Dangerous and defective products cause millions of injuries in Florida and the United States annually. Unfortunately, while product manufacturers have a legal duty to ensure that their products are reasonably safe for their intended use, the data show that product-related accidents are far too common. If you, your child, or another loved one has been injured in a product-related accident, your family might be entitled to financial compensation. This article provides an overview of what you need to know about filing a lawsuit for a faulty product in Florida.
Faulty Product Claims Are Governed By the Law of Products Liability
Generally speaking, faulty product claims are governed by the law of products liability. This unique area of the law provides consumers with rights that are not available in most other types of personal injury cases.
This is because, in many cases, products liability claims are based on “strict liability” rather than negligence (though it is possible to pursue negligence-based faulty product claims as well). Proof of negligence is not required if a manufacturer, wholesaler, or retailer is subject to strict liability.
A faulty product must be considered “defective” under the law for strict liability to apply. A product can be classified as defective due to any one (or more) of the following issues:
- Defective Design – A product is considered defective in its design if the product is unsafe for its intended use even when manufactured correctly. For example, if a piece of furniture is prone to tipping over, this could be considered a design defect.
- Defective Manufacture – Manufacturing defects occur when an error during the manufacturing process makes a product unsafe for its intended use. This could involve using the wrong material, assembling the product improperly, or causing damage to the product during the manufacturing process.
- Inadequate Warnings – “Failure to warn” is also considered a product defect. While not all products need to carry warnings, if a particular risk associated with a product is not obvious, then the manufacturer may have a duty to warn.
As we mentioned above, even if a product does not qualify as defective, it may still be possible to pursue a negligence-based claim if the product causes a serious or fatal injury. If a manufacturer or other company fails to exercise reasonable care in allowing a faulty product to enter the marketplace, it can be liable for negligence under Florida law.
It is important to note that warranties can also play a role in faulty product lawsuits. If a product failure implicates a breach of an express or implied warranty, this alone can give rise to a claim. This is true regardless of whether (or not) the product was defective, or the product’s manufacturer was negligent. While product manufacturers and sellers can sometimes disclaim the implied warranties, there are limits on their ability to do so. As a result, regardless of any terms that may have accompanied your purchase of the product in question, it is well worth speaking with a products liability lawyer about options.
Products Liability Claim Statistics from the Insurance Information Institute (III)
The Insurance Information Institute (III) recently published >updated statistics on products liability litigation through the calendar year 2020. These statistics are notable in several respects. For example:
- Products liability lawsuits have the highest median and average jury awards of all personal injury claims by far. In 2020, the median products liability jury verdict was $3.9 million, while the average was $7.05 million. Medical malpractice lawsuits had the next highest median verdict at $1.27 million, while business negligence (i.e., slip and fall) cases had the next highest average verdict at $3.11 million.
- Among all products liability lawsuits, those involving medical devices had the highest median award at $4.03 million. The III did not publish statistics for other categories of dangerous and defective products.
- Products liability lawsuits had the highest defense costs and cost containment expenses as a percent of the insurance company’s incurred loss. This suggests that insurance companies are paying particular attention to products liability cases, which means that plaintiffs and their lawyers need to be prepared to fight for just compensation.
Common Examples of Dangerous and Defective Products
All types of products have the potential to be faulty. With that said, certain product defect claims are more common than others. Some of the product categories with the highest prevalence of products liability claims are:
- Children’s products such as children’s clothing, children’s furniture, toys, bicycles and scooters, playground equipment, sports equipment, and infant formula.
- Construction materials, tools, and equipment such as flooring materials, insulation, electrical components, hand tools, and power tools, and forklifts.
- Consumer electronics such as phones, watches, vape pens, and hoverboards.
- Flammable and combustible products such as fuels, lighters, and fireworks.
- Home appliances and furniture such as stoves, ovens, toasters, bookcases, and TV credenzas.
- Medical devices and pharmaceuticals such as hip and knee implants, IVC filters, surgically implanted mesh, pain medicines, and weight loss medications.
- Motor vehicles and components such as cars, trucks, SUVs, motorcycles, brakes, headlights, brake lights, electrical systems, engines, and transmissions.
