Product Liability Lawyer in Virginia Beach, Portsmouth, & Chesapeake
Have you or a loved one been a victim of an injury caused by a defective product?
Dangerous and defective products have the ability to cause injury, or in some cases, even death. The Jeff Brooke Team will represent you and help determine who is responsible for injuries caused by an unsafe product. We have the knowledge and resources to handle even the most complex product liability cases on your behalf. Find out which category your product liability claim falls under, and allow us to seek compensation on behalf of you or a loved one.
Defective products are the source for many senseless injuries and even some deaths of Americans each year. Manufacturers have an obligation to create products that are safe for consumers. Sometimes, they fail to do so, and their products may cause harm to innocent buyers, just like you. We will investigate how the manufacturer was able to put a faulty product out on the market with the ability to cause harm to consumers.
Injured By a Product in Your Home? You May Receive Compensation Under Virginia Product Liability Law
Accidents in our homes happen fairly frequently. While often the injuries are relatively minor, they can be severe and even life-threatening. When an accident involves a consumer product, the manufacturer or another company may be legally liable under Virginia product liability law, depending on the circumstances.
What Is Product Liability?
Product liability is an area of personal injury law. The principles of product liability law determine legal liability of manufacturers, suppliers, distributors, and retailers of products when an individual suffers injuries while using a manufactured product.
Each state establishes specific criteria under which a manufacturer or other company is legally responsible for injuries and accidents resulting from use of consumer products. While some states apply strict liability in product liability cases, making manufacturers responsible for defective products regardless of negligence, Virginia does not follow that rule.
In Virginia, product liability can be based on either negligence or breach of an express or implied warranty.
Virginia Product Liability Law
Virginia law includes several product liability rules:
- A product must be reasonably safe for its intended purposes and for reasonably foreseeable uses.
- If a product has an inherent danger that is not obvious, the manufacturer or seller must provide adequate warnings of the foreseeable risks.
- If the manufacturer supplies an express warranty about qualities or characteristics, the product must live up to those qualities or characteristics.
When a product causes injuries, these rules determine liability of the manufacturer or seller. The company is liable if a defective product causes injuries, insufficient warnings were given, or the product does not meet an express or implied warranty.
The fact that a product causes an injury does not mean the product is defective. Generally, there are three different ways that a manufacturer can be liable for injuries caused by a defective product:
- The product has safety flaws that are inherent in the design or engineering;
- Errors or mistakes in manufacturing produce a defective product from an otherwise safe design; or
- Faulty, incorrect, or inadequate warnings about risks on labels and in instructions render the product defective by the failure to warn.
To hold a manufacturer responsible for injuries from a defective product, negligence of the manufacturer must be demonstrated. Liability is established by showing that:
- The product had a defect that foreseeably could cause harm;
- The product was being used for the intended purpose and was not altered from its original condition; and
- The defect was a direct cause of the injuries suffered by the victim.
Product liability cases are extremely complex both legally and factually. If you suffer serious injuries and you suspect a defective product caused your injuries, talking with an experienced product liability attorney is essential.
What Kind of Products Are Covered by Product Liability?
Virtually any type of product can be the basis for a product liability claim. Examples of products commonly found in homes that may be defective include:
- Small appliances
- Large appliances
- Kitchen tools
- Baby products
- Medicine and drugs
- Medical devices
- Power tools
- Chemicals and household cleaners
- Other products intended for home use
Almost any type of product used in the home can be defective and cause accidents, injuries, or illnesses. When those injuries are severe enough to require medical treatment, product liability rules may entitle the victim to compensation from the product manufacturer or another company.
Who Is Responsible for a Defective Product?
One of the complicating factors in a product liability claim is that more than one company may be legally responsible. In most cases the manufacturer has liability for a defective product. However, there are times when a seller or retailer, wholesaler or distributor, or another company in the distribution chain may be held liable for compensation an injured victim.
Identifying all potential sources of compensation is extremely important — it can increase the likelihood of a recovery. Tracking down all the potentially liable companies is one of the challenges in a product liability case. It is one of many reasons that you need assistance from an experienced product liability attorney to pursue a claim.
3 Ways a Manufacturer Can Be Responsible for Injuries
The term product liability refers to the responsibility of a product manufacturer or seller for injuries caused by a defective product. State law governs whether the manufacturer or seller is responsible for compensating the consumer for the injuries — and the laws vary among the states. So, if you suffer a personal injury in Virginia Beach, and the injury occurred because of a defective product, Virginia laws determine whether you can recover from the manufacturer or seller.
