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Defective Products Liability


Those who have suffered an injury due to unsafe or defective products may be eligible for compensation. When a product is defective and causes damage, the designer, manufacturer, or distributor may be held liable. Because product liability law is complex, it is important to consult an attorney if you have been injured by a defective product. An experienced product liability attorney can help you move forward quickly and ensure your claim is filed within the statute of limitations.

Featured Litigation

Currently, our attorneys are investigating claims in the IVC filter lawsuit. Patients who had a device implanted in their circulatory system to prevent blood clots from traveling to their hearts have experienced many complications, mostly related to the filter becoming dislodged and migrating throughout the body. There have been many cases of organ damage, deep vein thrombosis, pulmonary embolism, cardiac tamponade, and even death.

We are also looking into claims regarding the Bair Hugger Surgical Warming Blanket lawsuit. These cases allege that patients who underwent surgery to replace a knee or hip developed deep joint infections after the procedure in which a Bair Hugger warming blanket was employed. These devices are designed to regulate a patient's body temperature throughout the procedure by recirculating warm air. However, studies have shown that recirculated air from underneath an operating table can contain many times the bacteria as non-circulated air and contribute to this type of injury.

Product Liability Overview

Most defective product claims fall into one of three broad categories: negligence, strict liability, or breach of warranty.

Negligence

Any individual involved in the design, manufacture, or distribution of a product has a duty to provide a safe product. If one of these individuals fails to exercise reasonable care, and their action (or inaction) results in injury, he or she can be held liable. Negligence claims under product liability law include design errors, careless mistakes in the manufacturing of a product, and failure to warn consumers of the dangers associated with a product.

Strict Liability

While negligence claims require proof that a party acted unreasonably, strict liability claims hold a manufacturer, supplier, or retailer responsible for injuries caused by a defective product regardless of fault or intent. If a product is determined to be unreasonably dangerous to consumers, and injury results from using the product, the mere fact that the product is defective is sufficient to hold the responsible parties liable in a court of law.

Breach of Warranty

Breach of warranty essentially means that a party violated their own guarantee. Under product liability law, breach of warranty claims may arise when manufacturers, suppliers, or retailers break either an express or implied promise to consumers that a product is free of defects.

Do I Need a Product Liability Lawyer?

Companies that design, manufacture, and distribute products to the public have an obligation to ensure that their products are safe for consumers. If you or someone you love has suffered an injury because a consumer product was defective, you may be eligible for financial compensation. However, proving fault in a product liability lawsuit can be a very complicated process. Additionally, the defendant will likely have extensive resources and will vigorously defend their interests in court. For the best chance of obtaining the compensation that you deserve, seek the services of an experienced and aggressive product liability lawyer.

What a Product Liability Lawyer Can Do for You

A product liability lawyer can provide you with expert legal counsel so that you can make educated and informed decisions about how to pursue your claim, and can aggressively represent you during the course of your legal proceedings. If possible, a product liability lawyer can work to obtain a satisfactory settlement for you so that a trial isn't necessary. In the event that your case goes to trial, an experienced attorney can work diligently to secure a positive verdict on your behalf. Though the compensation you may receive is dependent on a number of factors, you may be eligible to obtain compensation for medical bills, rehabilitation costs, inhibited earning capacity, loss of wages, and pain and suffering if you have been injured by a defective product. If a loved one has been killed by a defective product, your family may be able to obtain compensation for funerary costs, medical costs, loss of future wages, pain and suffering, and a loss of companionship.

Who Can File a Product Liability Lawsuit?

Defective products can cause a range of injuries, including lacerations, broken bones, burn injuries, brain injuries, spinal cord injuries, and may even result in wrongful death. In cases where an individual is injured by a defective product - whether it is a prescription drug, a motor vehicle, a piece of construction equipment, or another item – he or she can file a product liability lawsuit.

Elements of a Product Liability Lawsuit

To have a product liability case, the victim must be able to prove that:

  • The product was unreasonably dangerous or defective
  • The victim suffered an injury
  • That injury was caused by the product defect

Proving Your Injury

The injured individual should collect medical records, photographs, and hospital bills to prove that the injury occurred and to record its severity, as the degree of harm may bear upon the type of damages the victim receives.

