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​Holding a Manufacturer Accountable After a Wrongful Death

by | Jan 4, 2023 | Blog, Wrongful Death | 0 comments

Your family may have discovered that the fatal illness or injury your loved one suffered resulted from a product they bought. Your loved one might have been relying on a medical device to improve their life, costing them their life. Once you learn that your family member died because of a product, you are angry and want justice. Here, justice can come in the form of significant financial compensation that the manufacturer may owe you after you file a product liability lawsuit.

First, you must contact an experienced product liability attorney to hold them accountable. Product-related claims are always technical and complex, and you should never try to navigate the process on your own. Your family can stay focused on addressing your grief and adjusting to life without your loved one. A product liability lawyer can handle the legal process and protect your rights.

Everyday Products Can Lead to Severe Injuries and Death

Everyday Products Can Lead to Severe Injuries and DeathProduct manufacturers often have your life in their hands when you buy them. Whether they do their job correctly can often mean the difference between life and death. Take, for example, the car that you drive every day.

Countless parts of the car can fail and cause a severe accident. For example, defective brakes can cause you to be unable to stop when needed. The design of the car itself can make it more susceptible to rolling over (serious crashes that occur at high speed).

Here are some other examples of product liability lawsuits filed after a defective product allegedly killed someone:

Almost any defective product can cause serious or fatal injuries. Some other defective products that might lead to tragedy include:

  • Vehicles
  • Child products and toys
  • Furniture
  • Appliances
  • Recreational equipment
  • Electronics
  • Chemicals

No matter what type of product led to your loved one’s accident, you should discuss the matter with a product liability attorney.

There Are Many Possible Defendants in a Wrongful Death Product Liability Lawsuit

You can hold anyone involved in the “stream of commerce” legally responsible for deaths caused by a defective product. The stream of commerce means anyone involved in the product’s sale from the time of manufacture until when you purchased it.

For example, if defective brakes killed your loved one in a car, you might sue both the manufacturer and the dealer for damages. It is up to the court to determine who should pay how much of your damages. From your perspective, you should name every possible defendant and let them worry about how they divide liability for your damages.

How to Prove that a Product Was Defective

There are several ways that you can win a product liability lawsuit. If you can prove that the product was defective, the manufacturer will be strictly liable for any damages that the product causes. Strict liability does not necessarily mean automatic liability, but there are a minimal number of defenses that can get a manufacturer out of possible liability.

What makes a product defective?

  • Design defects – The product’s design is unreasonably dangerous for its intended purpose. Some plaintiffs may need to show that there was a reasonably safer alternative design.
  • Manufacturing defects – Even if there was nothing wrong with the design, something might have gone wrong in the manufacturing process that made the product unreasonably dangerous.
  • Marketing defects – If the manufacturer knew, or should have known, that its product was defective, it has a legal obligation to warn the general public or pull the product from the market.

Often, experts must examine the product and give their opinion of the defect that led to the tragedy. Your attorney should have a network of experts who can help prove your product-related claim.

Other Ways of Winning a Product Liability Wrongful Death Lawsuit

Even if you cannot prove that the product was defective, there are other ways to win a wrongful death product liability lawsuit. Like any personal injury case, you can prove that the defendant was negligent in the manufacturing and design of the product. You can also prove that the defendant violated any one of many state common laws or statutes. For example, the manufacturer makes several express and implied warranties when they sell you a product that they can be in trouble for breaching.

Not every product that does not work as intended will automatically be considered defective. Note that practically every product liability cause of action uses the word “unreasonably.” Some products may be dangerous to start with, which is part of the nature of the product. You will need to show that the particular product itself is unreasonably dangerous.

Defenses You May Encounter in a Wrongful Death Product Liability Lawsuit

Along the way, you may need to overcome various defenses the manufacturer may use to escape liability for your loved one’s death.

These defenses may include:

  • The accident victim was not in privity with the manufacturer, meaning that they were not the ones owed the duty
  • Someone modified the product after it left the manufacturer’s hands
  • The victim did not use the product as intended
  • The manufacturer did not know that there may be a potential defect, nor should it have known
  • The lawsuit missed the applicable statute of limitations

Wrongful Death Compensation in a Product Liability Case

If you win your case, you may be entitled to significant financial compensation. Your family can receive the damages it suffered when your loved one died. In this case, your family’s personal injury is your loved one’s death.

