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Monetary Damages in Product Liability Cases

When you get hurt because of a defective product, Illinois law says that you may be entitled to compensation through a product liability claim. What kind of compensation you receive and the amount of compensation will depend on the circumstances of your case. An experienced Chicago injury lawyer can help you understand what your options are and what kind of monetary damages might be available to you.

Compensatory Damages

Compensatory damages are those designed to make you whole — or as close to whole as you can get — following an injury, or in other words to restore you to your pre-injury state as much as is possible.

Compensatory damages are grouped generally into two categories: economic and non-economic. Economic damages include tangible things such as the medical bills you received for treatment of a broken leg, or lost wages because you were off work for six months because of your injuries. Those are definite costs that you incurred because of your injury, and Illinois law says you should be entitled to compensation for those if you can prove your claim.

Illinois law also recognizes that you should be compensated for other effects on your life that don’t have a definite, fixed price tag attached. Those are non-economic damages, and include payment for things like your inability to lead a normal life or have an intimate relationship with your spouse because of your injuries. Illinois recognizes that those aspects of your life that have been altered by your injuries have value even if you haven’t lost a specific dollar amount.

Forms of compensatory damages that may be available to you when you’re harmed by a defective product may include:

  • Medical Bills — This includes your costs for any kind of medical treatment you receive because of your injuries, both present and future. If you’ll need surgery in the future because of your injuries from the defective product, you can be compensated for the future medical expenses you’ll incur as long as the expenses are related to your injuries and not some other health condition. Compensation may include payment for surgery fees, hospital stays, doctor’s office co-pays, physical therapy, prescription drugs, or medical supplies.
  • Lost Income — You may be compensated for income you lose because of your injuries, both present and future. If you’re permanently unable to work, you may be able to receive the lifetime value of your lost employment.
  • Pain and Suffering — This is a form of damages in which you may be compensated for the mental anguish and trauma you experience because of your injuries, such as being treated for post-traumatic stress.
  • Disability and Disfigurement — If your injuries were disabling or disfiguring, you may be compensated for the effect on your life because of the disability or disfigurement.
  • Loss of Normal Life — This is a form of non-economic damages, and may include compensation for an inability to perform daily household tasks or hobbies that you previously enjoyed.

Punitive Damages

Punitive damages are intended to deter a person or company from engaging in the kind of wrongful conduct that resulted in your injuries. The caveat should be added that punitive damages are very rare. Punitive damages are not awarded in Illinois for product liability cases based on negligence or strict liability, but only when the actions that resulted in your injury were intentional or reckless. Additionally, punitive damages can only be awarded when you also are awarded compensatory damages.

Under 735 ILCS 5/2-1115.05, you may be awarded punitive damages when the conduct of the person or company involved “evil motive or reckless and outrageous indifference to a highly unreasonable risk of harm and with a conscious indifference to the rights and safety of others.” For example, if a company produces a children’s toy that it knows is easily flammable and may cause serious harm to children, and lets the product go to market without making any attempt to make it safer, punitive damages might be awarded because of the company’s reckless disregard for the safety of its product.

In addition to being rare, punitive damages are limited in Illinois to three times the amount awarded for economic damages. So if the value of your medical bills and lost wages is $100,000, and a jury decides that you should get punitive damages, those would be capped at $300,000.

If you ask for punitive damages in a product liability lawsuit, 735 ILCS 5/2-1115.05 allows for the question of whether to award punitive damages to be tried separately from any other issues in the case. You also have a greater burden of proof when asking for punitive damages than when proving other parts of your case.

Wrongful Death Damages

If your claim involves a loved one being killed by a defective product, you may be able to seek wrongful death damages. Under the Wrongful Death Act, 740 ILCS 180, you may be able to recover compensation for:

  • Loss of Relationship — You may be able to receive compensation for the loss of your loved one’s companionship, or the loss of intimate relationship if you lost a spouse.
  • Loss of Economic Support — This is the value of your loved one’s monetary contributions to your household or family, such as the value of future income your loved one would have earned and used to support you.
  • Pain and Suffering — You may be able to receive compensation the grief and emotional distress you’re experiencing because of the loss of your loved one.
  • Funeral Expenses — You may be able to receive compensation for burial or cremation costs.

If your loved one survived temporarily after being injured by the product, but his or her injuries ultimately proved fatal, you may be able to seek additional damages under the Survival Act, 755 ILCS 5/27-6. Damages available under this act include payment of medical costs for the treatment your loved one received between the time he or she was injured and when he or she passed away. You also may be compensated for any other type of personal injury damages your loved one might have been able to receive if he or she had survived and pursued a product liability claim. An experienced Chicago injury lawyer can help you through this process.