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Product Liability Cases Can be Complicated

Thursday, October 15, 2015

Product Liability laws allow you to claim compensation for injuries caused by a defective product. That sounds pretty straightforward, even simple; but once you get past the basics, things can get pretty complicated.

Your attorney can initiate your case with a letter of representation to the manufacturer or a lawsuit filed in court. After the first notice, insurance companies, defense attorneys, investigators and many other involved parties will want answers to a lot of questions. Here are just a few.

What is the product?

If you allege an injury due to a product defect, your attorney or anyone else investigating your product liability case will want a solid product identification. You should be prepared to produce not only the product, but also any available original packaging materials, brochures, instruction manuals, sales literature, and a receipt of purchase.

What is the product defect?

You don’t have to have the product tested to allege a defect, although eventually someone will. It will be your responsibility, however, to explain what happened, either informally or in a deposition.

For example: If you tripped over your lawn mower, that doesn’t mean it was defective. If a loose mower blade flew off and caused you to fall, your explanation backed up by physical evidence could be enough to confirm that a defect existed.

A product can be defective if the package labeling or instructions misinform or misrepresent what's inside. If a product is sold to do a job that it can’t perform safely, or the safety warnings are inadequate, that could also be deemed a defect.

Did the product defect cause injuries?

A product liability case may not be worth pursuing unless you sustain injuries as a direct result of the defective product. If your lawn mower blade flew off and caused you to fall, but you weren’t injured, your case may have merit but it probably has no value.

If you cut your foot on the defective lawn mower blade, couldn’t walk, hired a landscaper to finish your yard work, and couldn’t go to work for a week, these financial losses would be directly connected to the lawn mower incident. They would be recoverable if you proved your product liability case.

Lots and lots of questions

At some point you will have to show that you acted reasonably, used the product the way you were supposed to, weren’t reckless or under the influence of alcohol or drugs, and didn’t injure yourself intentionally. You will also have to show that you maintained your product according to instructions.

Your attorney may wish to interview any witnesses who saw what happened and will speak up on your behalf. If you intend to prove that your lawn mower-- or other product-- was defective, you’ll have to buy a new one as yours will be tested, held as evidence and probably out of commission until your case is settled.

You’ll need an experienced professional on your side

Moving your product liability case forward can be a long and tedious process. Some companies or their insurance carriers may investigate, decide your case has merits, and settle as soon as they have enough information. Unfortunately it’s not usually that easy.

Your product liability allegation will put the manufacturer’s reputation on the line. Settling even a single case can give them a bad name and lead to a long line of copycat cases. That’s why some manufacturers choose to defend their products. You may have to fight them every step of the way.

That doesn’t mean it’s impossible to win a product liability case. It just means you’ll need an experienced legal professional to protect your interests.

How Do You Know if You Have a Valid Product Liability Claim

Friday, September 11, 2015

How do you know if a product defect caused your injuries if it's not one of those product liability cases sensationalized by the media? It's common knowledge that Low T medication can cause heart disease. Frequent TV commercials remind viewers of the causal relationship of asbestos to mesothelioma. a href="http://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2015-02-17/huge-u-s-jury-awards-in-2014-may-foretell-trouble-for-carmakers" target ="_blank">A recent Bloomberg article discussed huge jury awards due to diabetes medication, tobacco, and GM's auto ignition switch. But what if the defective product that caused your injury has not yet made the headlines?

With the right information, a product liability attorney can help you determine if a defective product contributed to your injuries. But if you don't even realize that you might be entitled to compensation, you might never see the need for legal consultation. It's important to know and protect your rights even before you meet with a product liability attorney. Here are a few things to consider.

What is product liability?

Products are goods created, distributed, and sold for profit. The product packaging, instructions for use, or promises that the item is fit for the intended purpose can also be considered in evaluating your case. If any of these components caused or contributed to your injuries, you may have a valid product liability claim.

What if you can't identify the product manufacturer?

Any entity that participates in placing a product into your hands could be legally liable for your injuries. You may have a valid claim against the manufacturer, importer, distributor, or retailer. Anyone who alters a product from its original configuration might also be held legally responsible for your product-related injuries. If you can identify only one of the entities along the chain of distribution, you can make a claim against them and they will likely place everyone else on notice.

Do you have to own the product to have a valid claim?