Proving Fault

A victim must be able to establish that his or her injury was caused by the negligence or action of the defendant. Depending on the circumstances of the case, the product’s designer, manufacturer, or retailer can be held liable for the victim’s injuries. Each state has its own laws regarding whether the defendant should be held “strictly liable” for the victim’s injuries, or whether the victim can be held partially responsible.

Product Liability Lawsuits and Statutes of Limitations

Product liability lawsuits, just like most civil cases, must be filed in court within a set period of time. Courts across the country impose strict filing deadlines, called statutes of limitations, on civil cases because, as time passes, critical evidence may be destroyed or misplaced and witnesses may be unavailable or have forgotten what they saw. Most courts recognize that it is in the parties’ best interests to litigate the lawsuit as quickly as possible.

Individuals who do not file their product liability lawsuit before the statutes of limitations have expired will be barred from ever getting into court to seek financial compensation for out-of-pocket expenses, loss of wages, and other damages. Therefore, It is important that parties who are considering filing a products liability lawsuit consult with an experienced attorney as soon after the alleged injury has occurred as possible to ensure that their legal rights are protected.

Statutes of Limitations Vary from State to State

How long a party has to file a suit seeking compensation for product liability depends on many factors, including where the lawsuit is to be filed and what type of allegations are being made in the case. Some states impose a one-year statute of limitations on product liability cases, while others allow claims to be filed for two or more years after the injury.

Proving Fault in a Products Liability Lawsuit

Each year, thousands of Americans are seriously injured or killed while using defective products ranging from children’s toys and automobile parts to common household appliances and recreational equipment. Companies and retail stores that design, manufacture, advertise, or sell defective products posing unreasonable risks of injury to users can be held liable for injuries that occur as a result.

Negligence

Under a legal theory known as negligence, manufacturers and distributors are often held responsible for injuries that occur as a result of a defective product. In order to prevail in court on a products liability claim under the negligence theory, an injured party typically must prove each of the following elements:

  • The defendant owes a duty of care to the plaintiff to act as a reasonably prudent person under the same or similar circumstances;
  • The defendant breached that duty by failing to act reasonably;
  • The breach caused an injury to the plaintiff, and;
  • There is a causal link between the defendant's breach of duty and the plaintiff’s injuries

Manufacturers of defective products may be liable for injuries if they were negligent and failed to adequately warn users about the risks associated with the product or if they included warnings that were too small or vague. Retail stores that sell defective products may be liable if they failed to warn purchasers about known risks of the products.

Strict Liability

In some cases, designers, manufacturers, or distributors may be held liable for injuries even if they acted reasonably in designing, producing, and selling the defective product. The mere fact that a product is defective and causes injuries is sufficient for an injured plaintiff to prevail in court based on a strict liability theory. Manufacturers of “unreasonably dangerous products” are held to the strict liability standard and can be held liable for any injuries that occurred as the result of using their products.

Product liability is a complex area of law. Therefore, the best way to determine whether you have a legitimate product liability claim is to contact an experienced attorney as soon as possible after a product-related injury has occurred to evaluate your claim and discuss your legal rights.

Evidence in Product Liability Claims

In most product liability cases, the key piece of evidence is the defective product itself. By examining the product, experts may be able to determine what design or manufacturing defects caused the plaintiff’s injuries. It is, therefore, crucial to retain the allegedly defective product (or broken parts if the product was destroyed in the incident) after you have suffered an injury so that your attorney and others will have it available to inspect when evaluating a claim.

In the event of a trial, expert testimony may be offered in your case to prove that the plaintiff's injuries resulted as a direct consequence of a defective product. The plaintiff, who in many product liability cases is a surviving relative of the deceased party, must present sufficient evidence in court to convince a judge or jury to rule in their favor, while a defendant can present their own evidence in response to the plaintiff’s allegations. A judge or jury will evaluate the evidence and issue a verdict in the case.

