What is a Defective Product?
The products you purchase from retail stores, wholesalers, supermarkets, auto dealers or specialty outlets are manufactured with a guarantee that the item is not defective and is safe for use. However, there are many products that were once said to be “safe” and have seriously injured the consumer who used the product. There are three main categories designed for defective products, which may result in a products liability claim:
- Design Defects
flaws in the item’s conceptual design
- Manufacturing Defects
specific defects which occur during the manufacture of the product
- Defects in Marketing
improper instructions or failures to inform consumers of potential and latent dangers in the product
More information for known defective products:
Examples of Defective Products:
- A bicycle falling apart while you are riding around the sidewalk
- A microwave sparking and starting a fire
- A crib collapsing on your child, baby strollers or feeding bottles
- A small toy part coming off and choking your child
- Equipment failure at work
- Automobile products: auto recalls, tires, car seats, safety belts, brakes, etc.
- Medicines: pharmaceutical, over-the-counter drugs or diet pills.
Contact an experienced defective products lawyer at The Joel Bieber Firm today for your free initial consultation. Please fill out the form on this page.
Frequently Asked Questions
Consumer product liability claims may be filed against the manufacturer of the product for one of three reasons:
Breach of warranty
Negligence means that either the manufacturer or another party in the supply chain failed to take reasonable care to ensure that the end product is safe for consumers.
Items that carry an intrinsically higher risk when being used, such as chemicals or incendiaries, require a stricter duty of care from the manufacturer. This can be a factor in your product liability case.
A breach of warranty involves a manufacturer that violates either a stated or implied warranty or guarantee on the product. If the stated or implied terms of the performance and adequacy of the product aren’t met, then the warranty is considered to have been breached.
Strict liability is a claim that the product is defective and that the defect existed when the product left the manufacturing facility and later caused damage or injury to the user.
Many product liability lawyers work on a contingency basis. This means they assess fees as a percentage of the final settlement — if they win. If the lawyer doesn’t win the case, they don’t get paid. You, the victim, don’t have to pay upfront for the lawyer fees or other costs associated with litigating your case.
Part of winning a product liability case may involve expert witness testimony or a medical exam to determine that your injuries stemmed from the defective product. Your defective product attorney will pay these costs upfront as part of building your case.
So the question is, can you afford not to have a professional litigator represent you when pursuing a claim for damages against the manufacturer of a defective consumer product?
You may try to collect damages yourself to recoup the costs or treat injuries you suffered from a defective product. But many product manufacturers have entire legal departments to defend them against product claims. Do you want to fight this alone? When you have your own lawyer, you level the playing field against a large corporation.
The legal standard for a defective product may differ slightly from a general interpretation. If a product causes harm but isn’t being used as intended, it may not be considered defective since it wasn’t intended for that use.
For example, if a seven-year-old child is placed in an infant swing intended to hold a baby, and the swing collapses and hurts the child, the product may not be defective.
To be considered legally defective, a consumer product must meet one of four general requirements:
It’s unfit for the stated use, such as a helmet that collapses on light impact
It doesn’t include proper instructions, such as a baby stroller that falls apart after incorrect assembly
It doesn’t have a proper warning label, such as a child’s toy with small parts that could pose a choking hazard
It has an inherent design flaw that makes it dangerous, such as a seat belt with a poorly designed clasp
For your lawyer to successfully prove your case, they will first have to prove that the product meets the criteria of one of the four legal classifications of a defective consumer product.
If you realize that you have a flawed or defective product, follow these steps to ensure that you’re protected from further harm:
Stop using the product immediately
Seek medical attention and tell the doctor what product caused the injury
Collect your receipts and any proof of purchase or warranty
Preserve as much of the product as possible — this could be evidence for your case
Contact an experienced consumer product liability lawyer
Take photos or videos of your injuries from the product and pictures of pieces of the product itself. The photos will be important evidence if the product is toxic to keep around.
The medical records from the treatment you received for defective product injuries are vital to your defective consumer product lawsuit. To prove liability, your lawyer will need to prove the defective product directly caused your injuries.
Your receipts and any warranty information are another important part of the case since a breach of warranty claim may be a factor in your lawsuit. And the pieces of the product itself are used as proof that it was, in fact, defective.
Several parties may be liable for a defective consumer product:
The seller of the product
If the product has an inherent design flaw that renders it unsafe to use as directed, your lawyer will file suit against the designer. However, sometimes, there is a problem in the manufacturing process.
