Personal Injury Lawsuits From Hot Drinks: How Will The Court Calculate Your Settlement?

Posted on: 22 March 2016

A hot drink may seem harmless enough, but the liquid inside the cup has the potential to cause a serious injury. If somebody spills the drink on you, or the cup doesn't hold the hot liquid inside adequately, you could have to deal with a serious burn injury. If you or someone you love suffers an injury from a hot drink, find out how much settlement you could receive if a court rules in your favor, and learn more about the steps your attorney will take to calculate damages.

Special damages

As part of a personal injury settlement, you can claim the cost of a bill you had to pay or the value of something you didn't receive as a direct result of the injury. These claims are special damages.

Special damages can take several forms. These include:

  • Medical treatment. You may need to go to the emergency room to have treatment for a burn from a hot drink. You may also need further therapy or care to deal with the scar that the hot liquid causes.
  • Income. A serious burn could lead to time off work. For example, if a waitress spills a hot drink on your hand, you may find it too painful to work for some time.
  • Property loss. Hot liquid could ruin your possessions. If a cup of spilt coffee damages your mobile phone, you may face an expensive repair or replacement bill.

Other types of compensation do not represent an immediate financial loss or cost, but they can still form part of your settlement. Lawyers refer to these costs as general damages.

General damages

A personal injury settlement from a hot drink accident could also include several types of general damages, including pain and suffering.

Injuries like this are painful and are likely to lead to significant suffering for some time. For example, some burns can lead to reduced mobility and a decreased ability to fight off infection for many years. As such, under a personal injury settlement, you can claim a value that represents the pain and suffering the burn causes.

Some burns may lead to a loss of enjoyment. For example, a bad burn to your leg may mean you can no longer play football or hockey. In this case, you could receive 'loss of enjoyment' damages. What's more, if you spill a hot drink in your lap, you may even cause temporary (or permanent damage) to your body that could interfere with your sex life. In these cases, you may want to consider a claim for 'loss of consortium.'

Calculating general damages

General damages don't normally incur a specific cost or invoice that you can submit to the court. As such, the legal system relies on different methods to estimate these costs.

For pain and suffering damages, courts normally use one of two methods. Some courts use the 'multiplier' method. Here, the court will examine the total cost of special damages and multiply this by a number between 1.5 and 5, according to the severity of the incident.

The 'per diem' approach looks at the costs another way. In these cases, the court will estimate a cost per day for the suffering you caused. Generally, this will use a daily rate based on your normal income, which the court will multiply by a fixed number of days.

General damages are harder to estimate for loss of enjoyment or consortium. In these cases, your attorney may need to consider various factors. It's often a good idea to hire an expert adjudicator to assess these claims. The award is normally at the judge or jury's discretion, so it's important to present a compelling case.

In all cases, most states have limits on the total amount you can claim for general damages.

Hot drink injuries can lead to a variety of damages that should form part of your personal injury settlement. Talk to an experienced attorney for more advice.