Damages in Class Action Lawsuits: Part 1
This week on The Law Resource our articles will cover class action lawsuits and the nuances that differentiate them from individual litigation. It’s important to know that the law handles a Class of individuals who come together to bring litigation differently than it handles an individual who files litigation against one person or a company, by themselves (after retaining a lawyer). There are good reasons for this demarcation and we begin our series with laying out one of the most important aspects of any class action litigation: damages.
What are damages? What differentiates damages from a settlement or a verdict? How are damages classified by law? We explore all of these topics and present our readers with a clear picture of everything they need to know should they find themselves considering joining a class after becoming injured.
To refresh, damages are defined by law (in brief) as:
“[…]the amount of money which a plaintiff (the person suing) may be awarded in a lawsuit.”
However, the different types of damages must be well understood before a case can be litigated, and taken all the way to trial if necessary. A board certified civil trial lawyer is well versed on the types of damages and what can be awarded to a victim on a case-by-case basis. No two cases are alike, and therefore one case may qualify for damages another will not, and vice versa. Only an experienced attorney should take point on a case in which high dollar amounts are to be awarded to the victim after sustaining catastrophic injuries.
ABCs: Accident, Bodily Injury, (and) Compensatory Damages!
When it comes to Personal Injury, the law defines a large portion of damages awarded as “compensatory”. Compensatory, from the word “compensate”, meaning the judge will award the victim (“plaintiff”) for losses sustained due to serious bodily injury resulting from an accident in which they were not at-fault.
Compensatory damages can usually be grouped into the following categories, depending on the type of injury the victim or victims (in the case of class action) sustained and the severity of those injuries:
Medical expenses: when it comes to Personal Injury law, a victim is normally awarded damages directly associated with the accident in which they were involved (caused by the negligence of another person, or company–again, in the case of class action litigation). Damages awarded due to medical expenses are meant to compensate the amount assumed a victim will need for future medical treatment, medication, surgeries, and therapies due to the severity of their accident. A judge will look at the medical bills the victim has already sustained due to the accident, and how much their recovery has harmed them financially when determining how much is to be awarded for this type of damages.
Income: A victim (or victims) who sustain seriously bodily injury that leaves them unable to work. For example: in the case of Roundup-related class action litigation, farmers diagnosed with cancer due to exposure can no longer continue working due to the devastating effects of the chemotherapy required to treat the disease. In the case of agricultural workers who have passed away as the result of Roundup exposure, their families are left in financial ruin and unable to provide for young children. These damages are awarded in two different circumstances: the first includes but is not limited to the wages lost while out of work due to the illness or injury. The second, are damages awarded on behalf of income that would’ve been earned had the injury or illness (in the case of Roundup: cancer that resulted in hundreds of fatalities) not occurred.
Pain and Suffering: This is a topic The Law Resource has covered many times in our successful Mental Anguish is Just as Painful as Physical Suffering and A Closer Look At Physical Pain After Accident articles on the subject. However, when it comes to damages, pain and suffering is absolutely worth a more in-depth explanation: when a judge rules on what is to be awarded in the way of damages that compensate Pain and Suffering, His or Her Honor will look closely at the amount of physical and mental pain the victim suffered during and in the aftermath of their accident or illness.
When determining the damages to be awarded to victims of Roundup exposure, for instance, a great many victims are beginning to obtain verdicts in the multi-millions. This is due in no small part to the fact that Roundup exposure resulting in cancer diagnoses not only caused physical pain to the hardworking agricultural workers that went to work to perform their jobs to the best of their ability each and every day, but also caused them to sustain great mental anguish knowing they had become terminally ill.
Up Next: lesser known damages the insurance companies hope to hide
In Part 2 of this week’s series on class action litigation, we’ll look even deeper into the types of damages insurance companies hope victims never find out about (but board certified lawyers will go after aggressively, if necessary!) and how the actions of the Plaintiff and their legal team can greatly affect the outcome of their trial, and ultimately the verdict. Hint: we explored the topic of “credibility” last week!