Who is a Product Liability Attorney?
What does a product liability lawsuit or action entail?
What are the essential elements you should know!
In this article, we will break down the legal definition of Product Liability Attorney so you know all there is to know about it!
Keep reading as we have gathered exactly the information that you need!
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Table of Contents
Product Liability Attorney
Product liability attorneys (also known as product injury attorneys) are legal professionals specializing in laws designed to protect individuals and consumers against damages or harm caused by defective goods or products.
Product liability laws can be pretty complex.
Generally, when a consumer is injured due to a product malfunction or defect, many parties can be held liable for the injuries caused.
For example, if a car parts manufacturer produces a defective product (like faulty brakes) that is eventually installed in a car leading to a car accident causing injuries to the driver, the companies involved in the sale of the vehicle to the consumer may be held liable for the driver’s injuries.
As a result, anyone in the chain of commerce starting from the manufacturing of the fault brakes all the way to the car dealer may be held liable for the injuries.
A product liability law firm or attorney has the expertise and knowledge to evaluate the nature of the product defect and attribute liability to any party within the chain of commerce.
In product malfunction cases, it’s important to accurately identify the applicable laws and the legal basis applicable to the case.
For example, you may have a faulty medical device sold by the manufacturer in one jurisdiction, who sells it to a wholesaler in another jurisdiction, and then a retailer in a third jurisdiction causing injuries to the consumer at the retailer’s location.
It’s important to know what laws apply to whom so the injured consumer can get compensated for the damages caused.
Types of Product Defects
What are the different types of product defects?
Product defect cases can be classified into two categories as either manufacturing defects or design defects.
Manufacturing defects are caused by the faulty assembly of the goods or product.
In essence, the product is well designed but malfunctions due to its subpar assembly.
For example, if a manufacturer produced 10,000 units of a particular product, perhaps the defective assembly impacted 100, 200, or 500 of the total number of units produced.
No matter what, in such cases, the law will hold the manufacturer liable for the product defect even though its poor construction or fabrication caused it.
A product lawyer understands the extent of a manufacturer’s responsibility under the local laws and will guide the victim of a product defect accident in the best possible way.
The second type of defect is a design defect.
Design flaws are defects that are incorporated or embedded in the product.
In other words, even if the product is manufactured flawlessly, due to its poor design or defective design, it may expose end-users and consumers to hazards or danger.
When dealing with a design defect, all of the products manufactured by the company at some point in time may have the defect in question and expose consumers to risk.
For example, if 10,000 of a product was produced with a design defect, the entire batch of 10,000 units produced will be defective and potentially engage the responsibility of those selling the product in the chain of commerce.
The best product liability lawyer will assess whether or not there is a matter for a design defect case:
- Was the product dangerous even before its production?
- Was it foreseeable that the poor design could expose end-users to potential harm?
- Was it possible to design the product differently in an economically feasible manner?
A manufacturer who designed a flawed product, knew that it might expose consumers to danger or harm, or could have produced the goods differently may be held liable in a design defect claim.
More and more product liability claims are filed based on food poisoning or due to illnesses caused by various types of foods produced.
It’s common to see plaintiffs who suffer food injuries file their food-injury claims as product liability cases.
Just like in a “product” liability case, the companies involved in the distribution chain in the food industry may be held liable for manufacturing, distributing, and selling food products dangers for the consumers.
Food poisoning cases are much more complex to prosecute than other product liability cases as food disease, or illness may manifest itself long after the food was ingested.
Proving that it’s the specific food item that caused the injuries can be challenging.
A product attorney can assess the specifics of a person’s food-related illness and determine if there’s a way that legal causation may be established.
Who Is Legally Responsible
In the United States, a person injured due to a defective product may have legal recourse against various parties, such as:
A person suffering injuries caused by a faulty product can file a lawsuit and seek compensation from various companies and entities in the distribution chain.
It’s important to work with product liability lawyers to identify those companies in the chain so you can legally pursue all the entities who may be legally found liable for the injuries caused.
Let’s look at each of these players in the product chain of distribution.
The manufacturer can include many large organizations (multi-national and international companies) all the way to a company producing goods in a small shop.
The manufacturer is the company producing the goods.
Typically, the manufacturer is the one who assembles the product.
In some cases, the manufacturer is the same entity that designs the product, whereas in other cases, the manufacturer will produce products based on the designs and specifications of another company.
The wholesaler is the company between the manufacturer and the retailer.
