When you purchase a product online or at the store, you expect it to work as intended. When it doesn’t, you may want to return it or contact the manufacturer for a replacement. But what happens when something doesn’t work properly and injures you? If that happens, you may need help from a product liability lawyer.
At Thomas Law Offices, we believe product creators, developers, and sellers have an obligation to provide safe and useable products. When a defect results in the injury of a consumer or multiple consumers, those injured individuals have the right to pursue a personal injury claim to seek compensation for their losses. Our attorneys are here to guide you through the legal process.
The Product Development Process
The traditional product development process involves three categories, broken down into six steps. A defect can arise at any one of these steps in the event the process isn’t followed closely, or corners are cut in an attempt to save money. Your lawyer will research the development process the product you used went through to determine what went wrong and when. The categories of product development include the following:
- Discovery. This is where new product concepts start. Companies often form small teams to explore idea generation and product concepts. If something goes wrong during this initial step and the issue isn’t fixed, it can result in an entire product line being defective or dangerous.
- Product Development
- Product Definition. Sometimes called scoping, product definition involves refining the definition of the initial concept. When this is done improperly, it can increase the time it takes a product to get to market.
- Business Case Development. During the business case development phase, a company will create a detailed business plan that involves intensive market research. When done properly, this stage reduces market risk.
- Detailed Design. This is when a working prototype is created. The company will likely seek out customer feedback and incorporate that into new iterations of the prototype.
- Validation/Testing. This phase, where most product defects occur, is when the product is supposed to be tested to ensure it works as planned. This is the last opportunity to revisit the prototype because the product is sold.
- Ramp. In the final stage, the team brings the product to market with marketing and sales plans. Manufacturing and customer support begin.
While there are other product development processes, the one outlined above is standard practice for today’s products, including auto parts, children’s toys, medical devices, housewares, apparel, and anything else you would buy in the store. In the event you purchase a defective product, are injured, and are looking to file a claim, you’ll need to know what type of defect you’re dealing with.
Types of Product Defects
To determine if you have grounds to take legal action for a dangerous product, you’ll need to establish the type of defect you believe caused your injury. Doing so will help you determine who to hold accountable. Your lawyer will investigate the product and your injuries to figure out the best way to proceed. The types of product defects include manufacturing, design, and marketing.
Manufacturing defects happen during assembly. In most cases, the defect is only found in a small percentage of the company’s manufactured goods, as opposed to the entire product line. A manufacturer could be held accountable for a manufacturing error that resulted from faulty construction even if they took care through the process. Proving a manufacturing defect can be challenging because the plaintiff needs to be able to show that the defect was present when the product departed from the factory.
If a product has a design defect, it means something went wrong in the original blueprint. As a result, the product may be unreasonably hazardous. To determine if a design defect caused your injuries, you’ll need to determine if the product’s design were dangerous before production, if the design flaw could have been anticipated and therefore prevented, and whether the manufacturer could have used a better design that would not have altered the purpose of the product.
Marketing defects often involve warning labels. The American National Standards Institute maintains the laws regarding safety symbols and product safety signs and labels. As such, a warning label should let the consumer know of existing hazards, the severity of risk involved with using a particular product, the effects of the hazard, and how to avoid the danger. If a company does not comply with those standards and a consumer is injured, they can be held accountable for failure to warn.
Filing a Product Liability Lawsuit
Once your lawyer has determined the type of defect that caused your injuries and losses, they’ll have a better idea of how to proceed with your lawsuit. Depending on the defect and how you believe it was caused will affect the basis of your liability case. In general, your case will be based on one of the following: strict liability, negligence, or breach of warranty.
Product liability claims are typically pursued under the theory of strict liability. To pursue a successful claim, you only need to prove the defect exists and injured you. When strict liability applies, it does not matter if the manufacturer took extreme caution and care when manufacturing the product. However, it’s important to note that you have to prove the product was purchased in the chain of distribution, as opposed to a second-hand purchase.
To prove negligence, you need to establish a certain level of carelessness in designing or creating the product that injured you. A manufacturer owes its consumers a certain duty of care, and when that’s breached, the victims can take action. Negligence can happen in a number of situations. If a company fails to maintain its machines or does not inspect or test a product sufficiently, it can be deemed negligent.
Breach of Warranty
Buyers can rely on two different warranties when they purchase a product. The first is the express warranty, which includes information about the product and its safety made by the manufacturer or retailers. There’s also implied warranty, which is the manufacturer’s implied promise that the product will not be dangerous if it’s used as intended. You might be covered under the warranty if you were using the product as intended when you were injured.
Thomas Law Offices Can Help
The product liability lawyers from Thomas Law Offices believe negligent product designers, manufacturers, and sellers need to be held accountable, and victims deserve the chance to recover as fully as possible. If you believe a defective product has injured you, our attorneys can help you determine if you have grounds for a valid claim.
The sooner you get in touch with our law firm, the better your chances will be of pursuing a successful case. We understand how overwhelming it can be to go up against a company, but we’ll be by your side the entire time. Contact us today to learn more.