You have the right to expect that the products you purchase are safe to use. However, that’s not always the case. Manufacturers make their goods in such huge numbers that some of those items inevitably have defects. They are supposed to catch those flawed products, but some make it to shelves anyway.
When that happens, defective products can seriously hurt you and your family. Manufacturers can and should be held liable for the losses you suffer from these defects. Below, we discuss how defective product liability works in Florida and how you can file your claim.
Defective Product Laws in Florida
Florida courts rely on two legal theories to determine if a manufacturer is liable for injuries caused by its products:
- Negligence: The manufacturer was negligent in some way, meaning it failed to exercise the same amount of care a reasonable person would use when making its products, and someone was harmed as a result.
- Strict liability: Regardless of whether the manufacturer was negligent, something about its products was faulty in a way that could or did cause harm to consumers.
Most defective product claims rely on strict product liability because it is typically easier to prove in civil courts.
Strict liability can be further broken down into three categories:
- Manufacturing defects: A product makes its way to the consumer with flaws from the manufacturing process that cause injuries to the user. This includes problems like propane canisters with leaky gaskets, contaminated food, or a car lock that jams shut.
- Marketing defects: This is also known as “failure to warn.” Manufacturers are responsible for instructing consumers on how to use products safely and warn about the risks of misuse. Marketing defects include failing to provide instructions for a potentially dangerous product, such as a grill or a power tool. Similarly, not warning buyers about the dangers of otherwise reasonable uses of the item, such as the risks of using a hair dryer in the bathtub, is a marketing defect.
- Design defects: Some products are dangerous due to their fundamental design. These risks don’t stem from a flaw during manufacturing. The design could be produced perfectly and still put you at risk. A child’s toy that easily breaks and exposes sharp edges or a phone battery that overheats and ignites under normal use are examples of defective designs.
The Process of Making Defective Product Claims
Filing a defective product claim can be an involved process. If you believe you have grounds for a lawsuit, the first thing to do is consult an experienced product liability attorney. Your lawyers will guide you through the following process.
First, you must make sure you file before the statute of limitations. You have four years from the discovery of your injury to file a product liability claim in Florida. In most cases, this is four years from the date you were injured, but for certain issues, such as harm only caused by a long exposure, you may be able to petition for additional time. If you are filing a wrongful death claim, this is reduced to two years.
If you are still within the limitation period, you must file your claim with the court. You’ll need to collect evidence about the incident, including:
- The remains of the defective item, if possible
- Medical records about the injury you suffered
- Medical bills from the accident
- Other costs associated with the defective product, such as the cost of repairing your home if it caused a fire
Next, you’ll need to identify who may be liable for your losses. Depending on the defect, this could include the manufacturer, wholesalers, distributors, and retailers.
This information is used to draft your complaint. The complaint is the document you file with the court explaining your grievance, who you believe is at fault, and the compensation you seek. Your attorney will also send the complaint to the defendants, so they know about and can respond to the legal action.
Resolving Defective Product Claims
There are two ways the process may be handled from here. In some cases, the defendant will choose to settle your claim. They will negotiate with you and your attorney to determine fair compensation for your injuries. This is usually the most efficient way to resolve product liability claims because it doesn’t require months or years of hearings.
However, you can take the matter to trial if the defendants do not offer to settle. Your attorney will help you argue that the product was defective in some way and that the defect harmed you. If you successfully prove that it is more likely than not that the defendants’ product hurt you, the court will rule in your favor. You may receive the following:
- Compensatory economic damages: Funds to reimburse you for the money the injury cost you in medical bills, lost wages, and repairs to your home.
- Compensatory non-economic damages: Funds to make up for the pain, suffering, and reduced quality of life you face because of the injury.
- Punitive damages: If you can prove that the defendant was aware of a defect and sold the product anyway, the defendant may be ordered to pay you additional funds to punish them.
Reach Out to Experienced Miami Product Liability Attorneys
If you’ve been hurt by a defective product, do not hesitate to get in touch with the skilled personal injury lawyers at the Law Offices of Gomez & Gomez. Our team has three decades of experience helping clients in Miami-Dade County and throughout Florida file successful injury claims against big corporations. Learn more about how we can assist you with your claim by scheduling your consultation today.