A wholesaler will essentially place an order for a large number of units directly with the manufacturer and then sell the goods to different retailers.
Even though the wholesaler did not produce the goods, it can be held liable should the product end up being hazardous or dangerous for consumers causing harm.
The retailer is the company that is directly linked to the consumer.
The retailer did not design the goods, manufacture them or have any role to play in producing the goods.
However, the product liability statutes and laws recognize that retailers are within the chain of distribution and may be held liable if the clients or users of the product are injured.
Failure To Warn
Every company in the distribution chain must ensure that they are taking the necessary precautions to ensure that the end consumers are safe and free from any possible product dangers.
Risk Warning Obligation
Top product liability attorneys will not hesitate to file lawsuits against manufacturers who failed in their duty to provide sufficient warning or instructions to the end-users as it relates to product use and risks.
In many jurisdictions, the law will hold all companies in the distribution chain accountable for injuries caused if the court found an adequate warning could have prevented foreseeable injuries.
Product Warning Labels
In the United States, there are many rules and regulations governing warning labels on products and goods sold.
The American National Standards Institute (ANSI) is the organization tasked with the mandate to ensure the proper rules and regulations are adopted and implemented to ensure products are safe.
Companies must have warning labels that inform consumers about the existing product hazards, the severity of potential risk when using the product, the consequences of the risk, and how to avoid such a product hazard.
American National Standards Institute
The American National Standards Institute or ANSI imposes many rules and regulations to ensure that consumers remain safe when using various products.
Manufacturers must observe the applicable rules relating to product safety signs, safety labels, color coding, label positioning, and so on.
For example, warning labels should be placed in a visible area on the product.
ANSI has adopted various colors to warn or alert consumers of the risks involved in using a product where red is for dangerous products that can cause injuries or death, orange is for a potentially hazardous product that may cause injuries or death, and yellow is to caution the consumer of the possible hazards.
Product Liability Examples
What are some product liability examples of common injuries?
There are countless goods, merchandise, products, product lines, commodities, or other tangible goods consumers and individuals can buy that may expose them to small, moderate, or high levels of risk of bodily injuries (or even death).
Here are some examples:
- Bacteria incorporated in processed foods
- Blowout accident due to defective tires
- Defective airbags in a vehicle
- Defective bicycle parts
- Defective brakes on a car
- Defective crane on a construction site
- Defective fuel tank on a car
- Defective industrial equipment
- Defective power tools
- Defective truck parts
- Drugs produced with wrong compounds
- Faulty fire safety systems
- Pharmaceutical defects
- Toy defects
- Unsafe chemical containers
This list can go on and on.
Product Liability Damages
What type of damages can product liability attorneys recover in a product liability action?
There are different types of damages an experienced product liability attorney may help you recover for defective merchandise:
- Compensatory damages
- General damages
- Special damages
- Punitive damages
Let’s look at each of these types of damages.
Compensatory damages are direct damages caused by faulty goods, such as:
- Medical costs
- Transportation costs
- Emergency expenses
This type of damage is generally easy to prove by producing receipts, invoices, statements, or other documents.
General damages are damages awarded to the victim of a product accident to compensate for the pain and suffering or other noneconomic damages.
Anxiety, mental anguish, loss of consortium, loss of enjoyment of life, or stress (among others) can lead to the court or jury awarding general damages.
In the United States, tort reform initiatives have resulted in some states limiting or capping general damages or certain types of damages.
It’s important to speak with a qualified product liability lawyer to see what type of damage claims can be asserted for product defects.
Special damages are damages that are damages incidental or out-of-pocket expenses or financial losses caused as a result of the product flaw accident:
- Lost wages
- Substitute transportation costs
- Property damage (replacement or repair)
Punitive damages are awarded in cases where the judge or jury intends to punish the reckless or reprehensible behavior of the defendant.
The court or jury will not award punitive damages in all cases, which is more of an exceptional ruling.
However, it may be possible to get punitive damages depending on the applicable laws and circumstances of your case.
Product Liability Claim
What are the elements to prove in a product liability claim?
A product liability lawsuit based on the legal theory of negligence in tort law will require that the plaintiff prove four elements:
- The defendant owed the plaintiff a duty to produce or manufacture a safe product (duty of care)
- The defendant failed in its duty (breach of duty of care)
- The plaintiff suffered an injury (damages)
- The injury was caused by the faulty product (causation)
In essence, the plaintiff demonstrates that the manufacturer was negligent in fabricating the goods and must be held liable for all the damages caused.
