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Product Liability: How Much Is My Case Worth?

A blackened, melting electrical cord and plug are on fire, plugged into an electrical outlet that is also blackened and melting due to a defective product.

From toys to motor vehicles, there are millions of products that people use everyday. You use these products without thinking, assuming that they are safe and will not harm you. Unfortunately, sometimes this assumption is wrong and you do sustain an injury. In some instances, it is a minor injury that is your own fault, such as when you slip while cutting vegetables and cut yourself with a knife. Other times, it is a much more serious injury and is caused by a defect in the product. When a product defect is responsible for your injury, the manufacturer and sometimes others, can be held responsible for not only the cost of your medical expenses, but also your lost wages and other related expenses. One of the first questions you may have is: how much is my case worth? Call Friedman & Bresaw, PLLC at (603) 707-4800 to schedule a consultation and review the facts of your New Hampshire product liability claim with one of our experienced personal injury attorneys.

The Factors of Product Liability

To pursue a product liability case, three factors must be present and three causes of action can be pursued. Understanding both the factors and causes of action is important to determining how to pursue your claim. 

Product Liability Factors

To pursue a product liability claim, a product must first be involved. Product liability claims can be for anything from foodborne illnesses to children’s toys to clothing or motor vehicles. Houses, prescription or over-the-counter drugs, and nearly any other manufactured product have the potential for a product liability claim. The second factor is that the product must be found defective somehow. This may include missing pieces, broken pieces, or pieces that can be easily removed that make the product more dangerous. The defect may be a design flaw, manufacturing error, or even a missing warning to the consumer about a potential danger. 

Finally, the third factor is that the product’s defect must be found to be the proximate cause of the individual’s injury. An example of a proximate cause might be a defective bike helmet that, when worn by a child who is crashed into by another bike, broke and allowed the child to suffer a head injury. The other cyclist would be the actual cause (crashing into the injured child), but the defective bike helmet is the proximate cause because if it were not faulty, the child would not have suffered the head injury. 

Product Liability Causes of Action

When pursuing a product liability claim, three common causes of action are used: 

  • Negligence: The defendant failed to act with the level of care that a reasonable person would have used under the circumstances.
  • Strict Liability: The defendant is liable if the plaintiff can prove the product is defective, regardless of the care used to create the product or the defendant’s intent. 
  • Breach of Warranty of Fitness: When the plaintiff expresses what they need the product to do, and the defendant provides a product that is not intended to serve that purpose. For example, if the plaintiff says they need a tool that can drill through metal and the defendant gives them a tool that they know cannot drill through metal, this is a breach of warranty of fitness, also sometimes called an implied warranty of fitness.

In New Hampshire, strict liability is the cause of action most commonly used. This means the defendant can be held liable regardless of fault or negligence simply by proving that their defective product caused the individual’s injury. 

What Factors Affect My Product Liability Settlement Value?

When answering the question, how much is my case worth, it is important to consider a variety of factors.

The Injury

The severity of the injury, recovery time, and whether there is any temporary or permanent disability resulting from the injury all affect the case’s value. Because it may take a long time to recover fully, and in some cases, injured parties may need ongoing medical care for many years or even permanently, this factor can be a critical part of determining the settlement amount. 

The Product Defect

The defect in the product must exist as is. If the individual altered it in some way and those alterations resulted in the product being defective, there may not be a claim to pursue. 

For example, if an individual removed a valve that vents dangerous fumes from a space heater to fit it in the location they wanted to place it and suffered an injury as a result, they may not be able to file a product liability claim. However, if the space heater does not have a way to warn the user that it is overheating and the user is injured as a result of the heater overheating, they would likely be able to file a claim. 

The Product Use

In addition to the defect that exists in the product as it was made, the individual must also be able to show that they were using the product as intended and/or as it was represented it could be used. If the product was being used in ways it was not intended and the user was injured, there may not be a claim because the injury may have only occurred because it was being used inappropriately. However, in some cases, this may not apply. For example, if the cause of action is breach of warranty of fitness, the user may have been using the product in a way it was not intended because they were told it could be used that way. While you are not required to hire an attorney to file a personal injury claim, reviewing such claims with a personal injury attorney such as those at Friedman & Bresaw, PLLC is important to determine if you have a case. 

Additional Factors

Other factors determining the value of a settlement include defendant liability and whether the case goes to trial or settles. A trial involves considerably more expenses than a settlement, which may reduce the amount recovered. 

If more than one defendant is liable, the case’s value may vary depending on the percentage of liability assigned to each defendant and the monetary resources of each defendant. This may also influence whether the case goes to trial or settles. 

How Can I Estimate How Much Is My Case Worth?

