What is a Dangerous Products Lawsuit?
Consumer products can cause harm and injures, even deaths, when they are defective or when companies fail to warn of their risks. When consumers suffer injuries from products, they can file dangerous products lawsuits to hold those companies accountable and to recover damages for related expenses. These lawsuits follow product liability laws.
Who Can I Sue in a Dangerous Products Lawsuit?
People and companies that make, design, distribute, and sell consumer products are responsible for ensuring they are reasonably safe and to warn of any risks or dangers. When they do not, a consumer who suffered injuries and damages, as a result, may sue. The defendant in a product liability case depends on the situation but may include:
- The company that designed the product
- The manufacturer of the product
- A manufacturer of parts that go into the product
- The company or individual responsible for assembling or installing a product
- The retail store or online company selling the product
How Will My Lawyer Prove Negligence and Liability?
How your lawyer proves that a manufacturer, seller, or other party is liable for your damages depends on the situation and state laws. For instance, if the product had a design flaw, in most states the burden of proving the flaw existed and caused harm is on you. In a few states, it is the designer or manufacturer who must defend the design and prove it has no defect.
Depending on the state laws where a product harmed you and other factors involved, your lawyer may rely on one or more of these legal issues to show liability:
- Negligence. Negligence is used more often in other types of personal injury cases. It refers to the fact that the defendant had a reasonable duty of care that they breached. For instance, a hairdryer manufacturer has a duty to warn consumers that using the product around water can be dangerous. If they did not warn of this risk and someone got hurt and suffered damages as a result, they are negligent.
- Strict Liability. Strict liability applies in most product liability cases. This means that you do not have to show that a manufacturer was negligent. It is a lower burden of proof that negligence. You only have to prove that they made, designed, or sold the product with a defect that caused your injuries and damages.
- Breach of Warranty. If a company makes a claim about a product and it fails to live up to that claim, they may be in breach of warranty. A breach of warranty claim may be a tort, as in the case of a dangerous product, or an issue of contract law.
What Can I Recover in Damages?
Filing a dangerous products lawsuit can provide closure and a sense of justice. One of the most important reasons for a victim to take legal action is more concrete: damages. An injury from a product may be mild, but it could also be severe, resulting in permanent disability. In extreme cases, a product may even lead to wrongful death.
Damages refer to the compensation the liable party owes you for medical expenses, lost wages, and intangible costs. Your lawyer can estimate what you will be able to recover, but it varies by situation. The factors that determine damages amounts include:
- The severity of your injuries
- Current medical expenses
- Estimated future medical expenses and costs of long-term care
- Any permanent disability or disfiguration
- Lost wages
- Lost future earning capacity
- Pain and suffering
- Loss of consortium
- Funeral expenses
State laws also determine the amount of damages in a dangerous products lawsuit. Some states cap non-economic damages, those related to non-monetary costs like emotional pain.
Is There a Time Limit on Filing a Dangerous Products Lawsuit?
Yes, the time limit on filing a personal injury or product liability lawsuit depends on state laws. Each state sets a statute of limitations, the time you have from when you incurred the injury. It can be anywhere from one to six years.
Some states allow for extensions or exceptions based on the so-called discovery rule. You may suffer injuries over time that you cannot immediately connect to a product. For instance, a child may have symptoms of lead poisoning months or years after playing with a toy that contains lead.
What Are the Steps in a Lawsuit?
If you choose to go through with a dangerous products lawsuit, your lawyer will take the steps necessary to give you the best outcome. In general, the process includes:
- A complaint.
Your lawyer files a complaint to start the lawsuit. It identifies and notifies the defendants and also outlines the basics of your allegations.
- An investigation and discovery period.
With notification, the defendants can begin investigating the product and incident. In discovery, each side can share information and hold depositions for testimony. The purpose is to build a case for or against liability, depending on the side.
- Settlement negotiations.
Most companies agree to settle when they see the evidence against their product. Your lawyer will negotiate with the defendants’ lawyers or insurance company to get you a fair amount.
- A trial.
If the negotiations don’t go your way, you can take your case to court with a jury trial. Each side presents information, testimony, evidence, and experts if appropriate. The jury determines if the defendants are liable and what they owe you.
- An appeal.
If you don’t win the verdict, your lawyer can appeal to have it overturned. The defendants can do the same, delaying your recovery of damages.
A dangerous products lawsuit is a big step, but if you have medical bills because of a defective product it is your right to sue. Injuries can be costly, in medical bills and other expenses, and a lawsuit may be the only way to get compensation.