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The Ultimate Guide to Product Liability Cases

Product liability cases hold manufacturers and sellers responsible for faulty products that kill or maim. Successful cases are built upon proving liability based on legal theories of tort, negligence, and breach of warranty. You can prosecute a product liability case with the right legal team to recover losses related to serious injury or wrongful death.

Despite their proclamations about safety and testing, companies sell products to the public that injure and kill people every year. Pursuing a product liability claim is daunting to the average person. Going up against a large company with what seems like unlimited resources is challenging. However, experienced lawyers specializing in product liability can help recover damages to pay for medical bills, lost income, pain and suffering, disability, and other effects of injury or death.

When people buy products, it’s reasonable to expect the product will not injure them as long as they use the item as directed or expected. Whether a toy for a child or a type of paint, most Americans assume it’s made with integrity and consumer safety in mind. Even items like power tools must meet industry safety standards before they’re released to the public.

But in reality, manufacturers may not conduct real-world testing.  They may ignore incidents involving injuries and deaths or chalk them up to “isolated instances” and “consumer misuse.”  That does not mean there is no product liabilty case.

Knowing what constitutes negligence or a breach of the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission standards is among the first steps in pursuing a product liability case. This guide outlines common product defects and what it takes to win compensation after someone is injured or killed due to them.

Product Liability Basics

Product liability relates to manufacturer and seller responsibility for product safety. When a company designs, manufacturers or sells a product designed for certain uses, the consumer has a reasonable expectation to avoid serious injury as long as it is used as intended or expected.

Unfortunately, defective products kill thousands of people yearly and injure millions more. While accidents certainly happen, when those injuries or deaths directly relate to product defects, misleading claims, and other similar issues, victims have the right to pursue product liability claims against responsible parties.

Product defects and other issues that lead to claims can occur across the supply chain. Let’s look at some of the more common product defects to help you know whether you may have a realistic product liability claim.

Common Product Defects

As mentioned, product defects can happen at any point along the supply chain. For example, it can happen during the initial design phase or when a parts supplier fails to meet a company’s safety standards or product specifications. Here are some of the most common types of product defects and where they occur.

Product Design Defects

Product design defects occur when the product is designed in a way that it causes an unreasonable risk of harm to the user or misleads the consumer into thinking it is safe or failing to take precautions they need to employ.  However, design issues can trigger a wave of product defects as suppliers and factories often fail to recall or re-design products once it is known that they are dangerous. They fail to do that because of cost….the bottom line is that recalls and redesigns are expensive so manufacturers often just ignore the incidents which sacrifices public safety.

Product design defects can mean products include components that are choking hazards, fails to be a safe product when used as directed or intended, or that it fails to meet their purpose as a finished product.  Often manufacturers will claim that the product was “misused.”  This is a defense often used but in many cases it is smokescreen.  In a lot of cases the product may be used in a way that manufacturer knows consumers are using it even if it is not as intended.  If a manufacturer is aware that consumers are using a product in a particular way that poses a danger to themselves or others, they have a duty to design out the defect or warm of that use.  It does not mean the product is not defective.

Also, products that do not have appropriate warnings or user information may be defective by virtue of the negligent warning or by misleading promotional material or packaging.

False Advertising & Marketing

Companies cannot make false product claims or market them for unintended uses. In addition, the federal government heavily regulates things like labels, warnings, and age restrictions to protect consumers and place the burden of liability on businesses making and selling products.

If a company fails to disclose a potential safety concern or knowingly markets faulty products, it can face liability claims from anyone injured or otherwise harmed by its products.

Manufacturing Defects

Of course, one of the most common defect sources is the production phase. It doesn’t matter if a business makes millions of products in its factory; each must meet safety standards and other regulations.

The finished product typically suffers when something happens in the manufacturing process, whether it’s a broken part or a bad batch of supplies.

What If a Product Causes Is Accidentally Defective?

Many product liability victims mistakenly attribute injuries to user error or an innocent company mistake. While user errors cause many injuries and deaths annually, people shouldn’t be so quick to blame themselves.

It’s easy to think that companies release defective products because managers or owners in a boardroom somewhere decided to cut corners to make more money. While that kind of corporate thinking occurs, defective products aren’t always cooked up in nefarious plots. Often the products are developed more by marketing executives than by engineering experts, and are then placed in the marketplace without deep thought for what harm they might cause.

Companies are responsible for faulty products or advertising claims despite their intentions. While knowingly selling dangerous products is a serious offense, mistakes of omission matter just as much to the victims.

People harmed or killed by defective products deserve compensation and accountability no matter what the company knew at the time. Understanding when you have a case and in which situations a company is liable for defective products is critical to any product liability claim.

Conditions of Product Liability

An expert product liability lawyer can use various means to pursue a claim. However, when it comes to product liability, there are certain conditions that a company must meet to avoid facing legal repercussions when something goes wrong.

Here are some legal theories you should know as you learn about product liability.

Negligence

In negligence cases, the victim or their family must prove the following:

  1. The company, retailer, marketer, or some other party involved with the product’s sale had a duty of care owed to the victim
  2. The company breached its duty of care (in this case by either selling a defective product, falsely marketing the product, etc.)
  3. A person was hurt or killed (There must be actual harm done)
  4. That breach of the company’s duty of care directly resulted in the victim’s serious injury or death

Like other personal injury cases, negligence is a primary theory for bringing product liability cases.  Under negligence principles, the injured party must provide that the manufacturer or seller owed them a duty of reasonable care, they breached that duty (by marketing a defective and dangerous product) and that the defect caused the harm.