When Is a Product Defective?
The fact that a person is injured by a product does not automatically make the manufacturer or seller responsible for those injuries. However, consumers should not have to worry about being injured if they use a product as directed. Manufacturers have a legal obligation to make products that are safe for consumers to use. If injuries occur because a product is defective, the manufacturer may be responsible.
Generally, there are three different ways that a product can be defective:
- Safety flaws are inherent in the design or engineering of the product.
- Flaws occur during manufacture and result in a safely-designed product being defective.
- A manufacturer provides incorrect or inadequate labeling and instructions for use or inadequate warnings about risks.
Examples of all these types of defective products are often in the news: unstable chests of drawers that fell over and injured children if they were not anchored to a wall illustrate a design flaw; improperly deploying airbags in cars were blamed at least in part on careless manufacturing; and many drug manufacturers are held responsible for failing to provide adequate warnings about possible hazards and side effects of taking certain medications.
When Is the Manufacturer Responsible in Virginia?
In Virginia, a product must be reasonably safe for its intended purposes and reasonably foreseeable uses. However, manufacturers are not required to design or produce items with the maximum possible safety features.
In some states, a company or person who designs, manufactures, inspects, distributes, or installs an item can be held responsible for a defective product under the theory of strict liability. That means a company or person can be liable even if there is no proof of fault or negligence. Unlike other states, Virginia does not impose strict liability in defective product cases. Recovery in a product liability case in Virginia is dependent on either proving negligence or establishing a case for breach of warranty.
To hold a company responsible for injuries from a defective product on the theory of negligence, your lawyer must demonstrate:
- The product was defective in a way that could foreseeably cause harm;
- You were using the product as intended, without alteration from its manufactured condition; and
- As a direct result of the defect, you suffered quantifiable injury.
In product liability cases in Virginia, a seller or installer also may be held liable for breach of warranty. If a company or person who regularly sells or rents a product makes express or implied warranties or promises about the safety and fitness for use of a product, that company or person is liable if the product does not meet the warranties. In a breach of warranty action, you may be able to recover damages for injuries from a defective product without proving that the manufacturer or seller was negligent.
Regardless of the circumstances causing the injury, if you receive a personal injury in Virginia Beach — or anywhere else in Virginia — and the injury may have been caused by a defective product, a product liability case will be complex and difficult to prove on the basis of either negligence or breach of warranty. Consulting with an experienced, knowledgeable Virginia product liability attorney is imperative.
Product recalls are mixed bags for consumers… and injury claimants. The latest from General Motors is that millions of automobiles will be recalled for a faulty ignition switch and other problems are just the latest in bad news for consumers. A quick look at government websites and the newspaper will confirm what most of us already know. Despite advances in design and manufacturing techniques, manufacturers continue to distribute defective products. Sometimes these products cause injury and even wrongful death. Often, however, a product can be recalled for even minor problems.
Most recalls are actually initiated by a regulatory arm of the federal government. The Consumer Product Safety Commission is given lead authority. It acts as a clearing house for all reported problems with products. If a product does not work as promised (even if it doesn’t cause injury), the information will be reported, stored and analyzed by the Consumer Product Safety Commission. The Commission looks at all data to see if there are trends around the country. Other industries (such as the automobile industry) are regulated by other authorities.
The consumer can be victimized by a defective product in many different ways. Even if a product malfunctions but does not cause injury, it should probably be reported to the appropriate regulatory authorities. By aggregating data, they can determine if a trend or other problem exists.
Note that a recall by itself will not necessarily prove a products liability injury case. Control of “tort law” still rests primarily with the state courts and state laws. But a review of recall databases is critical when an injury has occurred. While proof of a recall alone may not establish a claim, review of government data can prove that the manufacturer had notice of a problem with their product. Government engineering reports can often be accessed for free. Frequently other injury victims can team up in class action lawsuits or benefit from the work personal injury law firms have done for other injury victims. As such, researching product recall data is an invaluable tool in determining whether a personal injury claim can be asserted.
In summary, proof of a recall by itself is not sufficient to establish a personal injury case. A recall may very well provide the “probable cause” to do additional work and to perhaps expend the substantial funds that will be required to assert a products liability case.
What Constitutes a Defective Product in Personal Injury Cases?
