Every day, Wyomingites use products to simplify and enjoy their lives. Sometimes, however, these products don’t work as expected and can cause serious and even life-threatening injuries. If you’ve been involved with an incident concerning a defective product, you should speak with a product liability lawyer.
When Should You Consult a Product Liability Lawyer?
Data from the Consumer Product Safety Commission shows 30 to 40 million Americans seek medical attention every year for product-related injuries. As you struggle to regain a sense of normalcy, it’s important to know that such an injury may entitle you to legal compensation.
You must first, however, file a product liability lawsuit that holds the manufacturer accountable, and for this, it’s best to hire an experienced attorney. In Wyoming (and elsewhere in the state), an action must be brought within four years from the injury date. For a wrongful death case, however, in which a loved one was fatally harmed by a defective product, the statute of limitations drops to two years.
The sooner you schedule your consultation with a product liability lawyer, the better. These cases can be challenging and require a strong presentation to show:
- A victim used the product as directed
- The product was in fact defective
- Injuries were sustained during use
- The product’s defect directly led to those injuries
A Common Mistake
Many plaintiffs believe their cases are open and shut, meaning the obvious nature of their injuries and how they got them do not require legal counsel. But corporate attorneys who work for manufacturers can be intimidating. They muddle the waters until it becomes difficult within the hierarchy of a complex corporate scheme to identify who is responsible for defects.
Additionally, many corporations can afford to pay outside counsel teams as well as in-house lawyers to deny claims and reduce liability. If corporate attorneys do offer any type of settlement, it’s normally far below what you would receive with a lawyer working by your side.
Benefits of Hiring an Attorney in Wyoming
As you probably guessed by now, product liability cases are not as straightforward as they appear. This underscores the importance of hiring an attorney who will act on your behalf during negotiations both in and out of the courtroom.
A legal expert can also present specific product defects in a way that resonates with corporate lawyers. No matter how obvious your case appears to be, you’ll need to prove why the manufacturer is responsible for your injuries. A lawyer can also hire experts like product engineers and doctors to testify on your behalf.
Understanding Product Liability
Corporations can be held liable for three different types of product defects: those relative to manufacturing, design, and marketing. An error in the manufacturing process that turned an otherwise safe product into one that is hazardous gives way to a manufacturing defect case. It must additionally be proven the defect altered the product’s initial design so it no longer performed as expected.
To illustrate, imagine a set of tires was designed and found to be completely safe. But in the production process, sawdust entered the glue that bonds together the casing. The formerly safe tires suffered tread separation on the road and caused a blowout and subsequent multiple-car accidents. In a product liability case, the manufacturer who allowed the error can be held responsible for damages.
These exist prior to manufacturing and are inherently part of the product itself. The item might be found to serve its intended function, but it can also be unreasonably dangerous to use. In these cases, the designer or team of designers is liable for the product’s defective design. Examples include:
- A car model prone to flipping while turning corners
- Sunglasses that don’t provide adequate protection against damaging UV rays
- An electric blanket that, when turned to high, can electrocute users
This type of case refers to a manufacturer’s failure to alert customers to hidden or latent dangers held by a product. Marketing defects also refer to improper instructions that can cause a product to become dangerous. The product is then dangerous in a way not immediately obvious to the user and requires extreme diligence and/or caution. Examples of marketing defects claims include:
- A coffee pot that lacks sufficient warning about the handle getting hot
- A medication packaged without a warning label indicating it may produce dangerous side effects when taken with other medications
- A chemical, such as paint remover, sold without proper instructions for its safe handling, use, and storage
Just to be clear, a marketing defect case requires that your injury be the result of a manufacturer’s failure to provide proper instructions or warnings. If the coffee pot mentioned a moment ago burns your hand, that burn must be the direct result of unexpected heat from touching the handle. A product liability lawyer can explain these subtle nuances to you.
The Potential for Compensation
Compensatory damages are monies awarded for property damage, injury, and economic losses. The goal is to address both general and special damages; the former includes future medical care expenses, current medical bills, and wages lost both now and in the future. Special damages, on the other hand, are less tangible and consider factors like mental anguish, pain, and suffering.
Compensation can also be awarded in the form of punitive damages. These are not capped under Wyoming law and are intended to punish the defendant’s negligent behavior as well as prevent others from acting similarly. Gross negligence, or actual malice, serves as the standard in Wyoming and must be proven in court.
A Brief History of the Law
The current foundation for product liability law developed over several centuries and started in English courts. There, under the doctrine of caveat emptor – which means “let the buyer beware” – the legal system placed the burden on buyers to protect themselves from hidden and obvious product defects. Consumers could not pursue damages from manufacturers for injuries caused by product defects.
With time, English courts realized that sellers imply their products are safe simply by making them available. Meanwhile, in America, the caveat emptor rule continued to apply throughout most of the nineteenth century. This didn’t effectively change until the 1950s when courts at last started to allow plaintiffs to recover damages from manufacturers of faulty products.
A Few Final Notes
Many clients ask how it’s possible to establish liability for a defective product. This starts with proving the product had a fault that caused your injuries and related costs.
Merely using a product while getting injured is not sufficient grounds for a legal case. Instead, you must show your injury would not have occurred if the product was not defective. You must also show you used the product as intended and that you sustained real injuries with measurable damages. Using your answers to key questions, a lawyer can help build your case from the ground up.
What Is My Case Worth?
Your lawyer can help identify the full extent of your damages. He or she will include all the financial costs related to your injuries, including lost wages and medical bills (as stated earlier). Because each case is unique, a universal dollar amount cannot be provided.
A single injury can be a life-altering event. That’s why we’re committed to providing the help you need, fighting on your behalf for fair treatment and an equitable settlement. Schedule your personal injury consultation today by contacting Ochs Law Firm.