Orange County Product Liability Attorneys

Orange County Product Liability AttorneysEvery day when we wake up, we begin to interact with the first of many consumer products that we come into contact with on a daily basis—items like children’s toys, appliances, tools, cars, and more. Usually, when products break or malfunction, it’s easy to return them to the store for a refund. However, sometimes these defective products cause destruction, physical injury, and even death before their problems have been identified.

The Consumer Products Safety Commission (CPSC) reports that millions of people visit hospital emergency departments for defective product-related injuries each year. If you, your child, or another family member has sustained an injury as a result of using a defective product, you need an experienced products liability lawyer to guide you through the complex legal process that involves dealing with manufacturers, retailers, and more. Call the experienced legal team at Aitken * Aitken * Cohn at (714) 434-1424 to discuss the details of your case.

Aitken * Aitken * Cohn’s Past Results in Products Liability Cases

At Aitken * Aitken * Cohn, our attorneys have extensive experience representing individuals in personal injury cases, including those that involve products liability issues. One of our most notable products liability cases, a class action lawsuit against Toyota, involved defective electronic throttle-control systems that caused sudden acceleration and resulted in serious injuries and death. After extensive work by our legal team, Toyota settled the case for $1.63 billion, which made the case the largest automobile class action lawsuit in American history. While this is merely an example of our past work, and we cannot guarantee a favorable result in your case, our attorneys will do their best to attain the best possible outcome given your individual situation.

How the Law Defines a Defective Product

Product liability laws vary among states; however, most states, including California, recognize three types product defects:

Design defects occur when the design of a product is overly dangerous. Under California law, a product must satisfy one of two possible tests—the consumer-expectation test or the risk/benefit test.

  • The consumer-expectation test gauges a product’s performance based on the idea that it should perform as safely as an ordinary consumer would expect when used in an intended or reasonably foreseeable manner. The consumer-expectation test is primarily reserved for products that consumers use on a regular basis and have reasonable expectations regarding minimum safety performance. Under California law, the plaintiff must prove four things under the consumer-expectation test:
    1. That the defendant manufactured, distributed, or sold the product,
    2. That the product did not perform as safely as an ordinary consumer would expect,
    3. That the plaintiff was harmed, and
    4. That the use of the product caused the plaintiff’s injury.
  • The risk/benefit test is an analysis of the benefits and risks associated with a product design. For a plaintiff to succeed, the defendant must fail to prove that the benefits of the product’s design outweigh the risk of using the product. Additionally, the plaintiff must prove three elements:
    1. That the defendant manufactured, distributed, or sold the product,
    2. That the plaintiff was harmed, and
    3. That the use of the product caused the plaintiff’s injury.

Manufacturing defects refer to defects that occur during the product’s manufacturing process. Oftentimes a product may appear safe, but may cause injury or death when used. California law defines a manufacturing defect as deviating from the manufacturer’s intended result or from other ostensibly identical units of the same product line.

Information defects come into play when those involved in a product’s chain of distribution do not warn consumers about hazardous aspects of a product. With some products, a lack of instructions constitutes an information defect. California law recognizes inadequate warnings and instructions by manufacturers as information defects. These products could be used safely, but they lack warnings about safety, which creates an unreasonable risk for the consumer.

Injuries That Faulty Products Can Cause

With millions of consumer products that might be defective, numerous types of injuries may occur in a products liability case. In addition to cars, motorcycles, and other motor vehicles, the Consumer Products Safety Commission (CPSC) reports injuries related to the following items: chemicals; fuels, lighters, and fireworks; furniture and decor; public facilities and products; home maintenance and construction; kitchen and dining; sports and recreation; and toys and children’s products. Below are some of the most common injuries reported by the CPSC:

  • Lacerations and scrapes that leave scars
  • Fractured, broken, and crushed bones
  • Electrocution injuries
  • Burns from fires and from chemicals
  • Amputations
  • Drownings
  • Long term illness or damage caused by poisonous substances
  • Carbon monoxide poisonings
  • Neck and back injuries
  • Brain injuries
  • Death—If a loved one has died as a result of a defective product, you might be eligible for compensation. You should contact an attorney who specializes in wrongful death and products liability cases.

Liability for a Defective Product

Under California law, all parties that place a product in the stream of commerce may be held strictly liable for damages related to injuries caused by a defective product. These parties include:

  • Manufacturer. This includes any organization that designs and markets a product, including large global companies and individuals. In larger products, such as motor vehicles, boats, and other machinery, the court might hold a parts manufacturer liable if its failure caused a defect.
  • Wholesaler/distributor. If a wholesaler knows of a defect with a product and continues to distribute the product, the wholesaler may be liable for any injuries caused by the product.
  • Retailer. When companies choose to sell a product, they imply that the product is safe for use. Some go as far as to provide testimonials and other marketing materials that make claims about safety. A retailer might be at fault for a product-related injury in these cases, even though they didn’t design or build the defective product.
  • Licensors and franchisors. Licensors are part of the marketing of a product, and franchisors represent the product, much like a retailer, so either of these parties may be found liable in a products liability suit in California.

