Philadelphia Product Liability Frequently Asked Questions
Take a minute to think about your day. What consumer products did you use? Now really think about it. In one day, you could use hundreds of products to get you through your daily tasks. This includes everything from your toothbrush and toothpaste, to larger products like your computer, television, and personal vehicle. In fact, the average person has 300,000 items in their home!
As consumers, we put trust in companies to design and manufacture safe products that work as advertised, and to warn us about any dangers of using a product. Companies that fail in this basic obligation by making products with dangerous defects put our health and lives at risk.
Unfortunately, defective products hit the shelves more often than they should. If you or a loved one sustained an injury because of a product that did not work as intended because of a defect, then you may have the right to seek substantial compensation through a product liability lawsuit. Below we answer some common questions about product liability lawsuits. For answers to detailed questions about an injury you sustained because of a defective product, contact the experienced Philadelphia product liability lawyers at the Levin Firm today.
What exactly does product liability mean?
Cornell Law School‘s Legal Information Institute defines product liability as “liability of any or all parties along the chain of manufacture of any product for damage caused by that product.” In other words, when a company sells a finished product for use by a person, all parties involved in the design, manufacturing, marketing, and distribution have a basic legal responsibility to ensure that the product is safe to use under normal and intended circumstances.
When a product does not meet this basic standard of quality and safety, serious injuries can occur. Consider what would happen if the brakes on your car suddenly failed, or if your child’s toy caught fire in direct sunlight. Product liability law addresses these sorts of harms by seeking compensation for injured people.
What makes a product defective?
Product liability lawsuits seek compensation for victims of a defective product.
Lawyers consider a product defective if it poses an unreasonable danger to the user when used in an intended or reasonably predictable manner.
Generally speaking, there are three categories of defect that can make a product unreasonably dangerous:
- Design defects: Design is a critically important component of product safety. A defective design can affect the entire product line by making all products a manufacturer makes unreasonably dangerous. Examples of products with design defects include topheavy furniture that is prone to tipping, cars with shapes or parts that make them unsafe in a crash, or tools missing appropriate safety guards.
- Manufacturing defects: Remember the case of the exploding batteries? In 2016, Samsung issued a voluntary recall for its Galaxy Note 7. The reason—the phone’s battery had the potential to explode. According to reports, the explosions were the result of “a very rare manufacturing process error.” Manufacturing defects affect specific versions or production-runs of a product, usually resulting from a mistake or breakdown in the manufacturing line.
- Inadequate warning defects: Some products have inherent dangers even when used as intended. Examples include power tools, household chemicals, and kitchen appliances can cause harm even when someone uses them for their intended purpose, if the users do not exercise caution. Manufacturers have a duty to warn consumers about these potential dangers. Perhaps one of the biggest product liability lawsuits involving inadequate warnings was the 2002 lawsuit against cigarette manufacturer Phillip Morris. The plaintiff claimed she developed lung cancer because the company did not provide a warning that smoking was dangerous. Consequently, all cigarettes now require a health warning on the packaging.
Often, the nature of the defect is not obvious to the person the product harms. Fortunately, an experienced Philadelphia product liability attorney can investigate and determine what happened.
As a consumer, follow this rule of thumb to help you figure out when to speak with a product liability attorney: ask yourself whether the product that injured you worked as expected when you used it as expected. If not, then you may have a product liability claim for compensation.
Are any products exempt from product liability laws?
For the most part, no. Almost all manufacturers are subject to product liability. However, manufacturers in some industries enjoy special protections from liability in certain cases, perhaps none more so than the pharmaceutical industry. As an example, under federal law, a vaccine manufacturer can not be held liable for damages resulting from someone suffering unavoidable adverse side-effects of a vaccine, nor from failing to provide a warning about those side effects. (Of course, manufacturers could still face liability for, say, injuries caused by a tainted vaccine.)
Manufacturing industries of all stripes constantly lobby Congress and state legislatures to build protections for themselves against product liability into laws. It is important to hire an experienced Philadelphia product liability lawyer who stays on top of the constant developments in the law to represent you in any claim involving a defective product injury.
Is it hard to prove a product liability case?
Sometimes, but that is why you need an experienced product liability lawyer on your side.
Big corporations never want to admit that they produced a dangerously defective product, and they often put up a hard fight. In some cases, one consumer’s lawsuit could pose a threat to the entire business. A Philadelphia product liability suit can cost tens of millions of dollars to defend, and can lead to hundreds of millions, even billions, of dollars in liability.
Experienced Philadelphia product liability lawyers have the skill and resources to match big corporations blow-for-blow in a legal fight.
To prove their clients’ cases, they often:
- Hire expert witnesses: Expert witnesses—especially design engineers and forensic scientists—tend to play an outsized role in product liability cases, because victims’ lawyers must prove the existence of a defect, if not also its cause.
- Represent multiple victims as a class: Sometimes, the most effective way to take the fight to a manufacturer that made a dangerous product is to assert claims on behalf of lots of consumers all at once, in what is known as a class action Representing consumers as a class can give lawyers the ability to force corporations to own up to widespread defects and to take steps to protect against more people getting hurt.
- Work with whistleblowers: Sometimes, a brave employee of a manufacturer may step forward to reveal that the company knew about, and failed to address, a potentially dangerous defect in its products.
