What do you do if you are injured by a defective product? Many products sold in the United States must undergo a rigorous testing process to ensure that they are safe before they can be licensed for sale. Additionally, individual items must be subjected to quality control. Therefore, most of the products you use in everyday life, from food to electronics to personal care items, are safe to use, many of them greatly exceeding the minimum safety standards set by law. Product liability law is the area of the law that gives people recourse to pursue lawsuits in the event that they are injured by a defective product.

What Does Defective Mean in Product Liability Cases?

In the context of product liability law, defective means that a product does not properly function for its intended use, causing injury, when a consumer was using it in the manner intended by the product’s manufacturer. As any product liability lawyer can tell you, it is still possible to get injured by a product if you use it in an unsafe way. States have strict product liability laws to avoid frivolous lawsuits. If you were using the product in a reckless way when you were injured, then a defective product attorney probably will not be able to help you recover damages. For example, if a 200-pound man stood on top of a tray table while changing a lightbulb, and the tray table collapsed, causing him to get injured, he most likely does not have grounds for a product liability lawsuit. The tray table is not designed and intended to hold hold a two hundred pound person and common sense holds that it is probably unsafe to stand on such a table. Meanwhile, if the same tray table collapses while he is using it to hold a bowl of soup, causing the hot soup to spill and burn him, then he probably does have grounds to sue the tray table’s manufacturer for product liability.

Types of Product Liability Cases

There are three types of product liability claims. These claims include: (1) Design Defects (2) Manufacturing Defects, and (3) Failure to Warn and/or Labeling Defects.

A design defect includes claims for products that are defective merely as a result of the product’s design. A design is defective if a product has foreseeable risks of harm which could have been eliminated or reduced by adopting a reasonable alternative design (RAD) and the RAD could make the product reasonably safer.

A manufacturing defect is when a product is unreasonably dangerous because it deviated from its intended design. Even if a manufacturer used reasonable care if making the product, if the product is defective and as a result is unreasonably dangerous, then you may have a claim for a manufacturing defect.

Finally, if a product fails to provide sufficient warnings or to include instructions on proper use of the product you may have a products liability claim for failure to warn. A failure to warn claim arises when a lack of instructions or warnings of foreseeable risks of harm by the product make the product unsafe for use. For example, in the infamous McDonald’s hot coffee case, the plaintiff sued McDonald’s, after suffering severe burns, for failing to warn customers of the risk of severe burns from spilling the very hot coffee.

Famous Product Liability Cases

Product liability attorneys have recovered damages for plaintiffs who were injured when using products in reasonably safe ways. Here are some famous examples.

Plaintiffs who suffered liver damage due to accidental overdose of acetaminophen, a painkiller found in Tylenol and many other over-the-counter medicines, have been awarded damages. The courts determined that the packaging of these medicines needed stronger warnings about the dangers of exceeding the recommended dose. In many cases, the patients took several over-the-counter medicines at once (such as Tylenol and TheraFlu), unaware they both products contained acetaminophen.
People injured by defective airbags in automobiles have recovered damages in product liability lawsuits.
Plaintiffs succeeded in lawsuits against Dow Corning when their silicone breast implants ruptured, leading several of the plaintiffs to suffer bodily damage and injury, and even death.
Asbestos building materials caused mesothelioma cancer and death.
Foreign substances in sealed food and/or beverage packages that have not been tampered with have resulting in plaintiffs recovering damages.

When to Consult a Product Liability Attorney

In a product liability case, you must prove that the manufacturer or designer of the product was negligent in protecting consumers from injuries that could be caused by the product. Most injuries that were caused by a product are not truly due to product liability. It requires the expertise of physicians, in some cases engineers, and most importantly, a personal injury attorney to demonstrate that the product manufacturer was negligent.

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