Many effects of toxic asbestos exposure are permanent and irreversible. Although the law seeks to place an injured person in the position he or she was in before an injury, this usually is not possible. Instead, economic compensation thought to be equivalent to the victim's damage is awarded. A plaintiff who can prove that he or she was exposed to asbestos may be able to recover for both the economic and noneconomic consequences of that exposure, including:
- The cost of past and future medical care;
- The cost of necessary rehabilitation;
- Lost past and future wages;
- Lost earning capacity;
- Lost enjoyment of life;
- Emotional distress; and,
- Past and future pain and suffering.
Another kind of damages that plaintiffs injured by asbestos may be able to recover are "punitive" damages. Punitive damages are intended not to compensate the victim for his or her losses, but to punish the defendant's wrongful conduct. Although punitive damage awards receive a lot of media attention, they are in fact quite rare. The amount of punitive damages awarded is usually based on the wealth of the defendant and the magnitude of its wrongful conduct. Some states require that a portion of punitive damages awards be paid to the state.
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