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Every year, thousands of needless injuries and wrongful deaths are caused by defective products. These claims typically arise when manufacturers fail to install or supply appropriate safety devices with or as part of the product, fail to give adequate warnings or instructions for safe usage, or fail to design a product in a way that it can be used safely for its intended use by the consumer.
Product liability is the area of law that holds manufacturers and sellers/resellers accountable for selling a product with a dangerous defect that ends up causing an injury. According to law, responsibility for a defective product can potentially involve every party in the chain of distribution or sale, including the manufacturer, the distributor, the marketer, the wholesaler, and even the retail store where the product was sold.
Some examples of such products include defective tires or wheels, dangerous baby toys, car seats and cribs, medical devices, pharmaceuticals and industrial machinery. Prime examples of recent products cases are the Takata airbag cases and Johnson and Johnson claims alleging that J&J baby powder caused cancer in women.
If you have been injured due to a defective product in Bethesda, Rockville or the greater areas of Maryland, or Virginia, call (301) 251-1286 to schedule a free consultation with our experienced defective products attorney at the Law Offices of Stuart L. Plotnick, LLC.
Common Defective Products
Companies have an obligation to make safe products. That's why responsible corporations often spend years and millions of dollars designing and testing products used by consumers to make sure they're safe and free from dangerous defects.
Unfortunately, some companies aren't so careful or value profit over safety, and decide to cut corners. As a result, these defective products make their way on to the market and end up causing serious injuries. When such accidents occur, these companies need to be held accountable for their defective or dangerous products.
Injuries caused by defective products occur for many different reasons. Most of these injuries occur because the manufacturer failed to install appropriate safety protections or provide important safety warnings about potential hazards associated with such products. Common defective product cases include:
- Dangerous toys – Children frequently sustain serious injuries while playing with defective toys. Even perfectly safe toys can be hazardous if children use them the wrong way and there was no safety warning. Young children in particular frequently choke on small toy parts. That's why toy manufacturers need to include safety warnings.
- Defective car parts – Injuries involving defective car parts often occur since companies cut corners and make inferior products that don't meet safety standards. Defective tires in particular have been linked to many accidents in recent years across the country. The crisis with defective ignition switches and airbags is a prime example.
- Dangerous chemicals – Manufacturers of dangerous chemicals need to properly label their products. Otherwise, people can breathe or come into contact with such chemicals and sustain a serious injury.
- Tainted food – Food manufacturers must make sure the products they produce do not contain any hazardous chemicals or other harmful products. Unfortunately, not all food manufacturers are so careful. As a result, serious injuries or fatalities frequently occur due to tainted food and food additives
- Household appliances or tools – This includes smoke alarms and space heaters
- Defective gas grills
- Defective industrial machinery and power tools
- Dangerous medications – This includes prescription and over-the-counter drugs
- Defective medical devices – Among the most serious cases, defective medical devices often involve heart valves, defibrillators, hip and joint replacement systems.
Causes of Defective Product Injuries
Defective products can cause injuries in several different ways, depending on the type of product and the nature of the defect. However, all product liability cases are rooted in three basic types of errors:
- Design defects – A product should be designed so it is safe when used in its intended manner. For example, the gas tank of the Ford Pinto was not properly insulated from impact during rear-end collisions, leading to numerous cases of explosions when the car was hit from behind. Also recall the Firestone tire cases where tire treads would come apart under normal driving conditions, causing the tire(s) to fail and leading to hundreds of fatalities.
- Manufacturing defects – The design of a product may be safe, but mistakes during the manufacturing process can lead to defect(s) in the product's construction, causing it to not work properly and become dangerous. For example, the toy company Mattel recently recalled several products because unsafe amounts of lead were used in the toys' paint, which if consumed by the child was toxic.
- Inadequate warnings – When products are sold to customers, they should come with proper instructions informing the customer how to use the product safely and what the potential dangers/risks are from use. If there are any inherent dangers, hazards, or side effects, the product should come with sufficient warnings to prevent improper use. For example, a pharmaceutical company may fail to warn about a drug's potential side effects or contraindications, which leads to further illness or even death. Had the user known, they might not have taken the drug.
Whatever the cause of your defective product injury, we strongly urge you to take the following steps, including contacting our law firm as soon as possible.
Understanding Strict Liability
Defective product cases fall under the category of law known as "strict liability," meaning you do not need to provide proof of the manufacturer's negligence in order to recover compensation - you only need to prove that the product itself was defective and you were injured due to that defect in order to recover. However, in cases where the victim ignores strict warnings from the manufacturer as to the proper use of the product, the product has been modified by the user from its original condition, or the user uses the product improperly, problems with recovery may arise.
Anyone involved in the business of manufacturing, marketing, or selling a defective product can be held strictly liable for a person's injuries. However, strict liability may not extend to retailers of used products. For example, if the product was a used item that was sold in an isolated sale (e.g. on eBay), and the seller was not in the business of selling the product as his/her regular business, the seller may escape liability.
Do Not Dispose of the Product or Part of the Product that is Defective!
