Everybody depends on a few commercial products to get through their day. Everything, be it the clothes we wear, the cars we drive, or the tools we use to do work, are mostly commercial products made by manufacturers.
When manufacturers and distributors make products commercially available, they are responsible for ensuring that their products are safe to use when operated correctly. If you or someone you know has suffered injuries due to a defective product, contact a personal injury lawyer immediately.
You deserve compensation for the rehabilitative cost of your injuries, and you’ll need a competent personal injury lawyer to make your case for you. That being said, it pays to have a good grasp of product liability laws in Florida and know what you need to do to increase your chances of winning your product liability case.
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In a nutshell, Florida laws require two things for a product liability case to prosper. First, the product must be defective, and secondly, the product’s defects must be the proximate cause of the plaintiff’s injuries.
In proving that a product is defective, plaintiffs must show that the defect caused the plaintiff’s injuries. Furthermore, it must be proven that the fault was already existing by the retailer or distributor selling their products.
Plaintiffs can use two main grounds for claiming product liability: negligence and strict liability.
The Negligence Theory
Negligence is a failure to perform one’s duty. In the case of product liability, manufacturers must ensure that their product is safe for use in their intended usage. Manufacturers are also responsible for warning customers of any potential harm to customers while using their products.
Plaintiffs pursuing a product liability claim using negligence must establish the following criteria:
- That manufacturers and retailers are obligated by law to protect customers from unreasonable risks;
- That the defendant failed to do that duty;
- That there is a close link between the conduct and resulting injury; and
- That the defendant suffered actual losses or damages.
It’s essential to establish that the product is defective because that alone constitutes a breach of duty to protect customers. Once the proof of defect has been found, plaintiffs need to show that the said defect caused significant damage and injuries.
The Strict Liability
It’s also possible to use strict liability in product liability claims. According to strict liability doctrine, plaintiffs can hold manufacturers responsible for their injuries without establishing negligence.
Put simply, a person can sue a manufacturer even if they have done everything possible to prevent the defect from happening. This is because product manufacturers are always responsible for their products and can be held liable for injuries caused by their products to their users. Using strict liability only requires you to prove that the product was the main cause of your injuries.
In trying to deny you of your product liability claim, companies can claim that you failed to use their product in an intended manner. They can also argue that your own negligence contributed to your injury. Suppose the defendant convinces the court that your negligence played a significant role in the injuries you incurred. In that case, a judge may reduce your awarded damages based on your percentage of fault.
Lastly, a manufacturer or distributor can claim that you were already aware of the product’s defects and continued to use it anyway. Pursuing a product liability claim can be challenging but not impossible, with an excellent personal injury lawyer.
Florida is foremost a Strict Product Liability State, which means that Florida courts will accept a product liability case without proving negligence. As stated earlier, you’ll only have to prove that the product was defective and that the defect directly caused your injuries. That being said, using proof of negligence can still bolster your negligence claim.
Can you claim more than one entity as a defendant in a product liability claim?
It’s possible to name more than just one entity as a defendant to a product liability claim. This is especially true for products that have components made by other companies, such as automobile vehicles.
For context, a standard automobile vehicle with an internal combustion engine can have as many as 300,000 different parts. A car sold under one brand will have brakes, tires, and engines made by other manufacturers. Suppose all three happened to be defective and directly caused or contributed to your injury in some way. In that case, you can name all three manufacturers plus the automobile brand as defendants to your product liability lawsuit.
In addition to manufacturers, distributors such as wholesalers and retail owners can also be held liable for product liability claims. Once the facts of the case have been gathered, your Florida personal injury lawyer will advise you on who you can name as defendants for your product liability claim.
What are the most common defective products that figure in product liability claims?
Certain items can cause more damage than others, making it more critical for companies to exercise caution in the design, manufacturing, distribution, and marketing. At the same time, consumers must exercise caution when using these items. As mentioned earlier, customers need to also establish that they used their products as intended before they claim that the product was defective when they bought it.
Here are five products that commonly figure in product liability claims:
1. Children’s toys
Children’s toys need to be adequately labeled with intended age groups and should come with prominent warnings about choking hazards. This is because children below the age of three to five are very prone to swallowing small parts that can choke them.
2. Medications and Medical devices
Medicines and medical equipment are designed to save lives and often require intensive training to operate. Because many of them interact directly with your body, they must always be used as intended.
This is to prevent any untoward accidents that may cost someone’s life or cause them to experience a great deal of suffering. When medications and medical equipment cause injuries despite being used by trained personnel in the ideal circumstances, a product liability claim against the manufacturer may be on the horizon.
3. Automobile vehicles
When you buy a brand new automobile vehicle, you assume that the whole unit is in working order. Even if the defective part turns out to be manufactured by a different company, the automobile brand is still responsible for overall quality control.
