California’s strict liability laws allow any entity that was involved in the design, manufacturing, distribution, sale, or marketing of a defective product to be held responsible for the harm caused by the defective product. As such, many people could potentially be sued for a defective product that causes injury, including:
The injuries that are caused by defective products are as diverse as the products are themselves. Some examples of injuries in defective product accident cases include:
Injury victims in a defective product case can be entitled to economic damages and non-economic damages that are related to their injury. Economic damages are meant to compensate injury victims for their tangible economic losses. Examples of economic damages that may be available in a defective product case include damages for past and future medical bills, medical devices, lost wages, and lost earning potential. Non-economic damages are meant to compensate injury victims for their intangible losses. Examples of non-economic damages that may be available in a defective product case include damages for the victim’s emotional distress, pain and suffering, or loss of enjoyment of life.
In rare cases, an injury victim may be awarded punitive damages on top of economic and non-economic damages. Punitive damages are awarded by a judge as a form of punishment for malicious, fraudulent, or oppressive actions. An example of a situation in which a judge may decide to award punitive damages would be if a product manufacturer knew their product would cause harm, but produced and sold it anyway.
Product defects generally fall into one of three categories: marketing defects, design defects, or manufacturing defects.
Marketing defects, also known as warning defects, occur when a product lacks adequate warnings or instructions that should be in place to protect the consumer. Manufacturers and suppliers are required to place clear and complete warnings on their products of dangers that may not be apparent to an average consumer. An example of a marketing defect would be a tea kettle that does not come with a sufficient warning about a strangely placed steam valve that can burn an unsuspecting user. Another example of a marketing defect would be a folding table that does not come with a warning about its hazardous pinch points.
Note that a product only needs to have warnings of dangers that may not be apparent to an average consumer. A product does not need to include warnings of reasonably apparent dangers. For example, a consumer would be reasonably expected to know that a knife will be sharp, so a knife manufacturer would not need to include a warning about sharpness.
Design defects are present when a product’s design itself is defective. With this type of defect, a product may be made perfectly according to its design, but still be defective due to inherent design flaws. An example of a design defect would be airbags that do not deploy during a car accident despite them being made perfectly to order by the manufacturer. Another example of a design defect would be a toaster oven with an oven door handle that gets hot enough to burn the user with normal use of the appliance.
A manufacturing defect occurs when a manufactured product differs from the manufacturer's intended result or when a product differs from other manufactured products that it should be identical to. This type of defect is also sometimes called a production defect or manufacturing process defect. An example of a consumer product with a manufacturing defect would be a swing set with a cracked chain or a soda bottle that randomly explodes for no apparent reason.
The exact elements you may need to prove in order to determine liability in a defective product case will vary depending on the case type and the unique circumstances surrounding your injuries. However, generally, you need to establish four things to prove liability within a defective product case:
When defending against a product liability case, a product designer, manufacturer, distributor, or retailer may try to disprove one or more of these four elements. For example, a defendant in a product liability case may argue that a product was not defective, that they did not have a hand in creating or distributing the product, that someone else tampered with the product, that the plaintiff used the product in an unreasonable manner, or that there is no evidence of the plaintiff's injuries. A personal injury lawyer can help an injury victim both present proof of liability and be prepared for possible arguments that may be presented by a defendant.
The statute of limitations for a defective product personal injury claim is typically two years. This two year period generally starts when a product’s defect causes an injury, rather than when it was first purchased. If a faulty product causes property damage, a claimant will generally have three years to file a claim, since California’s statute of limitations for property damage is three years..
While someone who is injured by a defective product generally has up to two or three years to file a product liability claim, we recommend seeking legal counsel as soon as you can after your injury occurs. There can sometimes be exceptions to the standard statute of limitations depending on the unique circumstances involved in a case. Retaining a personal injury attorney quickly can ensure that you don’t lose the opportunity to hold a guilty party accountable for your losses due to a time limit expiration.
Seek Medical Attention
If you’ve been injured by a defective product, the first thing you should do is seek immediate medical attention. Even if you think your injury is minor, it’s important to seek medical treatment and have a doctor assess your injury. This is important for your health, since a serious injury can sometimes appear insignificant at first, then become more severe as time passes (this is especially true for head injuries). Seeking medical attention after being in an accident is an also an important step to take to protect your legal rights, since medical records can be crucial evidence in a product liability case.
After being injured by a defective product, preserve any available evidence. Most importantly, be sure to keep the defective product in the same condition it was in when it caused your injury. Do not try to fix the defective product or alter it in any way. If you’re able, also take pictures of the accident aftermath. Take pictures of the accident scene, the defective product, and your injuries. If you’re not well enough to take pictures on your own, consider asking a trusted loved one to help you take pictures in order to preserve this valuable evidence.
Seek Legal Counsel
In order to have the strongest possible product liability case, we recommend seeking legal counsel as soon as possible after your injury. A California product liability attorney can guide you through the complex legal process and fight to hold guilty parties accountable for their harmful actions. When you contact a product liability attorney quickly after being in an accident, they may also be able to help you preserve or gather valuable evidence you may not have otherwise considered.