Do I still have a case if the manufacturer recalled the product?
A company that learns of a defect in its product may issue a public recall to halt the distribution of the product and to urge customers to return any product they have already purchased. In many cases, a recall represents the right thing to do.
A product recall does not automatically wipe away the company’s liability for harm done by its products, however. However, issuing a recall also does not automatically make the manufacturer liable for injuries that have occurred.
Speak with an experienced Philadelphia product liability injury lawyer today to learn about your rights after suffering injuries caused by a recalled defective product.
What should I do if I am injured by a product?
Your health and safety take top priority. If you sustain a serious injury while using a product, seek medical attention right away.
After you ensure you are not in immediate danger, you can help protect your legal rights by taking these steps:
- Preserve evidence: Do not throw away the product that injured you. Also, take pictures of any visible injury and of the product itself. If anyone saw what happened, get their contact information if necessary.
- Attend all follow-up care: Go to the doctor for follow-up care for treatment after your initial injury. Not only with this help you see maximum improvement, but it can help prove your injuries. If you do not go to the doctor, the other party’s attorney may try to claim your injuries were not severe enough to warrant compensation.
- Contact an experienced attorney: Product liability cases are complex. They may involve multiple parties in different jurisdictions. Now is the time you want someone by your side who knows the legal system and can effectively argue your case. Be selective when you choose which attorney you want to work with. It’s almost always a good idea to work with an attorney who has direct experience working on your type of case.
How much is my case worth?
One of the most common questions Philadelphia product liability attorneys hear is, “What is my case worth?” This is a valid question. After an injury, you have to think about your medical care, missing time at work, and other financial concerns. A Philadelphia product liability case may help you recover badly needed compensation.
The value of a case can vary widely. Every case is different and even two cases against the same manufacturer can produce substantially different results. As a general matter, however, a claim seeking compensation for product liability may seek payment for economic and non-economic damages.
Economic damages. Economic damages are those with a direct monetary value. For example, this may include items or services you pay for out of pocket or money you lose as the result of your injuries.
Economic damages include:
- Medical bills, including doctor visits, surgeries, rehabilitation, medical devices, and medication.
- Lost wages for any time you miss from work. For serious injuries, this may include future lost wages.
- Loss of services if you do not work but need to pay for household services including housekeeping, cooking, and yard work.
- Residential modifications if your injuries limit accessibility to and throughout your home.
Non-economic damages. Non-economic damages are often referred to as pain and suffering. These damages compensate the victim for any injury for which there is not a direct economic value. While a jury or insurance company can easily calculate the cost of economic damages, non-economic damages are more subjective.
These damages may include:
- Physical pain
- Mental distress, including anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder, and depression
- Loss of enjoyment
- Loss of companionship
Punitive damages. In some cases, a court may award punitive damages. The purpose of punitive damages is to prevent other parties from repeating the behavior of the defendant. For product liability cases, punitive damages may be appropriate in cases of gross negligence.
How long do I have to file a case?
Under Pennsylvania’s statute of limitations, victims have two years from the date of their injury to file a Philadelphia product liability lawsuit. In the case of a delayed injury, such as cancer, the statute of limitations may not begin until the victim discovers the injury and its connection to the defective product. Missing the statute of limitations window can result in loss of legal rights to compensation.
Two years is not that much time when it comes to product liability cases. That’s why it’s typically a good idea to contact an experienced Philadelphia product liability attorney right away after suffering any injury because of a defective product. The sooner you speak with an attorney, the better your chances of recovering the maximum compensation you deserve for your injuries and losses.
As consumers, we should be able to trust that the products we use are safe. Manufacturers of defective products that harm consumers should face legal and financial accountability. Forcing manufacturers to pay for the harm their products cause will not take away your pain, but it can help you get the treatment you need and assist you in regaining your health and rebuilding your life. Holding manufacturers accountable may also protect other consumers from suffering similar harm because of a dangerous product.
If you think you might have a product liability case, help is available. To learn more about your legal rights or begin your product liability case, contact one of our experienced Philadelphia product liability attorneys.
Get the Legal Help You Need Today From the Levin Firm
When negligent and careless manufacturers put defective products on the market, individuals and families can suffer devastation if a severe injury occurs. In addition to the physical pain of injury and recovery, the aftermath of an injury adds financial burden and emotional stress to victims and their families. Medical bills are likely piling up, and at the same time, a victim may be unable to work because of his or her injury.
Companies who make, promote, and sell defective products must be held accountable for their negligence, so that you receive compensation for your injuries and so that future consumers don’t have to go through the same pain and anguish as you. At the Levin Firm, we understand the challenging times that lie ahead for you, and we are here to help. We can handle the details of your case, investigate your injury, communicate with insurance companies, and fight your case in court if settlement isn’t an option.
If you live in the Greater Philadelphia area, you can reach the Levin Firm by calling (215) 825-5183, or contact us online, to schedule a free consultation with one of our experienced product liability lawyers. During your consultation, we will evaluate your case and determine what is your best path forward following your accident. If you choose the Levin Firm to represent you in your product liability lawsuit, we handle product liability cases on a contingency fee basis, collecting our attorney fees from any compensation that we secure for you in the form of an insurance settlement or verdict in your favor. Thus, you aren’t on the hook for any up-front, out-of-pocket expenses.