Dangerous and defective products cause millions of injuries in Florida and across the United States each year. 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 may 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 LiabilityGenerally speaking, faulty product claims are governed by the law of products liability. This is a unique area of the law that 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). If a manufacturer, wholesaler, or retailer is subject to strict liability, this means proof of negligence is not required. For strict liability to apply, a faulty product must be considered “defective” under the law. 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 form of 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.
Products Liability Claim Statistics from the Insurance Information Institute (III)The Insurance Information Institute (III) recently published >updated statistics on products liability litigation through 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 ProductsAll types of products have the potential to be faulty. With that said, certain types of 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.
Proving Liability for a Faulty ProductRegardless 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 in order 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 products 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 who is experienced in investigating both the cause and effects of product-related accidents. You will also need a lawyer who is familiar with Florida’s products liability laws and who can apply these laws to the unique facts of your case.
Proving Your Losses from a Product-Related AccidentIn addition to proving liability, suing for a faulty product in Florida also requires proof of your (or your family’s) losses. This includes both 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 RightsIf 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 the product, be sure to 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 VideosTake lots of photos and videos. You want to try to document as much as possible, and you want to 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 NotesAlong 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?