Consumers use millions of products on a daily basis, as new products enter the market continuously. While many products make our lives easier or improve our health, some products cause more harm than good. If you’ve been injured by a dangerous product, a Chicago product liability lawyer from Thomas Law Offices can help.
Product liability is a broad area of law concerning injuries that are caused by consumer products. If you’ve purchased an item and have sustained injuries that should have been prevented, you may be able to file a personal injury claim to seek compensation for your losses.
Defect Claims and Product Liability in Illinois
Product liability claims are brought forward when a dangerous or defective product or component of a product results in injury to a consumer. While a claim can be filed for any product, some of the most common products include medical devices, children’s toys, and auto parts. Other examples include machinery and tools, medicine, food and tobacco, toxic chemicals, firearms, household appliances, and clothing.
During the design, manufacturing, shipping, and distribution processes, the parties involved are responsible for ensuring the products are not defective or damaged. In the event shortcuts are taken for budgetary purposes or simple negligence lets a dangerous product slip through to consumers, the responsible party can be held accountable for any injuries and losses incurred by the consumer. In general, claims are based on one of the following concepts:
- Negligence. To prove negligence, your lawyer will have to demonstrate how carelessness in the design or manufacturing resulted in your injuries. With a product liability case, negligence can happen when drawing up or reviewing product plans, failing to foresee plausible uses for the product, releasing the product too early, and failing to inspect or test the product sufficiently.
- Strict Liability. Most product liability claims are pursued under the theory of strict liability. With these claims, the plaintiff only has to prove that the product was defective, and an injury was sustained as a result. It’s important to note that products purchased second-hand are not eligible for strict liability claims.
- Breach of Warranty. When you purchase a product, there are typically two warranties you can rely on. Express warranty refers to any representation about the product and its safety made by the manufacturer. Implied warranty is the implied promise made by the manufacturer that the product, if used as intended, will not cause harm.
Regardless of which theory your claim is based on, it’s important to work with an experienced attorney. Thomas Law Offices can guide you through the process and fight for your rights to be upheld.
Types of Product Defects
Product liability claims are built on the type of defect that caused the plaintiff’s injury. To determine which defect caused your injury, your attorney will conduct a thorough investigation, looking into when and where you purchased or received the item, how you were using it at the time it injured you, and what steps the manufacturer took to ensure the product’s safety and reliability. Most claims are built on design defects, manufacturing defects, or marketing defects.
Manufacturing defects develop when there’s a problem with how a specific item is made. This typically only affects one or a few items out of an entire line of products. Issues can arise in the event an error occurs on the assembly line in a factory, which would make certain products different from all the others.
Car accidents involving defective auto parts are typically the result of a manufacturing error. For example, if, during the production of brakes, a specific set of brakes passed through the assembly line with fewer components than the rest, the person that ends up with those brakes in their vehicle could potentially lose control and be unable to stop without colliding with another car or object.
An entire line of products can cause injuries in the event an error is made during the design process. Whether miscalculations were made, or the intended design was deviated from, the manufacturer can be held accountable for failing to take foreseeable risks into account.
For example, if components of a medical device are designed in a way that they can fragment inside a patient’s body, those with the device will likely have to endure a procedure to have it removed at some point. In severe cases, a dangerous device could result in fatal injuries.
To successfully prove a design defect, a lawyer will generally call on an expert to provide their testimony. The expert will be able to discuss why the design was unsafe and what could have been done to prevent harm.
If a manufacturer fails to provide adequate instructions on how to use a product, this can give rise to a product liability claim. The same goes in the event the manufacturer fails to warn consumers about a product’s inherent risks.
A marketing defect claim can arise in a situation where a consumer is injured by a household product that was not labeled as unsafe in certain situations.
It’s important to note that manufacturers cannot be held liable for failing to warn of obvious risks—like in the event someone falls off of a ladder that was constructed properly.
Dangerous Products and Warning Labels
The American National Standards Institute (ANSI), which is the organization responsible for maintaining regulations for safety symbols and product safety signs and labels, clearly lays out what a warning label should look like. In the event a dangerous product does not have the proper warning label, the manufacturer could be held accountable.
To meet ANSI standards, a warning label should inform the consumer of existing hazards, the severity of the risk involved with the product, the effects of the hazard, and how to avoid the hazard. In order to identify the level of severity of a hazard, labels may be red, orange, or yellow. Red indicates the most serve, implying that an impending hazardous event will end in serious injury or death. As a warning label, orange indicates potentially hazardous circumstances could end in serious injury or death. Yellow labels signify caution, meaning a potentially hazardous condition could end in moderate injury.
If you plan to file a claim because you believe a warning label was inadequate, our attorneys will focus on building your claim around how the product caused you harm, how serious the injuries were, the level of duty the manufacturer owed to you in regard to the warning, how much the label relied on your experience and knowledge, and whether the warning was clear enough to understand.
Injuries Associated With Hazardous Products
The injuries you sustain from a dangerous product depend on the type of incident that occurred and what the product was. For example, a defective auto part could result in a car accident that causes broken bones, traumatic brain injuries, or spinal cord damage. An incident involving a household appliance could result in burn injuries–the most severe of which could cause significant scarring or disfigurement. In some cases, individuals exposed to toxic chemicals over an extended period of time may not realize they’ve sustained injuries for years until later diagnosed with a disease.