If the action is based on strict liability, then the plaintiff must demonstrate:
- The product was defective at the moment of the accident
- The product was being used as intended
- The plaintiff suffered a loss or injury
- The injuries suffered are directly caused by the defective product (or there is a proximate cause)
In this case, the defendant’s duty of care is not relevant.
What’s relevant is that the product was defective when the injuries were caused and the plaintiff was using the product as it was designed or intended.
Product Liability Lawsuits
What are the different types of lawsuits a consumer may file against the manufacturer or those responsible for a defective product?
Depending on your jurisdiction, there are different types of product liability lawsuits:
- Negligence lawsuits
- Strict liability lawsuits
- Breach of warranty lawsuits
- Class action lawsuits
Let’s look at each of these types of product liability cases.
Product lawyers can file a “negligence” lawsuit against the manufacturer who was careless in the product design or manufacturing process leading to the plaintiff’s injuries.
Just like in any negligence lawsuits, the plaintiff must prove the elements of negligence:
- The defendant had a duty to sell a safe product
- The defendant breached its duty to sell a safe product due to its negligence
- The plaintiff suffered injuries
- The product defect caused the injuries
A consumer can show the defendant breached its duty to provide a safe product by proving or demonstrating that the defendant knew or should have known that the product was defective.
Consumer product lawyers have the expertise to assess the product development process to see if the manufacturer was negligent.
Here are some aspects product liability lawyers will assess:
- Did the manufacturer adopt the product plans in accordance with industry standards?
- Did the manufacturer properly maintain its machines and equipment?
- Did the manufacturer fail at properly testing its products?
- Did the manufacturer properly execute all steps in the product development process?
- Were the damages suffered by the plaintiff foreseeable?
Strict liability lawsuits
In many jurisdictions, product liability law firms and product attorneys will prosecute product liability cases under a strict liability legal basis.
In a strict liability case, the plaintiff must demonstrate that:
- The product had a defect at the moment of the accident
- Injuries were suffered due to the defect
The mere fact the plaintiff can prove the product defect existed at the moment of the accident, the manufacturer will be strictly liable for the damages.
What’s interesting in these types of lawsuits is that it’s not relevant whether the manufacturer took the necessary precautions or was “diligent” when producing the product.
A plaintiff can file a strict liability lawsuit when the product was purchased directly from the chain of distribution and not second-hand.
Breach of warranty lawsuits
A breach of warranty lawsuit is a type of lawsuit where the plaintiff alleges the manufacturer failed to respect its express or implied warranties.
A manufacturer’s express warranty is explicit representations made by the seller about the safety of the product.
An implied warranty refers to the implied expectation that if a consumer uses a product as intended, it should function properly and not expose the end-user to any harm.
Class action lawsuits
In some cases, the individual plaintiff may have recourse against the companies in the chain of distribution.
In other cases, the plaintiff may be one person part of a class of people or group injured the same way who, as a group, file suit against the manufacturer or seller of a defective product.
In other words, a class-action lawsuit is a type of lawsuit where a small number of plaintiffs may represent a much larger group of plaintiffs for the same product causing them the same or similar injuries.
Typically, class action lawsuits are helpful when the value of the damages suffered by each plaintiff is low but as a class represents significant sums.
Why A Product Liability Attorney
A product liability claim is complex.
There are many variables potentially affecting the success of a case.
Working with a product liability attorney can put the chances on your side in adequately identifying your legal recourse, what evidence you need to gather, what you need to do, when you should file your lawsuit, and how.
Many consumers will look for a nearby product liability lawyer as the local laws may apply.
Here are some of the benefits of working with the best product liability lawyer:
- Get legal advice as to your claim
- The lawyer will work with the engineers and experts who understand the product design and manufacturing process
- Get legal expertise in investigating the facts of the case
- Handle the communications with the court and opposing counsel
- Manage and effective settlement negotiation with the insurance providers or defendants
- Prepare lawsuit and draft legal pleadings
- Plead the case and present evidence in court
- Handle discovery and depose witnesses and experts
Although anyone can file a product liability case and handle it on their own, it does not mean that it’s the right thing to do in most cases.
Product lawyers are trained in product liability laws, understand the applicable rules of evidence, know what facts to look for when investigating a claim, and structure the lawsuit in the best possible way.
Product Liability Lawyer: Takeaways
So, what do product liability lawyers do?
Let’s look at a summary of our findings.
Product Injury Lawyer
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