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Legally Speaking

What is Product Liability? Do I Have a Case?

Jul 18, 2018 10:00:00 AM / by Stealey Law & Mediation

When you buy an online product or a product from a store, you expect it to be safe. You don’t think about it causing you harm until, unfortunately, you have already suffered an injury.

If an unsafe product has hurt you, you may have the right to compensation from the manufacturer for injuries sustained from the defective product.

Who is responsible will depend on the kind of product defect.

Keep reading to learn more about product liability, types of product defects, claims for compensation and how Stealey Law & Mediation can help you if a faulty product has injured you.


WHAT IS PRODUCT LIABILITY?

When a consumer gets hurt by a product, he or she can bring a products liability suit against that product’s seller, manufacturer or designer, depending on what caused the injury.

There is a legal responsibility for manufacturers of consumer products to ensure that their products are free of defects and not dangerous to those who buy and use them.

In the United States, defective or dangerous products cause thousands of injuries every year.

Products liability law covers all the following products (and then some):product liability

  • Medications
  • Medical devices
  • Automobiles
  • Food
  • Furniture
  • product liabilityHome appliances
  • Toys
  • Tobacco
  • Guns

 

 

There are three main types of product defects: Design, manufacturing and marketing.


TYPES OF PRODUCT DEFECTS

  • Design: A design defect refers to a flaw that makes a product dangerous before the manufacturing phase. It could also mean that the product was not properly tested. Typically, the manufacturer of a product with a design defect is responsible, but a design consultant hired by the manufacturer could also be liable.
  • Manufacturing: A manufacturing defect refers to a product that has a flawless design but was manufactured improperly. In this case, the manufacturer of the finished product would be responsible, but the manufacturer of a smaller component of the final product might also be accountable.
  • Marketing: A marketing defect (also known as “failure to warn”) occurs when the general public is given inadequate warning(s) or instructions about the potential dangers of a product. In some cases, retailers and instruction writers might be liable in addition to the manufacturer.

The legal basis of an injured party’s claims for compensation will be one or more of the following: Negligence, breach of warranty or misrepresentation.


CLAIMS FOR COMPENSATION

  • Negligence: A product manufacturer has a legal responsibility to use ordinary care to protect you from harm by its product. If the manufacturer fails to exercise that care, whether through action or inaction, it might be considered negligent.
  • Breach of Warranty: If the manufacturer or seller of a product fails to honor a promise, claim or representation about the quality of a product, it might be in breach of warranty.
  • Misrepresentation: During the advertising and promotion of a product, if a manufacturer provides a consumer with a false sense of security about the safety of a product, the manufacturer might be guilty of misrepresentation.

SETTLING PRODUCT LIABILITY CASES

Before discussing settlement, you need to identify all possible parties responsible for the injury. What happens if these companies are no longer in business? In the case of mergers, sales or spin offs, determine who the corporate successors are. If dissolved or bankrupt, you will need to decide if you can still sue them.

Many states have "joint and several liability” laws. This means that under these laws, all defendants are responsible for the damage in whole. For example, if there are four potential defendants and one of them no longer exists or went bankrupt, the other three must pay for the that defendant's share of damages.

When you determine your damages, it isn’t as simple as adding up your medical bills and time lost from work. Most states have clearly identified damages that are allowed in product liability cases. These damages can include:

  • past and future medical and nursing bills
  • past and future wage loss
  • past and future pain and suffering
  • past and future emotional distress
  • past and future loss of consortium (losses a spouse experiences when a partner is injured)
  • and past and future expenses associated with the injury for things you can’t do anymore

Subrogation means that if your employer or an insurance company has paid for a part of your damages, such as medical expenses or lost wages, then they are entitled to receive that money back when you settle. The idea is that it is unfair for you to get money to pay medical bills that have already been paid by someone else.

A settlement is considered a full, final and complete settlement of all aspects of your claim. If your injury is extensive or the full extent of injury isn’t yet definite, you may consider a structured settlement or a partial settlement with a reservation of rights.

With severe injuries involving extensive and ongoing medical care, you may consider a settlement that will pay out over a long period, especially as it often pays more.


STEALEY LAW & MEDIATION | GETTING HELP 

Settling a products liability claim is more complicated than it appears. The companies you will be seeking compensation from will have experienced attorneys helping them during the negotiations.

Hiring an experienced lawyer can help guide you through the negotiation and settlement process. An attorney experienced in products liability law can help you secure evidence of your losses and identify the companies responsible for manufacturing, distributing and selling the product or product components that injured you. If companies have changed identities because they sold, merged or spun off, your attorney will be able to identify the successor that would be responsible.

It’s important that you contact a personal injury lawyer to ensure they protect your rights. At Stealey Law & Mediation, we thoroughly assess your case, using our expertise to analyze the long-term impact of the injury. This is a vital step in properly evaluating the full extent of the damage and determining if the initial settlement is fair and adequate. Should we find that the initial settlement offered is not fair, we aggressively pursue damages against the company who caused the harm.

If you have been injured because of a faulty product, you can meet with Jim Stealey personally to discuss your case, where he will advise you on different settlement options. First consultations are always free.

Jim Stealey will guide you every step of the way, ensuring he answers all your questions.

Ready to discuss your case? Call today: 304-485-3127

Schedule a Free Consultation

Topics: Personal Injury

Welcome to "Legally Speaking" where we cover topics ranging from medical malpractice to distracted driving in personal injury cases. Jim was the co-host of a television program called "Legally Speaking" on Network West Virginia as well as a legal analyst for the local TV station and several radio stations. With 38+ years of experience, Jim Stealey provides client representation in a compassionate and dedicated manner. 

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