Damages in Product Liability Cases

In the event that a faulty or dangerous product causes injury to a consumer, the designer, manufacturer, or distributor can be held responsible. If any one of these individuals is found liable for designing, manufacturing, or selling a dangerous or faulty product, the court can order them to compensate the plaintiff for their losses and, in certain cases, punitive damages may also be awarded.

Compensatory Damages

The court can award compensation to the injured party to cover the cost of any medical bills, lost wages, or property damage stemming from the dangerous or defective product. If an automobile, home, or other personal possession was damaged by the defective product, the injured party will be compensated for the property.

Pain and Suffering

If the plaintiff suffered considerable physical and/or mental anguish as a result of the injury, they can be awarded compensation for their pain and suffering.

Loss of Consortium

Although not applicable to every case, if the injury from a defective product had a negative effect on the plaintiff’s marriage or spouse, the couple could be entitled to compensation for “loss of consortium.” This term refers to the care, companionship, sexual activity, or affection between the injured party and his or her spouse; if there is a decrease in any of these as a result of an injury sustained while using a defective product, the manufacturer could be ordered to pay additional damages to the injured and their spouse.

Punitive Damages

In some cases, the court may want to punish the defendant for negligence and manufacturing a seriously dangerous or defective product. In these instances, punitive damages may be awarded to the plaintiff to deter the defendant from continuing to produce, market, or sell defective products. The requirements for proving guilt or fault are very specific and, therefore, are not awarded in every case. In some jurisdictions punitive damages are limited.

Types of Defective Products

Some of the most serious and talked about product liability cases and settlements in recent years have involved class action lawsuits filed against major manufacturers of automobiles, pharmaceuticals, and dangerous medical devices. However, defective products can extend to virtually every corner of the marketplace and result in injuries, from minor burns and lacerations to serious brain and spinal cord injuries.

Examples of defective products include:

Defective Auto Parts/Crashworthiness

Defective Medical Devices

Toxic/Chemical Exposure to Dangerous Products

Defective Drugs

When the risk of taking a drug outweighs its potential benefits, the Food and Drug Administration will either recall the drug or issue new warnings about the dangers of the medication. Those that have been injured by a dangerous drug should consult a defective drug attorney as soon as possible.

Other Types of Defective Products

  • Defective construction equipment/machinery and power tools
  • Dangerous or defective toys
  • Defective kitchen, bathroom, and other household appliances

Common Injuries Caused by Product Liability

Even though most manufacturers, in good faith, do not intentionally produce products that could hurt someone, there are instances in which a product is poorly designed, defective, or does not have the proper warning labels and injures a consumer. The consumer may or may not be using the product in its intended manner; as long as the consumer was following instructions and using the product in a way that should have been foreseeable by the manufacturer, the manufacturer can be held responsible for the injury.

Many product liability lawsuits are filed against manufacturers of motor vehicles, tires, pharmaceuticals, food products, medical instruments, and construction equipment.

Common injuries in product liability cases include:

  • Broken bones or severed limbs if a defective steering wheel or set of brakes causes a car accident that injures the driver or passenger
  • Deep cuts or lacerations caused by a sharp knife that was not accompanied by safety instructions
  • Burns from a flammable mattress or malfunctioning electric blanket
  • Brain injury as the result of a blood clot that formed because the consumer took a certain medication or pharmaceutical product
  • Spinal cord injury from hitting the windshield during a car accident in a vehicle that had defective seat belts or airbags.

Wrongful Death

The most serious cases involve a wrongful death. Manufacturers of pharmaceuticals, automobiles, and products like Taser stun guns have been sued by the families of individuals who died from injuries caused by their product. In recent years, companies like Johnson & Johnson (pharmaceuticals), and Ford Motor Company have settled for large amounts when families sued for the wrongful death of their loved ones.

Find a Product Liability Lawyer in Your Area

Despite the presence of strict federal and state regulations and consumer-oriented protection agencies, defective products still make their way to millions of consumers each year. Product liability attorneys are available nationwide to assist individuals who have been seriously injured by unsafe and defective products. Use ImpactLaw's legal directory to locate an experienced product liability lawyer in your area.

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