Proving fault is not the same as a person getting hurt in the area of a defective product or simply while using the product. Instead, victims and their legal teams must tie the product directly to the damage caused.

Strict Liability

In some places, it doesn’t matter whether the manufacturer or seller was negligent.  In Florida, the law is that strict liability in tort applies, which means that the manufacturer and seller are liable is the product was defective or unreasonably dangerous and was placed into the stream of commerce and caused harm.

Buyers of the product or products can then pursue claims against the manufacturer, distributor or retailer.

Breach of Warranty

People can often pursue product liability claims based on something called a breach of warranty. In these cases, if someone can prove that a warranty was broken or was false in the first place, they can seek damages from a company if they are injured from a defective product. This remedy is available to the purchaser, as opposed to a third party.

 

These are some of the ways a seasoned lawyer will fight to win damages for people hurt by defective products. Remember that, in most cases, victims must prove there is some quantifiable loss related to the product. Typically, any compensation won in product liability cases is related to the extent of the problem and the damage caused.

Product Liability Statute of Limitations

The law does its best to balance protecting consumers with avoiding frivolous lawsuits. In some regards, the statute of limitations helps bring important claims forward quickly. However, people don’t have forever to pursue a case, so it’s critical to both understand the statute of limitations where you are and move your claim forward as soon as possible.

In Florida, for example, the statute of limitations on product liability cases is four years from the time of the injury. However, in product liability cases which cause wrongful death, that time frame is shortened to just two years.

Frequently, victims live with injuries due to a defective product without knowing the cause of their injuries. When another victim in another city or state successfully wins a claim and news typically breaks about the case, people learn that a given company was selling defective products.

It is important to consult an experienced product liability trial lawyer promptly, as there are other limitations such as statutes of repose (deadlines based on the age of the product) to consider.

Examples of Defective Products in Product Liability Cases

If you visit the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) website, you can spend hours browsing reports about recalled products and go over statistics about child deaths and products involved.

The scale of injuries and deaths attributed to defective products can be overwhelming. For example, you’ll see reports about companies paying millions of dollars in fines because they didn’t accurately disclose fire risks or articles about how a certain company’s baby product increases the chance of infant suffocation.

Some common types of product liability cases include:

  • Weight-Loss & Dietary Supplements
  • Child Toys
  • Car Seats & Other Child Safety Equipment
  • Prescription Drugs
  • Car Air Bags
  • Car Tires
  • Seat Belts
  • Gym Equipment
  • Furniture
  • Swimming Equipment
  • Outdoor Recreational Vehicles
  • Mechanical Tools
  • & More

As you can see, product liability claims span the spectrum of both everyday items and specialized equipment.

Hiring a Product Liability Lawyer & Filing a Claim

If you or someone you love is hurt or killed by what you think is a defective product or marketing claim, you should seek legal advice. Hiring a product liability lawyer can help you take swift action to cover things like:

  • Medical Bills
  • Lost Income from Missed Work
  • Property Damage
  • Pain & Suffering
  • Disability
  • Disfigurement
  • Loss of capacity to enjoy life

Here are some steps to determine whether you have a legitimate claim and what to do next.

Step 1 – Finding a Lawyer

Hire the best lawyer you can. Find a legal team with experience related to the product and a track record of success. For example, if your claim involves a children’s toy, you should speak with a lawyer who has successfully argued and won compensation for victims hurt by other toys. They may have even been involved in cases related to the same toy in the past.

Step 2 – Schedule a Free Consultation

Most lawyers offer a free initial consultation to discuss the details of your case. These no-obligation meetings offer victims the chance to hear about potential case outcomes and get a feel for how the lawyer works.

Step 3 – Gathering Evidence

Working in step with your lawyer, you should start to gather evidence in your case. This includes any photographs you took at the time of injury, records of doctors’ visits, the product, witness statements, and more. Your lawyer will help you understand what information you need and how to start building the best possible case.

Step 4 – Identify Liable Parties

An experienced lawyer will help you identify liable parties involved in your case. For example, most people don’t know how to differentiate between the brand and the third-party product manufacturer. Your product liability attorney will know how to assign liability and seek the necessary documentation to prove your claim.

Step 5 – Negotiating a Settlement Vs. Court Cases

Large companies often prefer settling product liability claims to avoid negative press and brand damage. The main issue most victims face is knowing when to accept settlement offers.

What constitutes a fair offer for your injuries, inability to work, and other effects of a defective product? A skilled attorney knows the value of your claim and will negotiate aggressively to ensure your compensation is fair.

If the company fails to meet the threshold of a fair settlement, you and your lawyer must prepare to argue your claim in court.

Winning Your Product Liability Case

Companies knowingly and unknowingly release defective products to the public every year. As a result, people die and are severely injured when they use the products.

As a consumer, it’s your responsibility to use the product reasonably and abide by safety warnings and things like age restrictions. But conversely, companies must design, manufacture, and market products that are safely and built with safe parts and in a manner that considers how the products are actually used.

Talk to a product liability lawyer about your situation if you or someone you know is hurt or killed by a product. They’ll discuss the details of your case and work with you on a strategy that can win you justice and damages to help offset the cost of injuries.

 

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