A Primer on Defective Product Injury Claims and Cases

Defective product cases involve situations where a person or property is injured or damaged. Manufacturers, sellers and, conceivably, anyone within a product's distribution supply chain can be held liable for the defective products. Almost any device or product can be defective. Most often such cases involve the following items:

 

  • Cars and trucks
  • Pharmaceutical drugs
  • Foods
  • Children’s toys and furniture
  • Construction materials
  • Sophisticated machinery such as medical devices and Smartphones
  • Products containing hazardous materials like asbestos
  • And others

 

 

Types of Defective Product Claims and Cases

There are two general types of defective products: those which are dangerously designed, and goods that are improperly manufactured.

Design defects occur when a company’s product development process is flawed, thereby making all of the products which share this flaw unnecessarily dangerous. A current example is the more than 30 million General Motors cars and trucks which share the same malfunctioning ignition switch design which was recalled in 2014 and continues to this day

But manufacturing defects also occur when a product is not assembled according to its design, thereby making its method of assembly flawed. If the manufacturer doesn’t catch the error(s) and the device hurts someone, the maker of the defective product is liable for damages associated with any injuries the device causes. An example of this kind of defect is a poorly-assembled transmission in an SUV that gave out and caused an accident when the driver lost control of his car. The design is correct, but the “tranny” – for whatever reason – just wasn’t assembled properly.

There is also another avenue to a successful product liability lawsuit: strict liability. This simply means a product had no business being made in the first place. One famous example in the early 1960’s was a simple child’s game sold under the name of “Lawn [Javelin] Darts” -- hand-tossed arrows with sharp points that children would throw in the air and try to hit a target on the far end of a lawn. The dangers are obvious. There were indeed more than a few lawsuits.

And one other wrinkle can produce a product liability lawsuit.  After a manufacturing defect or improper communication of it, a company may be found liable for advertising a product that turned out to have an unsuitable purpose of use, or failed to include appropriate instructions or warnings with the product.

How Pernicious are Defective Products in the U.S.?

The Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) is tasked with protecting the public from dangerous products. It consistently researches potential product hazards; a sampling of its data gives us a good idea of the depth and breadth of dangerous products in the U.S.

 

  • Deaths, injuries, and property damage from consumer products cause more than $1 trillion in damage annually.

  • In 2013, there were more than five million consumer product-related injuries that sent adults between 25 and 64 years of age to the emergency room.  Almost two million people age 65 and over were injured by defective products that same year.

  • In 2015, the CPSC fined well-known manufacturers for safety violations involving, among other dangerous products, light bulbs. dehumidifiers, glass tea tumblers and coffee makers, to name a few.

 

However, in recent years, the CPSC has been accused of having lax oversight on defective products. And the current Administration has made furtive attempts to further hobble the CPSC and other consumer-oriented agencies. This has spurred various private watchdog groups to take on a greater share of monitoring dangerous products that are sold in U.S. markets.

If you’ve been hurt by a Defective Product, Here’s what you Must do

 

  • Seek medical treatment – After any accident, see a doctor immediately and receive treatment. Doing so is not only good common sense for your health, but verifies your injuries. Not seeking immediate treatment can be a detriment to any injury claims.
  • Collect evidence – Document the defective product as best you can. Take pictures of it and your injuries. Write down the experience. If there are any witnesses, record their account and get their contact information.
  • Store the product – This is very important. Place the defective item, all packaging, and any papers that accompanied it in a safe place. Discontinue using it, because if you know it’s defective and continue using it, your claim against the manufacturer could be compromised.
  • Consult a product liability lawyer before doing anything – These cases can be very intricate due to the many parties which may be solely liable or share the responsibility for your injuries. Investigations are also highly complex, and specialists in a particular product may also need to be consulted.  Manufacturers have lawyers to defend those who bring defective product claims against them, and you would be wise to have your own legal team.

 

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