When it comes to the question, how much is my case worth, there is no definitive answer. Several elements should be considered when attempting to determine the value of a product liability case. 

Medical Expenses and Physical Impairment

When it comes to the question, how much is my case worth, there is no definitive answer. Several elements should be considered when attempting to determine the value of a product liability case. 

Pain and Suffering and Emotional Distress

NH Rev Stat §508:4-d provides for non-economic damages such as pain and suffering and emotional distress. These are damages that are not objectively verifiable. While it is easy to confirm medical expenses or lost wages, pain and suffering and emotional distress are subjective to each individual. Though these amounts are often negotiable, New Hampshire law does state that they cannot exceed $875,000.

NH Rev Stat §507:16 outlaws punitive damages. Punitive damages is extra money awarded to the plaintiff when the defendant’s behavior is so egregious that the court punishes them by awarding these damages on top of the other compensation. This means that while an injured individual can receive compensation for non-economic damages, they cannot receive extra money that is not directly related to some form of compensation. 

Loss of Consortium and Enjoyment of Life

In New Hampshire, spouses are entitled to love, affection, compassion, solace, comfort, moral support, and sex (including the possibility of having children) from each other. If an individual’s injuries interfere with their ability to provide those things to their spouse, loss of consortium can be added to the non-economic damages. 

Enjoyment of life refers to the individual’s ability to enjoy life as they did before the injuries occurred. For example, if the individual was an athletic person who spent most of their free time being physically active and they are now confined to a wheelchair or otherwise unable to continue their previously active lifestyle, they may be able to add a loss of enjoyment of life claim to their case. Both loss of consortium and loss of enjoyment of life are non-economic damages, so they would be included in the same cap as pain and suffering. 

Lost Earnings

Lost earnings, like medical expenses, are typically a more easily proven damage. Lost wages can include both the wages lost while recovering from the injuries as well as future earnings if the individual is unable to return to work due to temporary or permanent disability. In some cases, if the individual is unable to return to their prior employment and must take a lower-paying job, they may also receive lost wages for the difference in earning capacity. 

Destroyed Property

Destroyed property is not a common damage in product liability cases, but it can occur. If it does, the individual can be compensated for repairing or replacing the property. Additionally, if the individual must make adjustments to their home as a result of the injuries, such as adding a wheelchair ramp or other accessibility improvements, the costs of these adjustments can be included in their case. 

Why Is It So Difficult To Find an Average Product Liability Settlement?

Finding an average settlement is difficult because every case is different. Product liability cases are varied and each situation is unique. This uniqueness means that each case and each settlement are also unique and therefore, cannot be easily compared to other cases to determine an average settlement or estimate what a case might be worth. 

How Can a Product Liability Lawyer Assist Me?

Many product liability cases are settled rather than going to trial. There are several reasons why this might occur, including: 

  • Multiple Defendants: When multiple defendants are involved, some may prefer to settle to avoid the expense of litigation.
  • Guaranteed Recovery: A settlement guarantees recovery, while a trial could result in a judge or jury finding that the defendant did nothing wrong. 
  • Decreased Legal Expenses: Trials are expensive, but a settlement can be handled more quickly and efficiently, saving both parties time and money. 
  • Reduced Stress: Waiting for their day in court, and trials themselves, can be stressful for individuals who are dealing with mounting bills and little or no income due to their injuries. A settlement reduces this stress by getting them compensation more quickly and without going to court. 
  • Maintained Privacy: By law, trials must be open to the public. This means that all evidence, statements, and photos are public record. The victim may not wish to have their family, friends, employers, the media, or the public see these things. With a settlement, the only thing that must be made public is the settlement amount, allowing the victim to maintain their privacy. 
  • Typically Final: When a judge or jury makes a decision in a trial, one or both parties can file post-verdict motions and appeals to try to change that decision. These motions and appeals can take years to resolve and while they are unresolved, the defendant does not have to pay. A settlement is usually final, allowing the victim to know how much compensation they are getting and when. 

How Can a Product Liability Lawyer Assist Me?

If you have been injured by a defective product, you may have a case against the manufacturer, retailer, or others. There are many factors that determine whether you have a case and how much that case is worth, but a consultation with a personal injury attorney can help you to get an idea of how the calculations may be done to answer the question, how much is my case worth? At Friedman & Bresaw, PLLC, our knowledgeable personal injury attorneys may be able to help you determine how much your claim is worth and how to proceed. Call our office at (603) 707-4800 to schedule a consultation and review your case. 

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About the Attorney
Jesse Friedman

Jesse has personally represented thousands of clients throughout the State - from juvenile delinquency offenses through homicides. He has extensive trial and litigation experience and has obtained favorable outcomes for thousands of clients throughout the years.

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