As a consumer, you have the right to purchase and consume safe products. When you buy a new family car you probably expect that it will keep your family safe. When you buy a toy for your child you do so with the expectation that your child will be able to enjoy it safely. This should be true for any product you buy.
Manufacturers, distributors, and sellers of products have a responsibility to design, manufacture, and sell items that are safe to use. When an unsafe or defective product is put onto the market you may be at risk of serious harm. If you suffer an injury because of a defective product you may be entitled to compensation. Contact the experienced Los Angeles product liability attorneys at Citywide Law Group to learn about how you can hold manufacturers responsible for their defective products.
Liability for Product Defects
Who is responsible when you are injured by a defective product?
In California, a product’s manufacturer, distributor, and seller have an obligation to provide safe products to consumers. When shortcuts are taken, regulations aren’t followed, or mistakes are made unsafe and defective products can end up on the market.
Generally, if a product is defective and causes an injury anyone who was involved in the process of designing, creating, or selling that product could potentially be responsible for damages.
Determining which parties may be responsible will require an independent investigation into the accident and injury. An investigation may involve analyzing the product’s design, inspecting manufacturing equipment, and consulting product liability experts.
If you or a third person alter, misuse, or abuse a product your ability to recover compensation may be reduced. In some cases, your ability to recover compensation may be reduced to zero if your conduct was the most substantial cause for your harm.
In many cases, a court will weigh your misconduct with the risk of danger posed by the defective product and assign degrees of liability. For example, let’s say that you do not use a product as intended and it is determined that your injury is 30% your fault. Your ability to recover compensation from the product’s manufacturer will be reduced by 30%.
Types of Defective Product Lawsuits
In California, there are three main types of product defects: design defect, manufacturing defect, and warning defect. The type of defect that causes your injury will be the basis for your legal claim for damages.
Your attorney will determine which type of defect (or defects) likely caused your injury. Using that information, your attorney will know which type of lawsuit to file and what proof you must have to be successful.
A defective design exists when your injury is the result of an inherent danger of the product’s design itself. In California, there are two tests that can be used to determine if a product has a defective design. It is not necessary to use each test. Rather, each test may be appropriate for different defective designs.
The risk/benefit analysis test requires the defendant (manufacturer, distributor, or seller) to prove that the benefit of the product’s design outweighs the design’s risk of danger. The court must consider the following factors when determining if the benefit outweighs the risk:
- Gravity of potential harm;
- Likelihood that harm will occur;
- Feasibility of an alternative design;
- The cost of an alternative design;
- Disadvantages of an alternative design; and
- Any other relevant factors.
The consumer expectation test is not always appropriate in defective product cases. It looks more specifically at what the consumer expected and should have expected when using a product. Specifically, it asks if the product performed “as safely as an ordinary consumer would have expected it to perform” when used as intended or in a reasonably foreseeable way. The consumer expectation test will generally on expert testimony to determine what an “ordinary consumer” would expect under the same circumstances.
A manufacturing defect may arise when a product’s end-result is not what the manufacturer intended. The product can be different from the original design or different from other products from the same line. There are no tests to determine if there is a manufacturing defect. Instead, you must only prove that the defect in the product was a substantial factor in causing you harm. The defendant (manufacturer, distributor, seller) then has the burden to prove that you misused or altered the product in some way.
Companies have a responsibility to warn consumers of potential risks that the products may have. You can see these warnings everywhere: bright red and yellow labels on toys, lengthy inserts in your prescription medication, and caricatures of how misusing a blender can cause an injury on the side of the box. A company may be liable for failure to warn if you are injured by a product because there were no adequate warnings about potential risks.
In addition to proving that an injury occurred, a claim based on a lack of adequate warning must prove:
- The company that manufactured, distributed or sold the product knew or should have known that the product had a potential risk;
- The risk presented a substantial danger to the consumer when the product is used as intended or in a reasonably foreseeable way;
- Ordinary users would not recognize the risk; and
- The company failed to warn consumers about that risk.
Product Liability Statute of Limitations
If you sustain an injury because of a product defect you should not hesitate to contact an experienced Los Angeles defective product attorney. In California, you are permitted to file a claim for damages against responsible parties. However, if you do not file your claim within the appropriate statute of limitations your ability to recover compensation may be prohibited.
If you suffer a personal injury because of a defective product you generally have two years from the date of your injury to file a claim. If you have property that is damaged because of a defective product you generally have three years from the date of the discovery of the damage to file a claim. There are certain exceptions and limitations to California’s statute of limitations. Hiring an experienced Los Angeles defective product attorney to handle your claim will help to ensure that your case is filed within the applicable period of time.
Damages in Defective Product Cases
What compensation and damages can you recover after you’ve been harmed by a defective product? Your attorney will thoroughly investigate your case to determine the extent and type of harms you have suffered. In California, if you have been injured because of a defective product you may be able to recover both economic and non-economic damages.
What are economic damages? Economic damages are awarded to help you cover the financial losses you suffer because of your injury. Many times, injuries can require extensive medical treatment, surgery, prescriptions, and rehabilitation. The road to recovery is not an inexpensive one. Economic damages can help to cover these costs. Economic damages can also be awarded to compensate you for lost earnings. If you are forced to miss time away from work – now and in the future – you can recover your expected earnings in your claim.
What are non-economic damages? Non-economic damages are awarded to compensate for harms that are intangible. Generally, non-economic damages are subjective and difficult to value. If your injuries cause you to suffer mental anguish, embarrassment, pain and suffering, loss of consortium, and disfigurement you may be entitled to recover non-economic damages. The amount of non-economic damages awarded in a defective product case will depend on the severity and extent of injuries.
Defective Products and Strict Liability
Some product liability cases will require you to prove that a product’s manufacturer, distributor, or seller was negligent. Cases claiming that a product was defective, however, are generally based on strict liability. Strict liability means that a manufacturer, distributor, or seller is responsible for injuries caused by its product regardless of negligence. This means that to win your case you only have to prove that a product was defective and that it caused you harm. You do not have to prove that the manufacturer, distributor, or seller was negligent. Once you have proven that the product was defective the burden of proof shifts to the defendant (manufacturer, distributor, seller). The defendant must then prove that you were only injured because you did not use the product as intended, you did not use the product in a reasonably foreseeable way, or you altered the product in some way.
Experienced Los Angeles Defective Product Attorneys
Have you been harmed because of a defective product? If so, you may be entitled to compensation for your injuries. At Citywide Law Group, our Los Angeles defective product injury attorneys have spent the past 17 years holding manufacturers, distributors, and sellers responsible for the injuries their products cause. We have helped clients like you recover the compensation they need and deserve after an unexpected injury.
Contact our office today to schedule your free, no-commitment consultation. We offer our services on a contingency fee basis so that you do not have to worry about up-front legal fees. We only get paid when we recover a settlement or award on your behalf. The sooner you call, the sooner we can begin to investigate your case.