A product can become defective at any stage of design, development, or distribution. Even if a product doesn’t malfunction, serious injuries can still occur if a consumer good lacks adequate instructions for safe use. Certain items are responsible for a disproportionately high number of product defects. Examples include:
- Airbags and other automobile parts;
- Portable generators;
- Gas heaters;
- Medical devices;
- Pharmaceutical drugs;
- Children’s toys;
- Construction materials; and
- Foods and beverages.
If you or someone you love has been injured by a defective good, you probably have a lot of questions about the claims process. Read on to learn the answers to a few FAQs about these cases:
How Can I Prove the Product I Used Has a Design Defect?
There are two tests your legal team might conduct in order to prove the product you used has a design defect. The first, known as the “consumer expectations test,” evaluates whether the item’s design meets an ordinary consumer’s safety expectations.
The second test is called the “risk-benefit test.” This test aims to determine whether the risks posed by the item’s design outweigh the benefits it provides. To conduct this test, your attorney will consider various factors including:
- The probability that the design would eventually cause harm;
- The potential seriousness of any harm caused by the design;
- Whether alternative designs that posed lesser risk could have provided the same benefits; and
- Whether safer alternative designs pose any disadvantages.
What Does “Strict Liability” Mean?
To prevail in most personal injury cases, it’s necessary to prove how the defendant breached the duty of care owed to the claimant—i.e. how the defendant was negligent. In most product liability cases, however, a finding of fault is not needed to impose liability. This is called “strict liability.” To prevail in a product liability claim on the grounds of strict liability, it must be shown that the product was in fact defective or lacked adequate instructions, and that this defect or lack of instructions was the proximate or actual cause of the injury or death.
A product liability claim can also be filed on the basis of a breach of express or implied warranty. This simply means the product in question did not work as intended, even when used as directed.
It’s important to remember, however, that you won’t be able to recover damages unless you can prove the kinds of damages incurred and their value. Below are a few examples of evidence your product liability lawyer might use to prove damages:
- Medical records;
- Hospital bills;
- Deposition and testimony from medical and financial experts;
- Photos of any visible injuries;
- Contractor estimates regarding the cost to repair any property that was damaged as a result of the product defects;
- Records, receipts, and invoices tracking other injury-related expenses such as child care, domestic help, or alternative transportation; and
- Daily entries from your personal injury journal.
Are Punitive Damages Available in Product Liability Cases?
Although punitive damages are rarely awarded in product liability cases, there are some circumstances when such damages are warranted. Specifically, plaintiffs may be able to collect a punitive award if the liable party’s misconduct constituted oppression, malice, or fraud.
Oppression refers to despicable behavior that involves a complete disregard for the victim’s rights and subjects him or her to cruel and unjust hardship. Malice refers to despicable behavior that involves a willful and conscious disregard for other people’s safety or rights. If the defendant acted with the intent to cause injury, this would also constitute malice. Finally, fraud encompasses concealment, deceit, or intentional misrepresentation of material fact that was known to the defendant with an intent to deprive a person of their rights, safety, or health.
Below are a few examples of scenarios when punitive damages may be awarded in a product liability case:
- The defendant knowingly made a hazardous product available to consumers;
- The defendant concealed facts about a dangerous product’s potential risks;
- The defendant failed to take appropriate action following consumer complaints and/or reports of preventable accidents; or
- The defendant knowingly or intentionally failed to conduct adequate tests during development to confirm the product’s safety.
Who Might Be Liable for Damages in a Product Liability Case?
If you were injured by a defective product, you may have grounds for a personal injury claim against any party that contributed to the development or distribution of the item. Although you don’t have to prove that negligence played a role in causing the defect, you must be able to demonstrate how the defect most likely occurred in order to identify the liable party.
The specific defendants whom you name in your claim will depend on the circumstances, but generally speaking, the following parties may be liable for damages in a product liability case:
- The product designer;
- The product manufacturer;
- The product distributor;
- The product retailer;
- Design consultants; and/or
- Quality control professionals.
Call (562) 206-1939 to Discuss Your Case with a Long Beach Product Liability Attorney
Your Injuries Are Personal to Me
If you or someone you love was hurt while using a defective product, contact the Law Office of Michael D. Waks. We will conduct a thorough investigation into your case, identify all potentially liable parties, and gather the evidence needed to pursue the highest compensation possible.
Attorney Michael D. Waks has many decades of experience representing the injured and their families. He has an in-depth understanding of the case law and statutes that pertain to product liability cases. Michael can take over all correspondence with the opposing party, help you avoid critical mistakes, and aggressively represent your interests during settlement negotiations. He also has the courtroom experience to litigate your case if a fair settlement cannot be reached.
There’s no charge for the initial consultation, and you won’t owe any attorney’s fees unless we win. Call (562) 206-1939 today or use our Online Contact Form to set up a free case evaluation with a product liability lawyer in Long Beach.
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