If you or someone in your family has been injured by a defective product, there are several parties who might be liable for the resulting medical bills, pain and suffering, and other damages. Depending on the circumstances, you might have grounds for a claim against the product designer, manufacturer, distributor, retailer, or any other party that played a role in the development or distribution of the product.
Let’s take a closer look at the circumstances when each of these parties might be liable for injuries caused by a product defect:
1. The Product Designer
The designer of the product may be liable if one of the following is true:
- The risks posed by the design outweigh its advantages; or
- The product is dangerous when used in a reasonably foreseeable manner.
If you intend to assert that the risks posed by the design outweigh its advantages, your attorney will first have to demonstrate that the product caused your injuries. The defendant will then have to demonstrate how the benefits of the product’s design outweigh its dangers. When evaluating the risks and benefits of a product’s design, juries may consider the following factors:
- The degree of harm that could result from using the product;
- How likely it is that the product would cause harm;
- Whether a safer design was a feasible option when the product was manufactured;
- How much a safer, alternative design would have cost;
- Any disadvantages inherent in an alternative design; and
- Other relevant factors.
2. The Product Manufacturer
If the product that injured you deviated from the manufacturer’s specifications or if it had a flaw that didn’t affect other units in the same product line, it’s possible that the manufacturer can be held liable for your damages. In order to prevail in a manufacturing defect claim, you must be able to prove the following four elements:
- The defendant sold, distributed, or manufactured the product;
- There was a manufacturing defect when the product left the defendant’s possession;
- You suffered an injury; and
- The defect was a significant factor in causing your injury.
The manufacturer may also be held liable for damages if the product was inadequately labeled. If it’s reasonably foreseeable that a person of ordinary prudence might use a product in an unsafe way, a warning label must accompany the product to prevent consumers from using it in that manner.
For example, let’s say you’re hanging Christmas lights that are susceptible to overheating if left on for five consecutive hours. Because it’s reasonably foreseeable that consumers might leave these lights on overnight, a clear warning must be placed to notify consumers about the risk. However, if the risk posed by a product is reasonably foreseeable to consumers, it may not be necessary to add a warning label. For instance, a chef’s knife has a high potential too cut a person’s hand, but since this risk would be reasonably foreseeable to the consumer, a warning label wouldn’t be required.
3. Other Parties
As previously mentioned, any party that plays a role in the development or distribution of a product may be held liable for a defect. To determine liability, your attorney will have to conduct a thorough investigation to find out when the defect most likely occurred.
If, for example, the product was safe when it left the manufacturer’s possession but became defective while in the possession of the distributor or retailer, that party might be liable for any injuries caused by the defect. It’s also possible for “middlemen,” such as design consultants and quality control professionals, to be held liable if they were hired by the product designer or manufacturer as independent contractors.
Strict Liability Applies to Defective Product Claims in California
In most personal injury cases, a finding of fault is necessary to impose liability on a defendant. For instance, it’s usually necessary for claimants to prove that their damages were caused by the defendant’s negligence or intentional misconduct in order to obtain an award of damages. However, under California’s strict liability laws, a product designer, manufacturer, or another party can be held liable for damages in a product liability case even if negligence or intent did not play a role in the tort.
What If Multiple Parties Were Liable for the Defect?
It’s not uncommon for several parties to be held liable for damages caused by a single product defect. For example, if a product had an inherently dangerous design and lacked adequate warnings, it’s possible that both the designer and manufacturer could be held financially responsible for the resulting injuries.
In the state of California, it’s often beneficial to name multiple parties in a personal injury claim since multiple defendants can be held jointly liable for a claimant’s economic damages. For example, if you’ve incurred substantial medical bills and lost income—perhaps you’ve suffered a serious injury that will require ongoing care, or maybe your loved one died due to a product defect—it might not be possible to recover compensation for 100 percent of your damages if you only name a single defendant. But if multiple parties contributed to your damages, there may be more insurance policies in play from which you can seek compensation.
This is one reason why it’s important to hire a well-credentialed product liability attorney. A skilled lawyer will know how to conduct a detailed investigation to identify all potentially liable parties.
Damages in California Product Liability Cases
If you were harmed due to a product defect, you can seek both economic and non-economic damages from the liable party. These damages may include:
- Healthcare Expenses: You can pursue compensation for emergency care, rehabilitation, prescription medications, and other necessary medical costs. Your claim can also account for medical expenses that you’re reasonably certain to incur in the future.
- Lost Income: Any wages you lost due to your injuries can be included in the settlement calculations, as can lost future earnings.
- Property Damage: If you need to repair or replace property that was damaged due to the product defect—for instance, if an auto part defect caused you to crash your vehicle—you can seek compensation for those costs.
- Non-Economic Damages: Serious injuries may warrant an award of pain and suffering damages and hedonic damages.
In some defective product cases, it’s also possible to seek punitive damages. If, for example, your attorney finds evidence that the product designer or manufacturer concealed studies that revealed a dangerous flaw in the product, and the product was allowed to enter the consumer market despite having a known defect, an award of punitive damages may be warranted.
Discuss Your Situation with a Product Liability Lawyer in Long Beach
Your Injuries Are Personal to Me
Bringing a product liability claim against a major corporation is no simple matter, and not every attorney has the experience or resources to handle these cases. At the Law Office of Michael D. Waks, we know what it takes to win substantial settlements and verdicts for people who have been harmed or lost family members due to defective products.
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