New product innovations are constantly being introduced to make our lives easier. Unfortunately, hundreds of consumers are injured every year because of a faulty, dangerous, or defective product.
Sometimes these injuries cause permanent disabilities or even fatalities. Under existing federal and state laws, manufacturers are usually responsible for providing consumers with products that are safe when used normally.
How is Negligence Determined for Defective Products?
In addition to federal consumer protection laws, many states, such as Massachusetts and California, have passed “strict liability” laws. What that means is that companies are responsible for the safety of their products with almost no exceptions. These strict, or “automatic”, liability laws are consumer friendly.
However, if personal injury or death result while a consumer is using a product normally, negligence still must often be proven based on one or more of these factors:
• Design Defect. There was something in the design of the product itself that caused unnecessary danger, risk or harm to the consumer.
• Manufacturing Defect. An error occurred during the manufacturing process that placed the consumer unnecessarily at risk.
• Marketing Defect. There was an error in the way the marketing or instructional materials were written, or the product was falsely or misleadingly advertised, resulting in unnecessary danger, risk or harm to the consumer.
Just because strict liability laws are in place doesn’t always mean the manufacturer is at fault. Consumers bear some responsibility for using a product properly. For example, if the injured party used the product in a way that they knew could cause harm or used the product when they knew it was defective (“assumption of risk”), the manufacturer may not be liable for the injuries.
Who is Liable for the Injuries?
If you or a loved one were injured while using a defective product, and you feel that negligence played a role, there are several parties within the distribution chain that may be held accountable for those injuries, including:
• The Manufacturer. The Manufacturer may be as large as a multi-national corporation or as small as a single individual who operates a business out of their home. If the defective product was part of a larger product, for example, a faulty airbag in a vehicle, you may be able to pursue a liability claim against the airbag designer, manufacturer and/or the car manufacturer.
• The Retailer. Although the retail store where you purchased the injury-causing product may not have manufactured it, they may still be liable for selling you the product. To name a retailer in a personal injury liability claim, there are 3 points to consider:
1. You don’t have to be the actual buyer;
2. You don’t have to be the actual product user; and
3. Even if you purchased the product used you may be able to sue.
• The Wholesaler or Distributor. Between the manufacturer and retailer, there may be one or more suppliers, wholesalers or distributors (“middlemen”) that could potentially be found liable for placing a defective product in your hands.
When considering all parties involved in the distribution chain, there may also be more than one potential defendant within each of these categories.
What About Big Corporations?
Corporations change size, form, and ownership frequently while serving as the manufacturer, retailer or “middleman” within the distribution chain itself. But when it comes to product liability claims, corporations are viewed in the same way as individuals. When the corporation who designed, made, distributed or sold a defective product changes shape- like getting bought out by another corporation- the successor usually inherits any outstanding liability issues from the original company that designed, manufactured, distributed and/or sold the product.
Consumer Protection Lawyers in California & Massachusetts
If you or a loved one have been injured because of a faulty, dangerous, or defective product, filing a claim on your own can be confusing, and it’s important to understand all your rights under the federal and state consumer protection laws. Contact the Law Offices of Forrest LaMothe today to speak to one of our experienced consumer protection attorneys to assess the viability of your potential claim. To speak with a product liability lawyer in Massachusetts or California, call us toll free at (877) 599-8890, or visit us at forrestlamothe.com.