If a borrowed or rented product contributed to your injuries or you were hurt while using a product on the job, you may still have a valid product liability claim. In fact, for an employee injured on the job, a product liability claim is often the only recourse for collecting money for pain and suffering.

What if an insurance adjuster contacts you about your claim?

When you contact a manufacturer, distributor, or retailer about your product liability claim, they may turn it over to their insurance company for investigation. Here are a few important things to consider before a liability adjuster contacts you,

  • Never admit liability - Your actions might not have contributed to your injuries, but if you mistakenly admit liability, the adjuster will consider your admission when it's time to settle your claim or deny liability.
  • Don't agree to a recorded interview - If you say the wrong thing, you could destroy your chances of recovering the money you deserve.
  • Never give up the product - Getting a defective product is priority number one for a liability adjuster. They'll want to have it tested by an expert to verify or disprove any defect that you allege, but don't give it to them. Once you turn a defective product over to someone else, you lose control of it and might never be able to prove your case.

Do you need an attorney to protect your rights?

Product liability claims can get complicated. Presenting a winning case may involve analysis of complex legal theories, complicated issues, and expert tests. A product liability attorney will know how best to protect your legal rights. That's why it's important to set up a consultation as soon as possible.

Product Liability Update for Parents: Watch Out for Baby Gate Recalls

Friday, August 28, 2015

At one time, parents were strongly encouraged to purchase baby gates to improve their homes’ safety. However, studies, statistics and recent recalls indicate that the safety experts may have gotten it all wrong. For instance, did you know that on average, five children are injured every day as a direct result of baby gates? It’s true and a study that appeared in the February 2014 issue of Academic Pediatrics backs up our assertion.

Studies and Stats About Baby Gate Safety

So do stats provided by the International Association of Child Safety. They indicate that accidental falls remain one of the chief causes of emergency room visits each year and baby gates are partially to blame. The other culprits are listed below:

  • Balconies and Raised Walkways
  • Windows and Protruding Sills
  • Indoor/Outdoor Stairs and Railings
  • Baby Equipment and Playgrounds
  • Raised Hearths and Windows
  • Slippery Floors and Unsecured Rugs
  • Defective Baby Gates Continue to Pose a Risk in 2015

Keeping that in mind, we were all the more disturbed to discover that in this modern era, baby gate manufacturers are still producing defective products. Let’s take the latest baby gate recall for example. It took place in mid May and involved one of the nation’s largest retailers, IKEA.

The business sold PATRULL KLAMMA and SMIDIG brand safety gates in their North American locations for nearly two decades. The last batch was put on to the North American stores’ shelves in February 2015. Unfortunately, the gates had defects that resulted in accidental falls. As such, a number of children from around the world were injured before the baby gates were finally recalled.

What Are the Repercussions of Defective Baby Gate Sales?

At this juncture, it isn’t known if the injured children’s parents will start product liability lawsuits against the baby gate’s manufacturer, who is based in Denmark. We do know that parents are being encouraged to contact the IKEA store where they purchased the item and ask to speak to management. It is assumed that they will be reimbursed for the cost of the baby gate at that time. However, the refund will clearly be insufficient for children and parents who’ve suffered as a result of the faulty product.

Remember, falls from any height have the potential to cause catastrophic injuries and death to occur to children. Furthermore, those injuries may result in permanent disabilities. Brain and spinal injuries are good examples. They could leave children with lifelong paralysis, cognitive deficits and physical deformities. Of course baby gate related falls have short-term implications too. Among them are broken bones, bruising, lacerations, avulsed teeth and punctured, vital organs. With that said, parents, grandparents and legal guardians have a solemn duty to protect their children’s interests in the event of baby gate accidents.

Is There Justice for Children Injured By Faulty Baby Gates?

And personal injury attorneys may be able to help them in their quest for justice. Lawyers understand product liability law in regards to faulty baby gates manufactured at home and abroad. As such, they can help injured families decide how to proceed and escort them through the entire process. They may also be able to help protect their injured children’s interests in the future. To learn more about launching a case against baby gate manufactures over defective products, please contact us.

Injured by Faulty Pellet Stoves and Fireplaces? File a Product Liability Case

Thursday, August 20, 2015

Every heating season, millions of Americans put themselves and others at risk. The National Fire Protection Association reports that pellet stoves and fireplaces are two of the items likely to play a role in home heating disasters, which is disturbing given the latest recalls. In July 2015, both pellet stoves and fireplaces were recalled due to product liability concerns.

