability settlement. At the end of the day, the value of any product liability settlement depends entirely on the circumstances of the case.
Why Is There No Average Product Liability Settlement?
There is no average product liability settlement because there is no average product liability claim. Just like with car accidents, crimes, and even divorces, every situation is unique.
Even two legal claims that appear analogous on their surface will, in all probability, yield different results. WIth no average case or settlement to compare to, we can’t give our clients “average product liability settlement” in good faith. It is disingenuous to pretend otherwise.
What Factors Affect My Settlement’s Value?
There are an infinite number of factors that can impact your settlement’s value. The product in question, how you used it, your attorney, and their level of experience can all impact the ultimate value of your settlement. The most important factor, perhaps, is the damages you suffered due to the defective product.
How Can I Estimate the Value of My Claim?
The best way to make an estimate of your settlement’s value is to add up all the applicable damages. California law splits damages into three main categories:
- Economic damages;
- Non economic damages; and
- Punitive damages.
Economic and non economic damages are both forms of compensatory damages. The intent behind them is to compensate an injured party for damages they suffered.
Punitive damages are not compensatory. Instead, the intent behind them is to punish the defendant for particularly egregious wrongdoing.
To make an estimate of your settlement value, all you have to do is account for all damages in each category. Then, simply add up all three categories of damages for a final sum. Your attorney can help you calculate an estimate that will help you determine what a fair settlement would be. Keep in mind, however, that this is just an estimate.
Economic damages are the objectively quantifiable damages you suffer. Economic damages include things like:
- Medical bills,
- Property damage,
- Lost wages,
- Lost employment benefits, and
- Loss of future earnings.
All the noted economic damages have one thing in common: they are objectively quantifiable. You can look at your medical bills, add them up, and include the sum in your estimate of economic damages.
The same applies to the other economic damages. All you have to do to incorporate them into your settlement estimate is write down their value and add up the numbers. Then you have the value of your economic damages.
Non Economic Damages
Non economic damages are not objectively quantifiable, but just as real. Non economic damages include things like:
- Pain and suffering,
- Emotional or psychological distress,
- Loss of a loved one,
- Loss of enjoyment of life, and
- Loss of the use of a limb or other bodily function.
As you can see, all these are real damages that you can identify and suffer from. They are, however, inherently subjective. Thus, they are hard to place a value on. Furthermore, sometimes, given their subjective nature, non economic damages are difficult to prove. Still, experienced injury attorneys know how to calculate them and prove their existence in court.
It is difficult to assess just how much your non economic damages are worth without the help of a skilled attorney. However, it is possible to make an estimate. Most of the time, courts and attorneys calculate non economic damages by applying a multiplier to the total economic damages.
For example, consider a claim with $10,000 worth of economic damages. If your case involved significant non economic damages, you might apply a factor of four, bringing the total value of non economic damages to $40,000.
Punitive damages apply only in specific circumstances. As noted, their function is to deter someone from future wrongdoing instead of compensating an injured party. In a product liability claim, punitive damages will apply only if a plaintiff can show that the defendant acted maliciously, with a conscious disregard for safety, or with a real intention to harm others.
It is practically impossible for someone without considerable experience in product liability cases to even estimate the value of punitive damages in a given claim. If you believe that punitive damages apply to your case, however, you should tell your attorney immediately.
That way, your attorney has ample time to investigate and collect evidence of the malicious wrongdoing.
Ready For Legal Help?
If you have a California product liability claim, the Law Office of Chuck Geerhart has you covered. Whether you need help estimating your damages, negotiating with the responsible party, or filing a lawsuit, Chuck Geerhart can help. When you work with our law firm, you work directly with Chuck Geerhart.
That means that your case will get personal attention throughout the entire legal process. We’ll never pass your case on to a paralegal, so you know that you are getting the best legal help that our firm has to offer. Chuck has considerable experience with product liability claims, and his results speak for themselves.
If our firm feels like a good fit, give us a call for a free consultation today!