Your family loses many things when a close family member passes, including:

  • The wages that they might have earned as the provider for the family had they continued to work
  • The support and guidance that they provide due to their role in the family
  • Your own psychological well-being because of the grief that you must endure when a loved one wrongfully dies
  • The physical relationship that the deceased person had with their partner

Survival Actions in a Product Liability Case

Many deaths happen  after buying defective products or the victim suffers from a long illness. The good news is that your family can be paid for these damages too, although the rules are slightly different. The estate will file a survival action to recover for what your loved one endured between when they suffered an injury and when they died.

These damages are the same as you will find in any personal injury case, and they will include:

  • The medical costs necessary to treat your loved one
  • The wages that they will have earned between the time of injury and death
  • The pain and suffering that they endured after their injury

In addition, your family will recover burial and funeral costs for your loved one.

Punitive Damages in a Product Liability Case

Of course, your family sustains a high amount of damage. However, most of the substantial verdicts are the punitive damages that a jury assesses when they need to send a message to the defendant. Usually, the defendant has some knowledge that they are selling defective products, and they put profits over people. The jury wants to punish the defendant, and giving money to the plaintiff is how they do it.

For example, in the Roundup litigation, the company that made the product knew full well of its danger, yet it kept selling the product. Instead of pulling the product from the market, Monsanto tried to influence the prevailing science to show that the product was safe. When the plaintiffs’ attorneys accessed Monsanto’s email, they showed the extent of the company’s wrongful actions. Simply stated, juries were very angry.

While punitive damages are the exception rather than the norm, financial compensation can be substantial. After all, your family has suffered a severe loss.

Potential Mass Tort Claims

Some products have widespread defects that cause injuries or death to many consumers. When this happens, the injury victims and surviving families might join their cases together to take on the manufacturer.

This might result in:

  • Mass tort actions, which involve many individual lawsuits processed together against the same defendant-corporation
  • Class actions, which involve many people joining together to file one lawsuit against the defendant-corporation

Your attorney can determine whether others have similar claims to yours and if joining a class or filing a mass tort lawsuit will benefit you.

Both types of cases are more complex and involve additional procedures, including potential multidistrict litigation. If your loved one died the same way as many other people, seek help from a law firm that handles class action or mass tort cases.

You Need an Attorney with Experience in Product Liability Cases

Product liability lawsuits can be complex legal matters that involve both a complicated set of facts and a high burden of proof placed on you. After all, you will likely need to scientifically prove that something was wrong with the product that resulted in your loved one’s death. You must understand how the product was supposed to work and how this one did. Your case may depend on showing what the manufacturer knew and when they knew it. All of these complexities require you to hire an experienced attorney to help you get to the bottom of what happened.

Companies May Fight Product Liability Lawsuits with Everything They Have

Even though most personal injury cases will eventually settle, product liability lawsuits are one notable exception. If you have filed one of the initial cases, it may be in the defendant’s best interest for them to fight you. If their product gravely injured your loved one, chances are that there are many more families considering a lawsuit. Product liability cases can be “bet the company” litigation for defendants.

For example, in the Roundup case described above, Bayer (the company that bought Monsanto) had tens of billions of dollars shaved off its market capitalization due to worries that the liability might sink the large corporation. Defendants will hire the best attorneys and not worry about their legal budgets. You will need a lawyer who can go toe-to-toe with the biggest corporations to get justice for your family.

Why You Should Hire a Lawyer for a Wrongful Death Products Liability Case

Once a company loses several cases, or it looks like they are dealing with significant liability, it may look to settle the rest of the lawsuits that they are facing.

Still, you will need an attorney to handle your products liability claim for several reasons:

  • There is no guarantee that you will qualify for financial compensation. Your attorney will need to present your claim to show that you are eligible for a settlement under the terms of the agreement and based on your specific situation.
  • You will still need to secure top dollar for your product liability case. The settlement offered to you may be inadequate, and you may need to hold out for more money.
  • You do not have an obligation to accept the settlement, and you can still file a lawsuit of your own
  • There are legal and technical requirements for filing settlement claims that you need to meet.
  • Your family needs to understand your legal options and the potential value of your case.

You need to act quickly if you even suspect that your loved one’s death was related to a defective product. The statute of limitations is often an issue in product liability wrongful death claims, and you must file a claim before it is too late. Your first step is to contact an experienced product liability attorney to learn more about whether you have a potential lawsuit. You do not need to pay anything unless you win your case.