What Damages Can Be Awarded In Opioid Lawsuits?


The truth is that opioids have had a disastrous impact on many families across the United States of America. Although the federal and state governments have started taking drastic measures to address the epidemic, the intervention may have come too late for many victims.

As many people around the country begin to feel the opioid crisis and its devastating effects, more and more opioid lawsuits are being filed. The cases are filed against doctors, drug manufacturers, and drug distributors who played a role in fueling the epidemic.

States, cities, local governments, and individuals who have filed opioid lawsuits expect maximum compensation from those found guilty. If you or your loved one were prescribed opioids by a qualified doctor, you might have the ground to file a lawsuit and seek compensation.

Unfortunately, many plaintiffs don’t know the type of damages that are recoverable in such cases. Many opioid lawsuits fall under the area of medical malpractice, and individuals successful with their claims are entitled to a wide range of damages.

This post provides you with a quick overview of the damages that you may recover in your opioid litigation case.

What Are the Most Common Financial Losses That You Can Recover?

Just like any other civil claim, if you file an opioid lawsuit, you could seek compensation for the financial losses you or your loved one incurred from opioid usage.

In this case, the damages include medical bills, rehabilitative services expenses,  lost wages from missed work, and any other form of economic loss you may have suffered that can be tied directly to opioid usage.

opioid epidemic

If an opioid dependency or overdose caused the premature death of your loved one, you could seek compensation for funeral and burial expenses in addition to the loss of monetary support if the deceased was the family’s breadwinner.

Other than economic losses with an actual dollar value, you can also recover non-economic damages that don’t have an actual dollar value.  They include decreased quality of life, emotional stress, pain and suffering, and many more.

Are Punitive Damages Factored In Opioid Lawsuits?

The simple answer is yes. In civil litigation, punitive damages are not about paying back what the plaintiff has lost. Instead, they are about punishing the responsible party for doing something wrong.

The primary objective of punitive damages is to discourage other people from taking similar actions. In most cases, punitive damages are much greater than compensatory/economic damages.

The case of McDonald’s vs. a woman named Liebeck can help us understand the concept of punitive damages much better. In 1994, Liebeck sued Macdonald’s in a product liability suit after suffering third-degree burns in her pelvic region after accidentally spilling hot coffee on her lap just after buying it.

Liebeck was hospitalized for eight days, underwent skin grafting, and endured two years of medical treatment to recover.


In the ruling, the court awarded Liebeck $160,000 in compensatory damages, which included compensation for her medical expenses. However, McDonald’s was ordered to pay $2.7 million in punitive damages to prevent the company and others from serving dangerously hot drinks to their customers.

In another example, an opioid lawsuit in Missouri in 2016 ended with the plaintiff receiving a total damage award of about $17.6 million. However, approximately $15 million of the amount were punitive damages and not compensatory damages.

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Can You Make a Claim in the Event of Wrongful Death?

Sadly, opioid addiction and overdose take the lives of many Americans. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report that at least 93 people lose their lives to opioids weekly.

If you lost your loved one to prescription opioids, you can file a wrongful death claim against the opioid manufacturer or prescribing doctor.

The damages available in a wrongful death claim are quite similar to damages available in other opioid lawsuits.  It means you can seek compensation for both economic and non-economic damages.

opioid lawsuits

The only difference is that damages in a wrongful death lawsuit are meant to compensate you for the losses you may have sustained as a result of the death.

The damages may include funeral and burial expenses, the financial support the deceased used to provide, and the loss of comfort, support, and moral guidance the deceased provided to you.

What Are the Potential Obstacles to Obtaining Compensation in Opioid Lawsuits?

Filing an opioid lawsuit and winning the case isn’t a straightforward thing. Many limiting factors may negatively impact your case and the amount of compensation you can recover.

Also, there may be caps or certain limits placed on potential damages based on the type of claim you file. In some states, such as New York, there are no limits and caps on the damages that the jury can award the plaintiff.

Opioid lawsuits

Some states provide a strict timeframe that complainants must adhere to for their claims to be valid. In most states, victims are expected to file their opioid lawsuits within two or three years from the date the negligent act took place.

The good thing is that you can always avoid the time obstacle by taking legal action sooner rather than later. Remember that opioids can cause irreversible damage to your health if you fail to act swiftly.

What Should You Do Now?

If you or your loved became addicted to opioids after receiving a prescription, you might have a valid claim.

The first thing you need to do is seek professional help if you or your loved one is still addicted to the drugs. Your lawsuit won’t go well until your condition is stable, and no amount of money can fix the damage if you don’t act swiftly.

Once you are safe, start making notes about the losses you have suffered and keep track of everything. Be careful with the information you include in your notes because it will play a critical role in your case. It is better to include too much information other than leaving something important out and forgetting about it.

While making your notes, consider what you will need to validate your claim. Gather paystubs, treatment center receipts, and hospital bills relevant to your case in one place.

Lastly, contact an experienced opioid attorney to evaluate your case and guide you further.

Keep in mind that this isn’t the type of case you can handle on your own. An attorney will offer you the legal advice you need and fight for your right to ensure you get the rightful compensation you deserve.

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