You may have noticed that product liability law encompasses many modern products. Current examples include artificial joints, mesh implants, and even asbestos.
In reality, the only thing these products, and indeed all product liability cases, have in common is that a serious injury must have arisen from a product.
Note, that the vast majority of modern products are made safely. Today’s product engineers know that whether it’s a bridge, toys, drywall products or anything else, there are government and trade association standards which regulate design. Frequently, designs are computer- and field-tested before they are marketed.
In a small minority of product cases, however, either the design is defective or the product is manufactured in a defective way. Many of these defective products never cause any injury or if they do, the injury is mild.
In these cases, however, the designers have ignored important safety features and the results can be catastrophic. Thousands of Americans annually are injured by defective products, yet few will seek any compensation for their injuries.
Many times, injury victims never realize that they have rights or that their injury was proximately caused by poor product design. Our firm recently heard of a case where a utility worker was seriously injured on the job by a piece of drilling equipment. The equipment clearly was designed to drill into dangerous places, and it could have been argued that the worker should have known about the damage. Also, product designers are not required to “design out” all risk. But in the utility worker’s case, the danger could have been lessened, simply by attaching a warning on the side of the piece of equipment. Believe it or not, there is a field of engineering which deals with the adequately warnings. The failure in this particular case to warn the utility worker (even when the danger may have been obvious) might result in substantial compensation to the worker.
When Products Cause Injury
The legal field of “products liability” has been highlighted recently with the announcement that many previous years of General Motors’ vehicles have had ignition switch problems. The firestorm in the media can be confusing as consumers try to figure out who is in charge and what is to be done. Early criticism has focused on the National Highway Transportation Administration, the arm of the federal government which regulates the auto industry. GM has blamed its parts suppliers and promised a full investigation. Congressional investigators are calling for fines and penalties, and these are likely to be levied in record amounts. In all of this, what is to be done for injury victims?
Indeed, the din surrounding these high profile product failures can be quite confusing. First, let’s remember that products liability cases remain largely under the control of our court system. While certain product manufacturers (like the auto industry) are highly regulated and are, therefore, subject to investigation, those investigations rarely translate into direct compensation for injured consumers.
The best bet for someone injured by a product is to consult with a products liability attorney, but beware; even when we simplify matters like this as “just” court cases, in the same breath, we have to say that the courts have not taken a uniform approach to products liability law.
Products liability law is based upon one old legal concept and one concept which is relatively new. The old concept is that of negligence. Most people know that careless or “negligent” driving can get them sued. The same is true for products. If a manufacturer is negligent in the design, manufacture or marketing of a product, it can also be sued. This type of negligence can, however, be surprisingly hard to prove. With modern manufacturing techniques, most companies can show a level of quality control and inspection which may keep them from having to pay damages.
Products liability attorneys, therefore, resort frequently to the second theory of liability: Product “defects”. Under this theory, the injury victim needs only to prove that the product was “unreasonably dangerous” or “unfit” when it was placed in the stream of commerce. The injury victim must still prove that safer designs were available and that the product did not satisfy the legal obligations for safe use, but the burden of proof is less.
This brings us back around to the regulatory circus surrounding the GM case. While the failures of regulators may not be directly relevant to injury victims, the information which is about to be dredged up in Congressional inquiries will be hugely beneficial to those bringing claims. Ultimately, we predict that GM will end up paying hundreds of millions of dollars for this problem: it had designed an ignition switch could only be turned off with a significant amount of torque. Apparently, the one that it installed in many vehicles failed to meet its own specifications.
And, so it goes for many other products. Whether it is hip implants, defective drugs, crashing airplanes, toxic pesticides, appliances which burst into flames or any of a host of other defective products, Americans will continue to be injured from the things that they buy, use and consume. Many of these accidents can be attributed to improper use or other problems which simply could not be anticipated. Many will be found to be the result of negligence and defect which will entitle the injury victim to compensation.
Speak With A Defective Product Attorney Today!
The lawyers of The Jeff Brooke Team are ready to answer any questions you may have concerning your injury caused by a defective product.
The Jeff Brooke Team has offices in Virginia Beach, Chesapeake, and Portsmouth. Our firm is devoted to providing the highest level of personal service, and professional legal counsel to those who have been injured in an accident. We are dedicated to helping those who have suffered serious and catastrophic injuries as a result of someone else’s negligent, and careless actions. Speak with an experienced personal injury lawyer today.