Collectively, more than 4,000 products were deemed faulty. The brand names involved in the two recalls were Heatilator®, Heat-N-Glo® and Quadra-Fire®. Each of the items on the list had defects that could potentially cause them to combust during normal usage. Subsequently, people and property would be at risk of getting hurt in the initial explosion as well as the ensuing aftermath.

Clearly, a number of injuries are likely to occur as a result of a fireplace or pellet stove explosion. However, burns would most certainly be at the top of any list. Healthcare practitioners often note that recovering from burns takes anywhere from two days to several months. And if the burns are severe enough, some people may never fully bounce back to their old selves.

Given the fuel and heat at which gas fireplaces and pellet stoves operate, people caught up in explosions would likely find themselves in the latter category. On average, pellet stove interiors can reach temperatures upwards of 2,300 degrees Fahrenheit. Gas fireplaces, on the other hand, often boast interior temperatures of 3,600 degrees Fahrenheit. That is certainly more than enough to cause fourth degree burns and death.

Even if a person manages to escape the flames, chances are they’ll be cut during the explosion. Also, there will be ash and toxic fumes in the air too. The fumes and ash alone may cause a number of negative outcomes. For example, a person may experience carbon monoxide poisoning, respiratory infections and asthma attacks. As for the lacerations, they could cause massive blood loss and permanent disfigurement.

Should fireplace and pellet stove manufacturers who produce faulty products be allowed to cause so much damage without consequence? We don’t believe so and modern-day, product liability laws agree with us. They are there to discourage heating equipment manufacturers and others from causing harm to innocent individuals. In addition, they allow victims of pellet stove and fireplace explosions to receive reparation for their injuries.

In 2013, Paradigm® Outcomes published an in-depth blog on exactly how much burn treatment costs nowadays. Let’s just say that their figures put treatment costs far beyond many people’s pocketbooks. And their totals did not include the other types of injuries that could occur as a result of a fireplace or pellet stove explosion. Additional elements were also missing from the calculations, like suffering and reduction in one’s quality of life.

Bearing that in mind, victims of faulty heating equipment may be able to pursue reparations for a number of things, not just medical costs. To find out which potentially recoverable costs the courts may consider during product liability cases and how to bring forth a successful suit, please contact us today.

Obama's Budget Triples Funding for Defect Investigation at NHTSA

Sunday, January 04, 2015

For years now, the federal administration has lacked the resources necessary to investigate auto defects, and act in a timely manner to protect motorists from malfunctioning vehicles. However, in the future, the budget for defect investigation and other related activities at the agency is likely to be much higher. President Obama recently proposed in his budget increased funding for the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s defects division.

The budget proposal is included for the fiscal year 2016, and would increase funding by nearly 3 times for the division that is responsible for investigating motor vehicle defects. That budget has remained consistently flat for close to 10 years. Under the Obama administration's proposal, $31.3 million would be allocated to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s Office of Defect Investigations. That would be an increase from the $1.1 million allocated to the Office of Defects Investigation during the current fiscal year. That makes a significant increase in the resources that are now available to the division.

If the proposal does go ahead, and the budget is tripled, that would increase the number of employees at the agency from 51 to 108 employees. The division would be able to hire more numbers of engineers, investigators, technicians, and other experts necessary to detect and analyze motor vehicle defects.

The move comes on the heels of a number of auto safety problems that have emerged recently. Millions of cars have been recalled last year alone for serious problems that increase motorist accident risks. Primary among these were the recalls of Takata airbags affecting millions of vehicles. Those defects have been linked to at least five fatalities.

In many of these cases, it has emerged that the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration was unable to identify these defects in time. The main reason for such failures was shortage of resources. Those problems will, hopefully, soon end with the expanded budget.

If you have suffered injuries in an accident caused by an auto defect, speak to a product liability attorney in Burbank.


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From our offices in Woodland Hills, California, Freeman & Freeman, LLP, provides legal advice and representation for clients in communities throughout the state, including those in Burbank, Glendale, Encino, Sherman Oaks, Van Nuys, Tarzana, Santa Clarita, Agoura Hills, Reseda, Canoga Park, Chatsworth, Northridge, Granada Hills, Pacoima, Panorama City, North Hollywood, Thousand Oaks, Simi Valley, Lancaster, Palmdale and Alhambra.