For example, a batch of hair products may have an imbalance of chemical ingredients, which can cause skin damage when used as directed. In that case, the manufacturer may be liable, along with the manufacturing plant supervisory team if they failed to follow proper safety protocols for producing the item.
Poor shipping conditions, including products being stored at the wrong temperature or products that weren’t properly packed for safe shipping, can cause product damage.
The product may have left the warehouse intact and safe but be damaged by the time it arrives in the store. The shipper would be liable in that case, and sometimes the store owner if they knowingly sold damaged products.
Sustaining an injury from a defective product can be stressful, but the following steps can help your case.
- Get Medical Attention Right Away
- Keep the Defective Product
- Consult with a Product Liability Attorney
Your product liability attorney will need to prove several elements for your case:
The product is defective
The defect caused your injuries
You suffered damages from the injuries (medical bills or property damage)
You used the product as intended and were injured
The first step is proving that the product was legally defective. Many products must comply with the American National Standards Institute (ANSI), which maintains product safety warnings and label regulations. If the warning label isn’t compliant with these standards, then there could be a case against the company.
Your lawyer will need to show a direct link between you using the product as intended and the injuries you suffered. This is why medical records and photographs are so important. Furthermore, you’ll have to show that your injuries caused financial loss.
The final element of proof is that you used the product as intended and followed the directions for use and assembly. Your lawyer may have testimony that other users would have used the product in the same manner you did, which will help prove your case.
Winning a product liability lawsuit is never guaranteed, no matter how strongly the facts are in your favor. You can improve your chances of winning by hiring a personal injury lawyer who is experienced with product liability cases.
Because these types of cases may have multiple defendants, many of which are powerful companies, seeing the case through to the end can take resources and time that not every personal injury lawyer has.
Your attorney will need to identify the problems in a product’s design or the period in the manufacturing process when the product was incorrectly made. Or, if the product was damaged during shipping and later sold in stores, your lawyer will need to identify that.
Many product liability cases involve some detective work and an independent investigation from your lawyer.
Finally, winning your case means being able to make a direct link from the initial flaw in the product — whether from design, creation, or shipping — to you using the product as intended, to the product causing your injuries, and finally, to the injuries causing you loss.
Essentially, a defective product is one that doesn’t function as intended or one that causes unexpected injuries. The defect could be inherent in the design, or the product may have been rendered defective because of a production issue.
However, just because a product can cause injury doesn’t mean it’s defective. For example, a knife can cause injury but wouldn’t be considered defective unless something was wrong with the product that caused injury during use.
If, for example, the knife was sharpened on the wrong side and you cut yourself, then you may have a case for a defective product lawsuit.
Common examples of a defective product include:
An appliance with a faulty cord that could start an electrical fire
A car with parts that wear out prematurely
Medical devices or products made with harmful materials
Cosmetic products with toxic ingredients, like talcum powder contaminated with asbestos
Furniture with a design rendering it unstable
Products that come with poor directions for use or no warning of potential hazards can also be considered defective.
A defective product lawsuit is rarely an open-and-shut case. It starts with a demand letter filed by your attorney. Then it may move into mediation, where both parties negotiate a possible out-of-court settlement. If the case moves to court, expect the process to take at least two years.
Consumer product companies do not want to admit that they released a product that hurt customers — it’s very bad for their image and may cause people to stop buying their products. Therefore, they fight very hard against admitting fault.
Your lawyer may need to bring in expert witnesses and prove every element of your case, and the other party will probably contest each step. This takes time and resources.
Once the case concludes, you may not get your settlement award right away, either. It will probably be paid by the consumer product maker’s insurance company, which will go over the settlement with a fine-toothed comb, especially if you’re awarded punitive damages or the award is more than $2 million.
Anyone who has been harmed by a defective product can file a defective product lawsuit. If you are the parent of a minor child who was harmed by a defective product, you can file a suit on behalf of your child.
In some cases, a consumer product can be dangerous enough to lead to the user’s death. Some common defective consumer products that can be deadly may include lead paint on a child’s toy or food products contaminated with dangerous bacteria or viruses.
These defective product lawsuits will also be handled by a personal injury attorney, but instead of filing a personal injury suit, they will file a wrongful death suit.
Wrongful death cases require the same elements of proof as a personal injury claim, but the damages you’ll receive can include covering burial costs and non-economic damages of loss of companionship. A wrongful death suit may be filed by immediate family members, including spouses, parents, or children.