Petersburg Product Liability Attorney
Emergency rooms treat more than 14 million product-related injuries each year, according to the Consumer Products Safety Commission. The CPSC categorizes these injuries in several areas:
- Fuel, lighters, and fireworks
- Furniture and decor
- Home maintenance and construction
- Kitchen and dining
- Public facilities and products
- Sports and recreation
- Toys and children’s products
Manufacturers of consumer products are liable for any damages that occur because of the flaws in their products. This concept is known as product liability. When a manufacturer becomes aware of a flaw in its product, it often must issue a recall, which is a legal notice to all owners of that product that the defective part must be repaired or replaced.
If a defective product injured you or your child, Virginia law may entitle you to compensation.
Examples of Product Liability Cases
A product can be dangerous in one or more ways, including through its:
- Defective design. When a product is poorly designed and manufactured according to these specs, any product liability claims filed by victims of accidents involving the product are known as defective design claims. In other words, the manufacturer’s intended design is dangerous to consumers—with a defective design case, the hazards of the product are inherent, rather than caused by an issue that arose in its production, packaging, or marketing.
- Defective manufacturing. When a product is not manufactured according to its design and this deviation makes it potentially dangerous to users, the issue is known as a manufacturing defect. A manufacturing defect might mean that the wrong materials were used or that the product does not contain the safety features it was designed to contain.
- Defective marketing or failure to warn. It is impossible to eliminate the safety hazards of certain products. With these products, manufacturers have the responsibility to include safety warnings so that consumers and workers understand these hazards and take the correct precautions when using the products. A manufacturer that fails to provide these warnings labels the product incorrectly, or neglects to include instructions for the safe use of the product is liable for any damages that result from accidents that victims suffer through its use. Failure to warn cases often arise with respect to pharmaceutical drugs. This occurs when a pharmaceutical manufacturer is aware of the potential risks of taking a drug but fails to caution consumers of these risks, putting many people at risk of severe harm.
Injuries That Can Result From Accidents Involving Faulty or Defective Products
Like any other type of accident, there are many ways you can be injured by a defective consumer product. The type of injury you can suffer depends on the type of product involved in your accident and the nature of its flaw. Product liability can apply to any type of consumer products, including cosmetics, sporting equipment, household appliances, furniture, and motor vehicles.
A victim can suffer from the following types of injury in an accident involving a flawed product:
- Burns, scarring, disfigurement, and smoke inhalation
- Chemical burns, long-term illness, and poisoning from hazardous substances
- Bone fractures
- Tissue damage
- Organ damage
- Head, neck, and spinal cord injuries
Who Is Liable in a Product Liability Case?
Product liability laws vary from state to state. Virginia law defines product liability as “liability for damages because of any personal injury, death, emotional harm, consequential economic damage, or property damage, including damages resulting from the loss of use of property, arising out of the manufacture, design, importation, distribution, packaging, labeling, lease, or sale of a product.”
In other words, product manufacturers bear strict liability for any damages that arise from accidents involving their products. This means that claimants do not have to demonstrate that the manufacturer was careless or reckless to recover compensation. Instead, a claimant must simply prove that the product had a dangerous defect that caused his injury.
Any party in the chain of distribution, including the manufacturer, distributor, and retailer, may be liable for product defect injuries. In cases of defective medical devices, liable parties may also include the salesperson, doctor, and hospital.
- Manufacturers design and market the product. Manufacturers can be any type of entity, from a large multinational corporation with extensive research and design resources, to an individual entrepreneur who has designed and built something in his or her garage. Products with multiple components, like vehicles, planes, and electronics, may have several manufacturers.
- Distributors operate between the manufacturer and the retailer. They may be liable if they have knowingly wholesaled a defective product, or modified a product before sending it to the retailer.
- Retailers sell products, and by offering products for sale, they give consumers implied warranties of merchantability, fitness for purpose, and safety. Retailers, therefore, may face liability for product defect injuries even if they did not design or build the product, or did not know the product was defective or had been modified.
Determination of the liable party depends on the nature of the flaw.
For example, if a product’s defective part is a component manufactured by a company subcontracted by the product’s primary manufacturer, that subcontracted company may be liable for any damages that arise from accidents caused by the flawed part. A retailer that fails to remove a recalled item from its shelves may be liable for any damages that result from accidents caused by that item. It is important to note that liability only applies when the product is sold or leased under normal business circumstances. When an item is purchased at a yard sale or lent between friends or family members, the seller or owner of the item generally is not liable for damages that occur because of the item’s flaws.
Seeking Compensation for Your Damages in a Product Liability Case
It is important to note that a product liability claim is valid only if the consumer or worker was using the product properly when the accident occurred. When a consumer or worker deliberately disregards the safety instructions included with a product, she assumes the risks that come with this choice, and in most cases, cannot recover compensation for any damages that occur as a result of an accident.
When a victim does have grounds for a product liability claim, he may seek compensation for the following damages:
- Medical bills, including ambulance rides, hospitalization, doctor visits, X-rays, scans, surgery, and prescription drugs
- Rehabilitation and recovery costs, including assistive devices
- Lost wages and career opportunities due to taking time off to recover and a reduced capacity to work
- Property damage
- Non-economic losses, which compensate for damages that are difficult to quantify, such as emotional suffering
- Punitive damages, or damages for the purpose of punishing the defendant, are usually ordered only in the most egregious circumstances.
To recover compensation for your damages, you will need to provide evidence to support your claim. Evidence you can use to support your product liability claim includes:
- Your medical bills
- Documentation of your lost wages
- Photographs of the injury and the product, especially if the product broke or failed to live up to advertised expectations when the accident occurred
- Testimony about the accident
If you knew about the product’s defect and chose to continue using it despite your knowledge, it can be difficult for you to secure compensation for your damages.
Liable Parties Will Try to Avoid Liability
Virginia has a strict contributory negligence rule, providing an incentive for defendants to shift the blame to victims and avoid paying damages. “Contributory negligence” means if the court finds that injured parties have any responsibility for their injuries, they cannot recover damages.
Defendants in product liability cases often claim the injured party used the product incorrectly, modified the product, or didn’t read the instructions and/or warning labels. Experienced personal injury attorneys will challenge these defenses, and work to hold defendants liable for damages.
Work with an Experienced Petersburg Product Liability Attorney
Don’t wait to contact a lawyer. In Virginia, the statute of limitations for product liability claims is two years from the date of the accident, with only rare exceptions, for personal injury claims. Most personal injury law firms offer free consultations to discuss potential cases. In addition, if a lawyer agrees to pursue your claim, you typically will not pay attorney’s fees and litigation costs upfront. Personal injury cases are often handled on a contingent fee basis, meaning the lawyer will deduct their fees and expenses from any eventual settlement or judgment.
If you sustained an injury in an accident involving a defective product, you could be entitled to receive monetary compensation for your damages related to the accident through a product liability claim. Speak to a lawyer who understands Virginia product liability laws.
To learn more about filing and pursuing a product liability claim, contact our team of experienced product liability attorneys at Emroch & Kilduff, LLP, today, or call (804) 358-1568 to set up your free, confidential legal consultation in our office.