The Consumer Products Safety Commission (CPSC) reports that 14,727,704 product-related injuries were treated in emergency rooms across the United States in 2016. This staggering number includes incidents involving children’s products, home maintenance and construction products, and chemical products, among others. In many of these cases, the products that caused harm were undoubtedly defective.
If you have been injured because of a defective product, you may be entitled to recover damages. An experienced products liability lawyer at Sibley Dolman in Boca Raton may be able to help you recover compensation. Call (561) 220-4963 to schedule an appointment for a free consultation.
What Are Products Liability Injuries?
Several different types of injuries may occur when you use a defective product. Here are some of the most common injuries reported by the CPSC:
- Burns, scarring, and disfigurement
- Chemical burns
- Broken bones
- Electrocution injuries
- Concussions and other brain traumas
- Head and neck injuries
- Spinal cord injuries
- Illness and other long-term conditions often caused by poisonous substances
What Is a Defective Product?
Specific laws about product liability vary from state to state. Florida, like many others, categorizes product defects into three areas:
- Design defects occur when the manufacturer’s intended design is unreasonably dangerous. In the State of Florida, the courts use the consumer-expectationtest for defective design claims. The consumer-expectation test makes a company liable if the product fails to be as safe as a reasonable consumer would expect when using it for its intended purpose.
- Manufacturing defectsoccur after the design process. The design was intended to be safe, but the execution of the design is unsafe.
- Information defects occur when those in a product’s supply chain do not provide adequate warnings about the dangers of a product. This failure to warn defect also includes the failure to provide instructions with certain products.
Who Can Be at Fault for a Defective Product?
If you are injured by a defective product, any party that participates in bringing that product to market may be held responsible. This includes the manufacturer, the wholesaler, and the retailer. In the case of a defective medical device, the doctor, the hospital, and the medical device manufacturer may face liability.
- Manufacturers include any entity that is involved in the design and marketing of a product or a product component. They can be large multinational companies with sizable research and design divisions or an individual that has designed and built something in their garage.
- Wholesaler/Distributor. It may seem odd that a wholesaler or distributor may be liable in a product liability claim because they only serve as a middleman between the manufacturer and the retailer. Any entity that is included in a product’s chain of distribution, however, might be liable for an injury from a defective product depending upon how the product was handled or modified after it left the manufacturer.
- Whether online or in a brick and mortar location, a retailer choosing to sell a product implies that it is safe for use. In some cases, retailers make claims in the forms of testimonials and other advertising to outwardly make claims about safety. This can make a retailer liable for a product-related injury in some circumstances even though they had no part in the design or building of a product.
What Kind of Damages Might Be Recovered When a Product Liability Injury Happens?
Victims who have sustained an injury from a defective product might recover damages for medical expenses, future medical costs, lost wages, property damage, lost earning capacity, and other out-of-pocket expenses directly related to the injury. In some cases, a victim might be also awarded punitive damages. Florida has some specific laws concerning limits on punitive damages:
- Punitive damages cannot be more than three times the amount of compensatory damages or $500,000, whichever is greater.
- In extreme circumstances, the court may award higher punitive damages, but they are capped at four times the amount of compensatory damages or $2,000,000, whichever is greater.
What Ways Do Those Liable Try to Get out of Paying Their Fair Share?
Florida follows a comparative fault rule in products liability cases. This means that if a court awards you damages for an injury from a defective product, it will reduce the amount based on the percentage that you were at fault for your own injury. For example, if XYZ Enterprises is 100 percent liable for your injury caused by the use of their SuperWidget, the court awards you compensatory damages of $100,000. If the court finds that you are 30 percent at fault because you used the SuperWidget incorrectly, it would reduce your award to $70,000.
Comparative fault gives the defendant(s) the incentive to engage in victim-blaming to avoid paying their fair share. Expect those who are liable to aggressively try to prove that you are at fault for some, if not, all of your injury. This includes claiming that you are were not using the product correctly or as it was intended. They may also claim that you modified the product since the time of purchase. A skilled attorney who is experienced with products liability claims can fight these attacks and make sure those who are liable pay their fair share.
How much does a lawyer cost me?
Florida has a four-year statute of limitations on product liability claims, so it can be important to discuss your case with a lawyer as soon as possible. Additionally, if a family member has died because of a defective product, their estates have two years to file a wrongful death lawsuit. Most attorneys offer free consultations to discuss and evaluate the viability of your case. In appropriate cases, law firms may agree to represent clients on a “contingent fee” basis in which the firm’s fees are paid only out of any settlement or verdict. In those arrangements, the firm and the client must agree on whether the client will pay all, some, or none of the court and other administrative costs associated with pursuing a case.
If you live in the Boca Raton area and have sustained an injury as a result of a defective product, let an experienced lawyer deal with the paperwork and details of your case while you focus on your rehabilitation and recovery. Call Sibley Dolman at (561) 220-4963 to schedule a free consultation with one of our skilled products liability attorneys.
Sibley Dolman Accident Injury Lawyers, LLP
2101 NW Corporate Boulevard, Suite 410
Boca Raton, Florida 33431
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