Defective Products and Product Liability Lawsuits

Defective or dangerous products cause injuries every year in the U.S. Any type of product can be dangerous, from defective airbags to contaminated medical devices. Under product liability laws, consumers are protected against injuries caused by product defects. The product manufacturers are liable for any medical expenses and damages in a product liability claim.

Product liability laws vary from state to state. If you or a loved one was injured by a defective consumer product, talk to a product liability lawyer, who will review your case and help you file a personal injury lawsuit.

What Are the Types of Product Defects?

There are different types of product defect claims. To recover compensation in a product liability lawsuit, you have to show the product was defective as sold. These claims generally fall into one of the following three main types of defects:

  • Manufacturing defects
  • Design defects
  • Marketing defects

A manufacturing defect means there was a problem during the manufacturing process. The design was safe, but the way it was put together created a danger. For example, using cheaper materials instead of those called for in the original design could be dangerous. Failing to follow proper sanitation measures could contaminate a medical product, causing serious harm.

A defective design means there was a problem with the original design of the product. This generally involves showing there was a safer alternative design. For example, an airbag that fails to deploy on time in a car accident could indicate a problem with the product’s design.

A marketing defect is generally a failure to warn of a defect. Products may have an inherent danger based on their intended use or design. For example, if you are buying a kitchen knife, there is an inherent danger of a sharp blade. However, manufacturers may have a duty to warn consumers about unexpected dangers with an adequate warning label.

Examples of Product Liability Cases

You may not hear about an individual incident involving a defective product. However, some product liability claims cause thousands of serious injuries and even some deaths. Examples of some product liability cases include:

  • Asbestos exposure
  • Exploding rechargeable batteries
  • Automobile defects, like exploding airbags or faulty brakes
  • Defective prescription drugs and medical devices
  • Flammable kids clothing
  • Poorly designed furniture that can fall on people

The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, a federal agency, issues and posts recalls for all types of consumer products on its website. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) will issue recalls on food and prescription drug products as well.

Who Is Liable for Defective Products?

In most personal injury cases, the injury victim has to prove that the defendant negligently caused the injury. However, “strict liability” applies to product liability claims. This means you don’t have to show that the manufacturer or distributor was negligent. You only need to prove that the product that caused your injury was defective when it was put on the market.

When a manufacturer puts a product out on the market, they make an “implied warranty” that the product is fit for ordinary use and purpose. If the manufacturer sells a dangerous product that causes serious injuries, there is a breach of warranty.

Several parties responsible for placing a defective product on the market could be responsible in a product liability case. This includes:

  • The manufacturer of the product
  • The manufacturer of a specific component of the product
  • Those who installed or assembled the product
  • The product’s wholesaler
  • The retailer that sold the product

You may not be sure who was responsible for your injuries, but multiple parties may share liability for causing them. Your lawyer can include multiple parties in a product liability suit, which increases the chances you can recover compensatory damages in a settlement or at trial.

Possible Defenses to Defective Product Claims

There are several common defenses in product liability lawsuits that product manufacturers and retailers will use to avoid paying compensation in product liability claims.

One possibility is that the plaintiff modified the product in a way that made it unsafe. For example, if you disabled a guard on your lawnmower, the product may be more dangerous than when you bought it.

Defendants might also claim that the plaintiff used the product in an unreasonable or unforeseeable manner. For example, a swivel chair is to be sat upon. It may be unreasonable to stand on the chair to try and reach something high because it could be unstable. In both of these examples, if the instructions contained clear warnings about how to properly use the product and you ignored them, you would likely have a much weaker case.

How Can a Product Liability Lawyer Help?

A personal injury attorney experienced with product liability cases will review your case and identify your legal options. These cases are often complex and require the use of engineering or design experts who can dispute the defense’s claims. Your lawyer will know how to build a strong case and identify the possible defendants who are responsible.

A skilled product liability attorney can use that experience in settlement negotiations with the defense or to take your case to trial if that is necessary to assert your rights. Compensation could include money for your medical bills and other losses.

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