Hire a product liability attorney near you who can help you hold the manufacturer accountable

Product liability law exists for consumers who are injured by faulty devices or poor warning labels.

The Consumer Product Safety Commission reports that more than $700 billion annually is spent on deaths, injuries and property damage resulting from product liability accidents in the U.S. Many of these cases are resolved without having to go to court; however, having a legal representative on your side is a must in order to ensure you are receiving adequate compensation, whether you go to court or not.

Make sure to do careful research before selecting a product liability attorney. This is a highly concentrated field, and each product defect is a specialty in and of itself.

Here are some questions to ask before picking a lawyer:

  • Speak with the partners and the associates, as well as the supporting legal team. You will not always be working with the same person, so make sure that you are comfortable with everyone in the office.
  • Don’t be dazzled by awards. Many legal awards are “mail in” types that anyone can win. Make sure to look them up online before being impressed. Judge a firm by their experience and settlements rather than their placards.

Personal Injury Attorney Interview Sheet
Worksheet with questions to ask a personal injury attorney to help determine if he or she will be a good fit for your case
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  • Find out if the firm regularly goes to trial and what their success rate is.
  • Most importantly, what is their settlement success rate? Remember, 95% of personal injury cases do not go to a jury.
  • Do these attorneys have any disciplinary or ethics charges? If so, walk away.
  • Check client reviews online and see what others think.

Once you know what to look for in an attorney, you can start searching.

  • Ask friends and family. Have any of them dealt with a products liability case? Do they know any good attorneys? Have they read about any big cases in the news?
  • Check the Enjuris directory. Enjuris has created a directory that you can use to find a local attorney. When you search your state, a list of attorneys who have registered with our site will appear. They each have a brief profile with their contact information, which allows you to connect with them. You can then decide if you want him or her to represent you.
  • Ask attorneys who have helped you with other matters. Attorneys have specialties, and they all have a stable of contacts to which they refer clients. For instance, an estate planning attorney doesn’t dabble in entertainment law, but he likely has a friend who does, and he can put you in contact with him.
  • Legal referral services. State and local bar associations have these available for your use, but their quality can vary. Some referral services require screenings prior to inclusion on a list, but others let anyone into the club.

Picking an attorney is the hardest part. When you finally sit down with him or her, you’ll want to have everything ready: hospital bills, medical reports, receipts from the manufacturer, the product in question, and anything else related to your case.

A good attorney will not charge for an initial consultation. If they do, you might want to find different representation. Learn all about attorney’s fees.

  • How experienced is the attorney in these sorts of cases? Has he dealt with this type of product before? What was his success rate?
  • Does he normally work with plaintiffs or defendants? It makes a big difference if he usually represents the manufacturers rather than the injured plaintiffs. However, it could also be a strategic advantage because he will know how to anticipate the manufacturer’s actions.
  • Would this attorney personally handle the case or hand it off to an associate? Normally that is fine, you would just want to meet everyone who is handling the case.
  • Time to talk turkey. What is the strategy? Do you want to settle as quickly as possible in order to limit legal fees? Do you want to punish the manufacturer, even if it takes decades? Plan your course of action and make sure you are comfortable with it.

Your First Meeting with an Attorney
A worksheet to prepare for your first meeting with a personal injury attorney – what to bring, what they'll ask
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Make sure to outline a solid fee agreement and keep in contact with your attorney so that you know what’s happening with your case.

Not sure what type of product liability case you have? Learn more below.

Types of product liability cases

There are three main types of faulty product claims.

If a product was designed poorly or was not adequately tested, this likely means that the product will be below standards and dangerous to use. This aspect of a product liability cases focuses on the manufacturer’s decisions when making the product. How did they plan it? Was there a defect in the design that made it unreasonably dangerous?

Liability exists where there is a foreseeable risk posed by the product when it was used for its intended purpose. Many states require the plaintiffs show that the risk could have been mitigated by adopting an alternative design that was economically feasible and in harmony with the product’s intended purpose.

