Since the Consumer Product Safety Commission first alerted the paper shredder industry in 2004 to potential hazards to children, these horrific injuries have continued with an alarming frequency.  Most of these injuries result in lawsuits filed against the manufacturers, based on the defects in product design that failed to incorporate safety features, and based on the “marketing defects” that omitted the necessary warnings from the products.  Regardless of the exact theory pursued in these lawsuits, the lawsuit cannot accomplish what we all would prefer — restoring the child to his or her uninjured condition.  Instead, a lawsuit is limited to paying compensation to the child, so the parents and lawyers must attempt to place a dollar value on the injuries suffered by the child.

The lawyers know that calculating the damages resulting from amputations to children is a difficult and daunting task.  The effects of these traumatic injuries from a paper shredder injury can touch every aspect of the child’s future, and placing monetary values on the impact requires thoughtful expertise.  Here are just a sampling of the things that must be considered:

Future Earnings.

When a child suffers a traumatic injury to their fingers or hands as a result of a paper shredder injury, we must assess the potential impact of the injury on the child’s future earning capacity.  While at first blush, this assessment may seem like sheer guesswork, there are statistical measures that can help a jury assess the most probable impact on future earnings.

Because we cannot know what career path a child might have followed in the absence of a paper shredder amputation, we must assess whether the injury is severe enough to limit a child’s earning potential in the future.  In many cases, certain occupational choices will be immediately less viable, even though they are not impossible.  There are surgeons who have been able to succeed with amputated fingers or limbs, but those individuals overcame significant obstacles to obtain that success.  Similar stories can be found in virtually any occupation that requires precise manual dexterity or fine motor skills.  By attempting to project a value of an injured child’s lost earning capacity, we are not conceding that these types of post-amputation successes are impossible, we are simply arguing that a child should be compensated in advance for the obstacles that will have to be overcome as a result of the child’s paper shredder injury.  Our lawyers will work with vocational rehabilitation experts to assess and predict the monetary impact for this type of lost earning capacity damages in every defective paper shredder lawsuit.

Prosthetics.

When fingers are partially amputated in a paper shredder accident, a child is entitled to the best available prosthetics to improve the functionality and the appearance of her fingers.  Silicone prosthetics are available that very closely duplicate the appearance of an uninjured finger, down to the swirls of a fingerprint and coloration that exactly matches the pigmentation of the child’s hand.  Having a quality prosthetic can go a long ways towards avoiding any teasing by other children, and it helps the injured child avoid having to repeatedly explain how they were injured, which can lead to feelings that they don’t “fit in” or that they are somehow different from their classmates.  At various points in a child’s development, the psychological impact of having a physical anomaly can lead to lower self-esteem.  A suitable prosthetic can assist the child in these social situations during their formative years.

A properly fitted prosthetic also aids in restoring lost functionality.  Prosthetic fingertips can be designed to transmit vibrations to the remaining portion of the fingers, allowing the wearer to “feel” the fingertip.  This aids in important functions like typing, writing, and even playing certain musical instruments.  By restoring functionality (at least in part), the child gains confidence and self-esteem.

When calculating damages from an amputation caused by a paper shredder, attorneys utilize the services of prosthetic experts who can project the costs of appropriate prosthetics over the child’s lifetime. If these costs are not included in the computation of future medical expenses, the compensatory damages from the paper shredder injury will be significantly understated, since a child will need to replace the prosthetics frequently as they advance towards adulthood.

Loss of consortium.

In some jurisdictions, a child can claim damages for the future loss of consortium that is likely to occur as the result of a traumatic amputation of her fingers in a paper shredder accident. In a perfect world, a young adult’s ability to find a suitable mate would not be impacted by a minor disfigurement or disability like amputated fingertips. However, real world experience tells us that a child with this type of injury will be statistically more likely to have difficulty finding a mate and enjoying the support and comfort that such relationships bring over a lifetime. When a jury is asked to assess the damages that resulted from a defective paper shredder design, they should be allowed to consider the possibility that the injured child will have more limited options in finding a mate.

If your child has been injured as the result of a dangerous or defective home paper shredder, contact us.