If the dangerous product caused immediate injury, it’s important to seek medical attention. Not only will you want to be aware of what your physical recovery process will look like, but it’s also important to have a paper trail your lawyer can use to determine what and how you’ve suffered. Also remember to follow your doctor’s advice when it comes to your recovery. If you fail to do so, the allegedly negligent party could claim your injuries were not as severe as you stated or that their product was only dangerous because of misuse.
Understanding Your Rights As a Consumer
As a consumer, you’re protected by the Consumer Bill of Rights. Under the law, consumers are entitled to the following rights:
- The Right to Be Informed. Consumers have the right to receive accurate information about the products they are considering purchasing so they can make wise decisions. Manufacturers and businesses are required to provide certain details about products, including a complete list of contents, materials, or ingredients.
- The Right to Choose. Because the United States operates with a market economy, consumers can choose from a wide variety of goods and services. This means that businesses compete with each other to sell their products.
- The Right to Safety. The right to safety means that consumers shouldn’t be wrongfully harmed by products. Manufacturers are legally obligated to make safe products and inform of potential hazards.
- The Right to Be Heard. Consumers have the right to voice complaints about products or services that do not work as intended or promised.
- The Right to Have Problems Corrected. In the event a product does not work properly after purchase, the customer usually has the right to take the defective item back to the store with a receipt. If the business cannot or will not correct the problem, the consumer can contact the manufacturer.
- The Right to Consumer Education. Consumers have the right to learn how the market system works. This includes understanding how to get the best value and satisfaction for your money.
- The Right to Service. Customers have a right to be treated in a respectful manner and served without discrimination on the basis of race, gender, age, or income.
Determining Who to Pursue a Claim Against
To pursue a successful claim, you have to have compelling evidence against the party you believe to be negligent. When it comes to defective product claims, they are often filed against the manufacturer, retailer, or wholesaler.
The manufacturer could be a large company or an individual working out of their garage. Depending on the product, it’s possible the plaintiff could file a case against either the manufacturer of the entire product or the manufacturer of a defective part.
Holding a retailer accountable for their negligence can happen if a retailer advertises an item for sale—which implied the product is safe and suitable for use. If you decide to pursue a claim against a retailer, you don’t have to be the one who bought the product or the one who used the product. In addition to that, you might be able to recover compensation for used products.
Finally, the wholesaler is essentially considered the middleman between the manufacturer and retailer. If, for example, a product was damaged during shipping and that caused the dangerous defect, the trucking company could potentially be held liable.
Proving Product Liability in Chicago
In Illinois, there are two primary ways a plaintiff can go about proving a product liability claim. The first is the consumer-expectation test. Under the test, the plaintiff has to establish what an ordinary consumer purchasing the product would expect about it and its safety. The standard applies the objective view of the average expectations of a reasonable person. The primary advantage of this test revolves around its simplicity and amenability to the application of the everyday experiences of jurors. Expert testimony is not typically required.
The second method to prove product liability is the risk-utility test. With this test, a plaintiff can win a strict liability design-defect case if they demonstrate the magnitude of the danger of the product outweighs the intended utility of the product. To establish the defectiveness of a product’s design, you have to prove it embodied excessive and preventable danger. More specifically, the test is used to determine if an alternative, reasonable design would, at a reasonable cost, have reduced the foreseeable risks of harm posed by the product.
Under either test, the plaintiff also to prove the product that caused their injuries was defective or unreasonably dangerous. Your Chicago attorney can help you build your claim and collect the evidence you need to prove you’re not responsible for your injuries and deserve compensation.
Compensation for a Dangerous Product
The compensation you’re eligible for is determined by a number of factors. To start, your lawyer will determine what your economic losses are. Economic losses include calculable expenses like medical bills, lost wages, and property damage. Depending on the severity of your injury, you may also be able to seek compensation for future medical expenses and additional lost income.
In addition to the calculable losses, your lawyer will also determine what you’re owed in regard to noneconomic damages. This covers pain and suffering, loss of enjoyment of life, loss of consortium, and more. While this figure is harder to determine, your attorney will use their experience with prior product liability lawsuits to determine what equates to a fair settlement amount.
While economic and noneconomic losses are the two primary factors involved with determining the value of a dangerous product claim, those are not the only factors to consider. Your attorney will also look at whether gross negligence was involved, the extent and seriousness of your injuries, and whether or not more people have been or could be affected by the defective product.
It’s important to note that while many claims resolve through negotiations with a settlement, there is a chance your case could proceed to trial. In the event you need to file a lawsuit in order to receive full and fair compensation, your Chicago attorney will be by your side the entire time, ensuring you understand your rights and offering the best chance possible at getting your life back in order.
Get Help From Thomas Law Offices
If you’ve been injured by a dangerous product and are looking to recover compensation for your losses, a Chicago product liability lawyer from Thomas Law Offices can help. We’re prepared to represent you and hold the negligent party responsible for their actions and your losses.
We understand how intimidating it can seem to go up against a manufacturer—especially when they’re a large corporation. We’ll be by your side the entire time to ensure your rights are upheld and you’re offered full and fair compensation for your injuries.
The sooner you file a product liability claim, the better your chances are of maximizing your monetary award. Contact us today to schedule a free case evaluation.