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For example, could the defendant still make a toy train without lead paint in a way that would not cost too much? You’d need the estimated cost of non-lead paint and the estimated cost of lead paint, multiplied by the estimated number of little children with lead-related injuries. If the cost of non-lead paint is less than the cost of medical bills, then the non-lead paint option would be considered economically feasible.

Cost-benefit analyses and alternative designs

As crass as it sounds, most product liability cases live and die around how much is “too much.” To answer this, courts discuss what’s known as the “cost-benefit analysis.” They estimate the additional cost of the safer design against the cost of the damage incurred if the modification isn’t made. This can also include costs like medical bills and lawsuits. In terms of legal costs, there are two legal claims that are discussed: strict liability and negligence.

Negligence is when the manufacturer knew or should have known of the danger associated with the way he designed the product. The analysis would thus be focused on his conduct. Was he aware that he could have made the toy safer?

Strict liability, on the other hand, is when a manufacturer puts a defective product in the market when it poses an unreasonable danger. Even if he was careful, the manufacturer may still be held liable. The focus is on the product, not on the manufacturer’s conduct or state of mind.

Some jurisdictions still use the “consumer expectations test,” in which the court asks whether the danger posed by the product goes beyond the consumer’s ordinary expectations. However, since that is a very subjective standard, most jurisdictions have left it behind.

This product got through the design phase without a scratch, but the actual making of the product was with poor materials or cheap labor. They do this in an attempt to turn a quick profit or by trying to slip under federal safety standards. It might not affect all of the products in the assembly line, but enough of them will be below quality standards.

Examples of a manufacturing defect could be a playset with a cracked part or a metal pin for surgical replacement that has hairline fractures because of substandard metallurgy practices. When these eventually harm the consumer, the manufacturer can be found liable.

Unlike a design defect, the manufacturer did not plan for a defect in this case. Damages in this case will be determined by strict liability, which means the manufacturer is responsible for any injuries despite the level of care he took in making the products.

If a plaintiff can prove that a defect caused his injuries and also provide proof that eliminates other possible causes, then the plaintiff can prove causation – even if the original product is damaged or lost. This is called the “malfunction doctrine.”

This defect is found in the labels and warnings on a product. Were there clear instructions to help consumers avoid injuries? If not, the producer and manufacturer could be held liable. This means a product can still be considered dangerous even if there wasn’t a design defect and it was still manufactured according to proper industry standards. If there was a foreseeable risk of harm because of inadequate instructions or warnings, that would render the product unsafe.

A manufacturer has two related duties when creating instructions: 1) they have to warn users of hidden dangers that might be present in the product, and 2) they must instruct users how to use that product safely.

Food poisoning and foodborne illnesses

The sheer number of food-related illnesses in the United States every year is astounding – an estimated 48 million cases.

These are typically brought as product liability cases, as attorneys can file against anyone in the chain of distribution, from the manufacturer to the restaurant. While most of these stomach bugs subside in a couple days without serious injury, some deliver life-threatening bacteria and viruses, such as Salmonella, Listeria, E. coli and others. The damage from these cases is usually obvious, but tying it back to a specific meal at a particular restaurant is extremely difficult. In these cases, a product liability attorney is frequently called upon to tie the loose threads together and deliver the necessary evidence.

Types of defective product lawsuits and damages

In a product liability suit, the plaintiff has to prove four things:

  • He was injured and suffered a loss.
  • The product was defective in some way.
  • That specific product was the actual and proximate cause of his injury.
  • He was using the product as intended and as a reasonable person would use it.

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A competent product liability attorney can help you get damages for lost wages, medical costs (present and future), pain and suffering, and emotional anguish. These are “compensatory” damages, in that they’re intended to make the plaintiff whole again. Special damages are intended to reimburse the plaintiff for out-of-pocket expenses like hospital bills or lost wages, while general damages are pain and suffering – the more intangible costs.

Damages/Expenses Worksheet
Damages worksheet to track expenses for your injury claim (medical treatment, property damage, lost wages, prescriptions)
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Product liability attorneys near you

Whether you or a family member suffered an injury from a defective toy, medical device or contaminated food item, find out if you have grounds for a lawsuit by getting in touch with a product liability lawyer as soon as possible before your time to bring a claim expires. See the Enjuris law firm directory.

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