Every year more than a million people require hospital or medical care due to injuries resulting from the use of products – most of which were used in the manner that they were intended to be used. If you were injured while using a defective or dangerous product, you may seek compensation for damages and it is important you seek effective and competent legal representation from a West Virginia product liability lawyer. Tiano O’Dell, PLLC has been serving Charleston and all of West Virginia, protecting the rights of consumers for decades.
What Is Product Liability?
“Product liability” refers to the area of law in which manufacturers and distributors will be legally responsible for their defective or dangerous products. State laws require that product manufacturers make sure their items meet at least the minimum standards in terms of quality and safety. The item must meet the “ordinary expectations of the consumer.” If someone in charge of producing a product puts an unsafe one in the hands of consumers – knowingly or unknowingly – the law will hold the manufacturer liable for resultant damages.
There is no federal law regarding product liability. Instead, the state of West Virginia has enacted its own laws for product-related injury claims. A plaintiff can bring a claim against a product manufacturer/distributor on the grounds of strict liability, negligence, or breach of the warranty in WV. In strict liability claims, the plaintiff does not have to prove negligence. He or she must only show that the item had a defect and that this defect caused injuries. The defendant in a product liability claim can be any entity that supplied the product to the consumer.
Types of Product Defects
In West Virginia, there are three main types of product defects that could lead to lawsuits. If one of these defects exists, the injured party will most likely have grounds for a strict liability claim – meaning he or she will not have to prove the defendant’s negligence. Instead, the courts will hold the defendant strictly liable for the injuries, regardless of whether the defendant was negligent or not. The three types of product defects are as follows:
- Design flaws. A designer might accidentally create a product with inherent flaws that make it dangerous. For example, if a vehicle manufacturer designs a vehicle with a high center of gravity that makes it unreasonably at risk of overturning, the car will have a dangerous design flaw. Failing to test a product design is also an example of a design error.
- Manufacturing mistakes. There are some products with safe, normal designs that end up with defects because of a mistake someone makes on the assembly line. Manufacturing mistakes and defects occur during the making of the product, such as a batch of cold medicine that accidentally ends up with too much of a dangerous ingredient.
- Marketing defects. In some cases, a marketing mistake or failure to provide adequate warnings/instructions results in consumer injuries. It is a manufacturer’s duty to test items and include clear warnings about potential hazards, such as a child’s toy with small parts that are not safe for children under the age of three. Failing to properly market the item or warn of hazards can make the item dangerous and defective.
A plaintiff must understand which type of product defect he or she encountered and how this might affect the claim. The plaintiff will need to identify the product defect type and present it correctly while in court. At Tiano O’Dell, PLLC, a West Virginia injury attorney can help clients identify product defects and provide details about the type based on an investigation of the item.
Who Is Liable for a Defective Product?
One of the first steps in securing compensation for product-related injuries is to determine who could be liable, or legally responsible, for your damages. It is this party that you will bring your claim against, and this party that might ultimately have to reimburse you for your medical bills, pain and suffering, property damage, and other losses. Determining liability is often a complex task – sometimes with more than one party sharing fault for the same accident. For most defective product claims, the following parties take or share liability for damages:
- Product designer or marketer
- Outside consultants/contractors
- Retailer or distributor
- Other parties in the chain of manufacture
Identifying the appropriate defendant may take some time and a thorough accident investigation. Finding all possible defendants is important, however, as this can increase your odds of receiving maximum compensation for your injuries. Always trust a skilled West Virginia product liability lawyer with a product liability claim to make sure you identify all possible parties that could be liable for your damages.
Proving Fault in a West Virginia Product Liability Case
In most personal injury claims, the injured party must prove the defendant’s fault, such as negligence or breach of duty. Product liability claims, however, are different. It can be extremely difficult for the average consumer to prove a manufacturer’s negligence or carelessness in creating a product. For this reason, state courts permit plaintiffs to pursue damages on the grounds of strict liability – sans the responsibility of proving fault or negligence. This is good news for plaintiffs, as it removes the burden of proof from their shoulders in most cases.
There are cases in which strict product liability rules might not apply. For example, if the item did not contain an unreasonably dangerous defect, yet still caused injuries. In these cases, the plaintiff will need to bring a suit on the grounds of negligence or breach of duty and have to prove the defendant’s fault for the incident. An experienced West Virginia product liability attorney is always a plus in negligence-based claims, as the plaintiff will have to prove that the defendant breached a standard of care and that this breach caused the defective item and subsequent injuries.
Recalls and Product Liability Claims
Product manufacturers might realize they’ve released a defective or dangerous item and issue a recall. In some cases, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) or other federal regulatory body might order a company to issue a recall if the company doesn’t do so voluntarily. A recall could serve as proof of the item’s dangers in a product liability claim, but it doesn’t automatically make the manufacturer liable. The plaintiff must still prove that the item had a defect and that this defect caused the injuries. A recall also does not automatically let the defendant off the hook. The defendant would have to prove that the exact plaintiff received and read the recall notice prior to suffering the injuries.
Time Limit for Filing a Product Liability Claim in West Virginia
Like all types of personal injury claims in West Virginia, state courts impose a strict deadline for filing product liability claims. If you believe you have a case against a product manufacturer or supplier, contact our West Virginia product liability lawyers right away to make sure you don’t miss a critical deadline. In West Virginia, injured parties have two years from the date of injury to file a product liability claim.
There are some cases in which the courts will toll, or extend, your deadline if you discovered your injuries later. For example, if a plaintiff doesn’t realize he or she has mesothelioma until 20 years after exposure to asbestos products, the courts will extend the deadline. Talk to an attorney to find out your specific deadline, and to see if you still have time to file.
Compensation for Victims of Defective Products in West Virginia
The damages an injured consumer could receive from a product liability lawsuit can encompass virtually all financial losses relating to the incident, including lost wages, property loss, disability costs, and hospital bills. Damages can also include non-economic losses, such as the victim’s physical pain, emotional suffering, mental anguish, lost quality of life, or loss of consortium. In some cases, if the courts deem the defendant grossly negligent, the plaintiff could also receive punitive damages as a way to punish the defendant. The more experienced your West Virginia product liability lawyer is, the better your chances of securing maximum financial compensation.
Tiano O’Dell, PLLC | West Virginia Product Liability Attorneys
Product liability lawsuits have the potential to turn into extremely complex affairs and most companies keep legal teams on retainer should an issue arise. For this reason, it is important to secure reliable legal representation in the event you were injured by a dangerous or defective product. At Tiano O’Dell, PLLC, we want to help our clients in Charleston and throughout West Virginia recover the damages they rightfully deserve after suffering injuries. If you have questions about West Virginia’s product liability laws or wish to discuss a case, contact us online or call our office at (304) 720-6700.