Establishing fault isn’t always an easy task in a products liability lawsuit, as there can be numerous parties involved. If you’ve been involved in an accident with a defective product, even as an innocent bystander, you need to consult with an experienced lawyer, who will establish liability, investigate the accident, and have a firm understanding of the injuries that resulted from the accident.

Damages in Product Liability Cases

If you’ve sustained an injury due to a design defect, manufacturing defect, or a company’s failure to warn you about dangerous aspects of a product, you may be eligible to seek compensation for your injuries. California courts award both punitive and compensatory damages in products liability cases. Punitive damages, which are intended to punish a defendant, are rare, and a court will only award them in extreme cases where the defendant is guilty of oppression, fraud, or malice. Compensatory damages are more common, and they are intended to ease the financial burden incurred by the victim. Compensatory damages may include the following costs:

  • Medical expenses including ambulance and emergency services, hospitalization, surgery, radiology, doctor visits, travel expenses to and from the doctor, and prescription medications
  • Future medical expenses in the case of a chronic condition or long-term disability
  • Lost wages for time missed from work that is directly related to an injury
  • Future lost wages in the event that the injured individual cannot return to work, needs reduced hours, or must change professions as a result of the injury, often referred to as lost earning capacity
  • Property damage caused by the defective product
  • Rehabilitation and recovery costs, including physical therapy and assistive devices like wheelchairs, canes, or prosthetic limbs
  • Home modifications for accessibility, such as the installation of ramps or handrails
  • Pain and suffering
  • Emotional distress
  • Loss of consortium

Why You Need a Lawyer to Protect Your Rights

California follows the doctrine of pure comparative negligence in products liability cases that involve negligence. Those who have sustained injuries because of a defective product may also make strict liability claims and breach of warranty claims. Comparative negligence is the idea of shared liability; a court will reduce its damages award based on how much an injured party caused his or her own injuries. For example, if a court awards damages in the amount of $1,000,000, but also determines that the injured party was twenty percent at fault for the accident, the court will reduce its damages award to $800,000.

Comparative negligence provides an avenue for manufacturers, distributors, retailers, and other liable parties to shift blame to the victim in an effort to avoid paying damages. Even when the court follows strict liability rules, the defense will use a variety of strategies to shift blame, including by arguing that:

  • The plaintiff used the product incorrectly or for something other than its intended purpose.
  • The plaintiff modified the product after purchase.
  • The plaintiff did not read danger warnings or instructions.
  • The plaintiff is a sophisticated user who should have known the dangers and hazards associated with the use of the product that caused injury.

A personal injury lawyer who has experience litigating products liability cases will be able to anticipate these tactics and prepare a defense. Your attorney will advocate for you and fight to make sure that those who are liable are held accountable for their negligence.

Strict Products Liability in California

Under California law, for certain products, a defendant does not even have the opportunity to shift part of the blame onto the victim. Under the doctrine of strict products liability, if the evidence supports liability and an accident involved a certain type of product, the defendant is strictly liable. However, a defendant may still be able to claim negligence or breach of warranty; products liability cases may include two, three, or even more different types of claims. The categories of products that fall under strict liability rules in California are as follows:

  • Any product sold directly to consumers, including machinery, consumer goods, chemicals, medical devices, medical equipment, weapons, explosives, etc.
  • Unnatural substances in food
  • Safety devices
  • Component parts of a larger product when there is a direct link to injury
  • Real property
  • Electricity
  • Aircraft navigational landing charts

Call an Experienced Products Liability Lawyer in Orange County

Most personal injury law firms offer free consultations, so you can discuss the details of your case with an experienced attorney who will determine your eligibility for compensation prior to paying anything up-front. If a lawyer chooses to represent you, your case will most likely be handled on a contingent fee basis, which means that your lawyer will deduct his or her attorney’s fees from any settlement or damages award that you receive.

Products liability cases are complex, and they often include multiple parties and claims. Additionally, depending on the severity of the accident, they might also include life-altering injuries for victims that result in long-term disabilities and/or illness. Injured parties who cannot work may quickly accumulate debt due to medical expenses and lost wages. When catastrophic injuries occur, they often take a physical, emotional, and financial toll on injured parties and their families. If you or a loved one has been injured due to a defective product, you do not have to go through this process alone. Those who are liable should be held accountable, and you deserve to be compensated for your injury.

California has a two-year statute of limitations to file a products liability claim, so it is imperative that you contact a skilled products liability attorney as soon as possible following your accident. Call the experienced products liability attorneys at Aitken * Aitken * Cohn at (714) 434-1424, or contact us online, for a free consultation to discuss the merits of your case. Not only will our legal team guide you through the complex legal process, but we will investigate your accident, interview witnesses, file necessary paperwork, and reach out to our extensive network of experts to support your case. During this difficult time, you need to focus on recovering from your injuries while your attorney handles the legal complexities of your case.

Aitken * Aitken * Cohn

Santa Ana

3 MacArthur Pl #800
Santa Ana, CA 92707

Local: (714) 434-1424
Fax: (714) 434-3600

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Riverside

7121 Magnolia Ave. Suite A
Riverside, CA 92504

Local: (951) 534-4006
Fax: (714) 434-3600

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San Clemente

300 S. El Camino Real, Suite 208
San Clemente, CA 92672

Local: (951) 534-4006
Fax: (714) 434-3600

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