As mentioned earlier, brand new vehicles often come packed with warnings about proper use. For example, it’s common to see warnings about hauling heavy construction equipment and supplies in wagon-type and sports-utility vehicles.
While many people have seen success in using their personal cars to transport heavy equipment, any damage will not be covered by warranties. Using your vehicle in this way can be considered improper use and will not fly if used in a product liability claim.
What damages can injured consumers claim?
In theory, the purpose of awarding damages is to help restore a victim to their state before they suffered their injuries. In practice, plaintiffs use awarded damages to pay for rehabilitation expenses and supplement their living expenses after losing income and other money-making opportunities.
Here are five of the most common damages awarded to injured consumers:
1. Lost income
Accidents can cause injuries that require extended periods of hospitalization and rehabilitation. This results in lost income as extensive injuries may render people unable to work. Suing for lost revenue is relatively straightforward for people with a steady income source, such as regular employees or business owners with thriving operations.
The computation can be less clear with freelancers and people whose earnings vary wildly from time to time. Often, a court will require some proof of income and compute how much damage to award by extrapolating any available information.
However, even a person in between jobs during the time of injury can claim for lost income if they can prove that they had opportunities in the pipeline they lost because of the injury.
2. Medical expenses
Medical expenses related to recovering from serious injuries can be cost-prohibitive. On top of hospital bills, patients may require additional medication, future doctor visits, and rehabilitative sessions. The costs of medicine and rehabilitation can quickly pile up and plunge the injured into a world of debt. For this reason, it’s essential to consult a Florida personal injury lawyer to adequately know how much you should sue for compensation for your medical expenses.
3. Diminished ability to earn income
The diminished ability to earn income can be a bit more tricky to prove but has nevertheless been used to get compensation in court successfully. One plausible application for this damage is professional athletes who may lose their ability to compete in their sport due to injuries from defective or malfunctioning products.
It’s also possible to seek damages for permanent and significant disfigurement. Such conditions can result in tremendous physical and psychological pain. In extreme cases, a skilled personal injury lawyer in Florida can argue that the resulting disfigurement has permanently decreased the plaintiff’s ability to enjoy life and socialize with peers. It can even prevent plaintiffs from forming romantic relationships and eventually start a family.
5. Pain and suffering
Pain and suffering is another type of damage that can be difficult to establish in court but is nevertheless accepted legally. Pain and suffering refer to the combined physical and mental anguish that victims suffer due to their injuries.
How the court will compute how much damage to award for pain and suffering can vary wildly from case to case, so it’s difficult to predict its monetary value. A court may look at medical bills associated with physical and mental rehabilitation costs and use it as a starting point for computing the amount of pain and suffering.
False advertising can be grounds for a product liability claim
As mentioned above, it’s the manufacturer’s responsibility to warn their customers about the inherent dangers of using their product. Suppose a company fails to indicate its intended age group for which the product is designed or advertises uses that may cause malfunction. In that case, the company can be held liable.
This rule is why children’s toys often indicate an appropriate age group and display explicit warnings such as “Choking Hazards” in ubiquitous places, such as the front cover and the instruction manual. The same is true for electric appliances that often warn of possible electric shock or automobile vehicles with numerous warnings about proper usage.
When you see automobile vehicles perform amazing feats, such as wading through ponds, it’s common to see disclaimers and warnings about replicating the activity. Manufacturers include these disclaimers as a way for them to evade accountability should customers try—and fail—to achieve the same results.
Consumers need to exercise responsibility for their safety
Product liability claims don’t always end in the plaintiff’s favor. Sometimes, a company or manufacturer may successfully counter a product liability claim by showing that it was the customer’s negligence and not any product defect that directly caused the injuries.
This means that just because a product is proven to be defective doesn’t mean that plaintiffs automatically have a successful product liability claim in their hands. This is because defendants can just as quickly claim that a person’s continued use of a defective product may have contributed in some way to the injury.
In such a scenario, the defendants may reduce the damages they have to pay by the percentage of fault that the plaintiffs contributed.
Product manufacturers need to take responsibility for their products because customers purchase them and assume good faith. After all, tools are supposed to make life easier, not cause injuries and suffering. Product liability claims can be a way for people to hold liable the manufacturers and distributors that are within the line of production and distribution of the product.
As mentioned before, winning a product liability claim is not always straightforward. Manufacturers can use many defenses to deny your claim and prevent the court from ruling in your favor. With that in mind, it’s crucial to work with a competent personal injury lawyer in Florida. In looking for legal representation, look for lawyers with experience and expertise in representing victims who have suffered because a manufacturer failed to ensure their product’s safety.
Nobody deserves to suffer injuries because of someone else’s negligence. If you’re looking for a Florida personal injury lawyer to represent you in court for a product liability claim, then Shiner Law Group has you covered. We offer a comprehensive set of services that will allow you to get rightful compensation for your injuries. Contact us today to learn more about our services!