As a consumer, it would be reasonable to assume that the manufacturers and sellers of the products you purchase have ensured they are safe to use. Unfortunately, that is not always the case, and faulty products can cause damage to property, severe personal injury and even death. If you were seriously injured or someone you know was seriously injured or killed due to a faulty product, know that you may be able to recover compensation under product liability law.
What is product liability law, and when does it apply?
Product liability is a legal doctrine that gives consumers the ability to file a lawsuit to recover damages caused by defective products. These claims are known as “strict liability” claims. This means that defendants can be held liable even without actual negligence or an intent to cause harm. You are only required to show that a defect of the product was the most likely cause of the damage or injury.
Who is liable for my injury or property damage?
Most defective product claims in Washington State are governed by a state law called the Washington Product Liability Act (WPLA). According to the wording of the law, “A product manufacturer is subject to liability to a claimant if the claimant’s harm was proximately caused by the negligence of the manufacturer in that the product was not reasonably safe as designed or not reasonably safe because adequate warnings or instructions were not provided.”
Manufacturers are liable in the following situations:
- The product design was not “reasonably safe.”
- The product was distributed in a condition that was different from the standards of the manufacturer for goods of the same product line.
- The manufacturer did not provide adequate warnings.
- The manufacturer did not exercise reasonable care to alert consumers of danger after a defect in the product was discovered.
Product sellers, who are not manufacturers, are liable in the following situations:
- The seller’s negligence caused the product to be unsafe.
- The seller breached an express product warranty.
- The seller misrepresented the product or concealed important information about it.
- There is no manufacturer in the state to be held liable.
- The court deems it unlikely that the claimant would be able to recover damages from the manufacturer.
What products are covered under product liability law?
Any consumer good can potentially be covered by product liability law. Covered goods include medical equipment, medicine, furniture, auto parts, appliances, cleaning products, toys, power tools, food products and recreation gear.
What damages are recoverable in product liability lawsuits?
Two types of damages are recoverable.
Compensatory damages are a financial settlement intended to compensate you for damages to property and physical injuries that were caused by a defective product. Compensatory damages may include:
- Medical expenses
- Lost wages (present and future)
- Pain and suffering
- Emotional distress
- Wrongful death of a family member
Punitive damages are intended to punish those responsible for allowing the defective product into the marketplace. These damages are also intended to serve as a powerful deterrent to future actions by other companies.
When is a product recall required?
In many instances, recalls are voluntarily initiated by companies to get unsafe products out of use as quickly as possible to prevent further harm. If a company chooses not to recall a product that has proven to pose an unreasonable risk for serious injury or death, a mandatory recall may be initiated by a government agency. The governmental agency responsible varies based on the type of product involved. Agencies that might get involved along with their jurisdictions include:
- Food and Drug Administration (FDA) – medicine, medical devices, vaccines, cosmetics and food
- U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) – meat, poultry and egg products
- National Highway Safety Administration (NHTSA) – vehicles, equipment, car seats and tires
- Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) – toys, cribs, power tools, household chemicals and other products that pose a fire, electrical, chemical or mechanical hazard
Each agency has specific rules that determine when the process of a mandatory recall begins.
How quickly must I file a claim?
You have three years from the date of injury to file a lawsuit. However, if the product manufacturer or seller can prove that the harm sustained was after the product’s “usual safe life,” then they will be protected from liability. After 12 years, there is a presumption that the usual safe life of a product has expired unless there is contradictory evidence.
What should you do if you are injured by a defective product?
The attorneys at PCVA have helped recover millions of dollars for those who have been injured by defective products. If you or a loved one were injured by a defective product in Washington State, reach out to us to speak with a lawyer by completing our intake form or calling us at (253) 948-3199 or (206) 536-2850. All conversations are confidential.
Our Case Results
$5,375,000 settlement for a woman suffering 3rd-degree burns on 1/3rd of her body from an exploding Ecoflame gel fuel product.
$3,500,000 settlement for family whose conversion van rolled over due to unstable center of gravity