In a defective product case, time is crucial. Many potential clients come to us with product liability claims a year or more after the incident that caused their injury. By this time, important evidence in the case, namely the product or part has usually been either destroyed, altered or lost.
If you believe you may have been injured because of a defective product, save whatever remains of the product (including the packaging) and consult with our Maryland defective product attorney today to discuss your claim. We offer free case evaluations to all potential clients.
If Mr. Plotnick believes you do have a valid product liability claim that is worth pursuing, he will work with engineers and other field experts to examine the product, investigate its history, and review the manufacturing process and supply chains in detail - documenting any links between the defect(s) and your injuries. You can trust our attorney to use every resource at our disposal to develop the strongest and most compelling case possible on your behalf.
What You Should Do – Step by Step Advice
- Always heed warnings – First, in order to reduce your risk of injury in the first place, always pay attention to the warnings provided by the manufacturer or seller. When a ladder warns not to step on the top step, don’t use the top step.
However, if you or a loved one has been harmed by a defective product, we recommend taking the following steps:
- Get medical help – Seek immediate emergency medical attention. Your life could be at risk. An official medical record of your injury can also help support your claim against the company that manufactured the defective product.
- Immediately take the product out of commission; stop using it and turn it off.
- Call the police – Notify your local police if you believe your injury occurred due to products being tampered with in any way. Other people's lives could be at risk.
- Save the product – Your physical defective product could turn out to be a crucial piece of evidence in a legal case against the company that manufactured the product.
- Contact us – The Law Offices of Stuart L. Plotnick, LLC can help you every step of the way.
As your attorney, we can help you pursue all legal avenues in your defective product case. Responsibility for a defective product can potentially involve every party in the chain of distribution, including the manufacturer, the distributor, the marketer, the wholesaler and even the retail store where the product was sold.
We leave no stone unturned in pursuit of justice. Contact us and schedule your free case evaluation right now.
Product Liability Questions
- If I have been injured by a defective product, what should I do first?
- Should I throw out the defective product or part that injured me?
- What types of damages can I seek in a product liability case?
- Who is liable in a product liability case?
- What does it take to prove a product liability case?
The first thing to do anytime you are injured by a defective product or ever injured is to seek medical attention. Your health is always the most important concern. At the same time, it is critical to document your condition as soon as possible after the accident and what happened – otherwise, you may allow room for the manufacturer to argue that your injuries were the result of a different incident, instead of their product.
No, never! Do not dispose the product or part that hurt you. If you destroy or throw away the product or part that injured you, our attorneys and experts will not have a chance to examine it, and confirm that it was defective and dangerous. That eliminates your ability to make a claim. It also does not give the manufacturer or seller the chance to perform its own examination and possibly defend the case, which courts do not favor. So, do not dispose of the product or change it in any way from the condition at the time of the accident, and hold on to it.
If possible, take photographs at scene of the incident - including your injuries, the product itself and defect, and any other circumstantial factors. This can be critical evidence if you decide to file a product liability claim. If you are unable to perform this step because your injuries are so severe, have a friend or family member do it or contact us. Finally, contact our Bethesda personal injury lawyers for a free case evaluation to discuss your legal options.
The damages (financial compensation) you can recover in a product liability case will depend on a number of different factors, including the nature of the product itself, the type and extent of your injuries, and more. Generally speaking, however, injured victims of defective products can pursue compensation for:
- Medical expenses past and future
- Lost income or wages while you are recovering
- Physical and emotional pain and suffering
- Loss of enjoyment of life and for permanent injuries or disability
- Scarring and/or disfigurement
- Loss of earning capacity
- Property damage
Wrongful death and claims for loved ones: If your loved one has been killed because of a defective product, we can help you seek compensation for end-of-life expenses, loss of benefits, loss of companionship, and other damages through a wrongful death case.
Federal agencies such as the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the Consumer Product Safety Commission exist to help protect consumers from defective or unsafe products. Ultimately, however, the responsibility for product safety lies with all parties along the manufacturing and distribution chains. We also know from recent cases that manufacturers may not report adverse effects or dangers that they discover in development and testing.
Depending on the nature of the product's defect, several different parties can potentially be held liable for your injuries, such as:
- The general manufacturer
- The parts manufacturer
- The company that assembled the product
- The packaging company
- The wholesaler
- The retailer or dealer
Most product liability claims fall under the category of "strict liability." This means you do not need to prove that each of these parties were individually negligent; you only need to prove that the product itself was defective to receive compensation.
However, other product liability actions can be brought against product manufacturers based specifically upon negligence. We can help you determine the right way to approach your case based on the evidence at hand, and the unique circumstances of your injury.
Proving that a product is defective or unsafe requires a complete investigation and highly trained safety experts or engineers. At the Law Offices of Stuart L. Plotnick, LLC, our Rockville injury attorneys work with engineers and other manufacturing experts to examine the product, identify flaws, research the history of the product, and analyze the supply chain to determine liability. We will use all of our resources and experience to develop the strongest product liability case possible on your behalf.