If a consumer purchases a product in the United States, they have the right to assume the product is safe if used as instructed. If someone is injured, it's often tough for them to know what to do. Who do you sue? How do you know who's responsible? Your product liability attorney will help you sort out all the details, but it certainly helps if you have an understanding of what's going on, too.
Who Do You Sue?
That depends on who caused the defect. Anyone in the manufacturing chain may be responsible, including the companies that manufacture individual parts, the company that built or created the product and even the wholesaler or owner of the store that sold you the product. Regardless of who you name on the lawsuit, you must be able to prove the defect was responsible for the injury.
Types of Defects
There are three main categories of product defects: design, manufacturing or warning. A product could have one or more of these defects.
Design defects occur when there's an inherent flaw in the way the product was designed and manufactured. In the case of a design defect, every unit manufactured will have the same flaw.
Examples of design flaws include vehicles that may flip over while turning at a normal rate of speed, a fan with openings large enough for your fingers to go through (risking being cut by the blade when it's on) or children's clothing that isn't flame retardant.
Let's say a product's design is safe, but isn't made according to that design and the manufacturing change causes people to be injured. That's a manufacturing defect.
For example, a vehicle may be inherently safe, but be shipped with a cracked or defective part, a manufacturer may use the wrong bolts or other fasteners and the like.
Manufacturing defects are fairly rare and generally apply only to a limited number of units.
Some products, even those with no other defects, are just inherently dangerous, especially when used incorrectly. Warnings are required by law to tell people about potential dangers, but if the manufacturer fails to provide these warnings and someone is injured, there's a warning defect. Warning defects include having inadequate instructions or a failure to warn users of hidden dangers.
For example, if a drug doesn't contain a warning that it shouldn't be used in combination with other medications or a heater shouldn't be operated for more than a certain number of hours.
There are also several legal theories we might use when presenting the case: strict liability, negligence and breach of warranty.
In a strict liability case, the attorney will simply show that the product was defective and that the injury was caused by the defect. The degree of care the defendant exerted isn't relevant because it doesn't depend on the finding of fault.
No matter how careful the manufacturer was, if the attorney can show there was a defect anyway, the plaintiff will prevail. This is a preferred legal theory because of the lower burden of proof, but in many cases, strict liability doesn't apply.
Negligence occurs when a manufacturer breaches an established duty of care. If someone is injured as the result of this negligence, a negligence claim may apply.
Breach of Warranty
When products are manufactured, they come with warranties. Those warranties may either be express (in writing) or implied (presumed even if it's not in writing). The most common warranty used in such cases are warranties of merchantability, which basically means that you have the reasonable expectation that if you use the product as it was intended, it's manufactured in such a way as to allow for that. If it applies, your lawyer may also bring up a warranty of fitness for a particular purpose if it applies in that case.
Getting the Right Product Liability Attorney
You need an attorney experienced in product liability law to help you with something that's likely to be a complex case in which you'll be pitted against high-priced corporate attorneys. If you've been injured by a defective product in Kissimmee, St. Cloud or the Orlando surrounding areas, contact us online or call the product liability lawyers at Draper Law Offices at 866.767.4711 for a free, no-obligation consultation.