These are just examples. If you or a loved one has been seriously injured in a product-related accident, the key is not to make any assumptions about your family’s legal rights. You need to make informed decisions, which means you must consult with an experienced products liability attorney as soon as possible.
Proving Liability for a Faulty Product
Regardless of whether you have a claim based on strict liability, negligence, or an express or implied warranty, you need to be able to prove liability to recover just compensation. So, how do you prove liability for a faulty product?
There are two main steps in this process. The first is to make sure you can prove that the product in question caused your (or your loved one’s) injury. Even if a product was defective or a product manufacturer was negligent; if you cannot prove that the defect or negligence is responsible for what happened, you won’t be able to file a successful product liability claim.
The second is to identify the specific legal theory (or theories) on which you can base your lawsuit. Can you prove that the product was defective? Can you prove the manufacturer was negligent? Is it clear that an express or implied warranty applies? While these are not easy questions to answer, answering them is critical for determining how best to assert your legal rights.
As you might expect, proving both of these elements requires experienced legal representation. To prove liability, you will need a lawyer experienced in investigating the cause and effects of product-related accidents. You will also need a lawyer who is familiar with Florida’s product liability laws and can apply these laws to the unique facts of your case.
Proving Your Losses from a Product-Related Accident
In addition to proving liability, suing for a faulty product in Florida requires proof of your (or your family’s) losses. This includes financial losses (i.e., medical bills and lost earnings) and non-financial losses (i.e., pain and suffering, emotional trauma, and loss of consortium). Proving each category of loss requires different forms of evidence, and, here too, it is essential to have an experienced products liability lawyer on your side.
Florida law also allows for the recovery of punitive damages in appropriate cases. These are additional damages above and beyond the amounts awarded as compensation for victims’ and families’ financial and non-financial losses.
5 Key Steps to Preserve Your Legal Rights
If you have grounds to file a lawsuit for a faulty product in Florida, you can lose your legal rights if you aren’t careful. With this in mind, if you believe you may have a claim (or if you aren’t sure and would like to find out), you should:
1. Keep the Product and Its Packaging (If Possible)
If you still have the product or any part of it, keep it regardless of its current state. You should keep the packaging, too, if possible. Do not attempt to get the product repaired, and do not contact the manufacturer about a replacement until you consult with an attorney.
2. Take Plenty of Photos and Videos
Take lots of photos and videos. You want to try to document as much as possible and do so as thoroughly as possible. This includes documenting the location of the accident, the product itself, and the injuries sustained in the accident.
3. Take Detailed Notes
Along with taking photos and videos, you should also take detailed notes. The more information you can record, the better. Write down the answers to questions such as:
- When did the accident happen?
- Who was using the product when the accident happened (if anyone)?
- Where did you purchase the product?
- When did you purchase the product?
- Did anyone witness the accident?
Here too, these are just examples. If you have any information that you think may be relevant to assessing your legal rights, you should write it down. If you have a receipt, emails with customer service, or any other relevant records or documentation, keep copies of these with your notes.
4. Seek Medical Treatment Promptly
You should seek medical treatment immediately whenever you think you may have a liability claim for accident-related injuries. Not only is this important for your (or your loved one’s) physical recovery, but it is also important for asserting your legal rights. Seeking prompt treatment will help link the relevant injuries to the accident and prevent the manufacturer’s or retailer’s insurance company from claiming that you should have done more to mitigate your losses.
5. Talk to a Products Liability Lawyer Promptly
One of the most important steps to protect your legal rights is promptly speaking with a product liability lawyer. Your lawyer will need to conduct an investigation, and it will take time to evaluate (and build) your claim. If you have a claim, negotiating with the liable company’s insurer will most likely make sense before filing a lawsuit in court. If going to court proves necessary, getting started promptly will ensure you see a verdict as soon as possible.
Speak with a Florida Products Liability Lawyer about Your Case for Free
While product liability cases are complex, recovering financial compensation can be crucial for accident victims’ and families’ long-term well-being. If you need to know more about suing for a faulty product in Florida, we encourage you to contact us for a free, no-obligation consultation. To speak confidently with a Florida products liability lawyer at Silva & Silva, please call 305-445-0011 or request an appointment online today.