America has become deeply invested in consumerism, and our consumption of goods has increased tremendously over the past century. Being constantly and consistently exposed to advertisements for the latest toys, trucks, drugs, and everyday items, it’s easy to believe the products we use are safe – and that any risks they pose are addressed before they hit the market.
Unfortunately, that just isn’t the case.
From simple goods to prescription medications, consumer products cause thousands of injuries and deaths each year, leaving victims and families with what can often be profound physical, financial, and emotional repercussions.
Product Liability & Victims’ Rights
For all the emphasis our country places on the consumption of goods, and despite lacking regulations which allow untested and unsafe products to be made available to the masses, there is at least one silver lining – the right to hold corporations accountable for harm and losses caused by their products through the filing of a product liability lawsuit.
At Robert Sparks Attorneys, our personal injury lawyers know families can face tremendous turbulence and suffering following the preventable death of a loved one, and that they deserve personalized and compassionate representation when seeking compensation in the civil justice system. If you’re ready to get serious, we’re available 24/7 to speak with families about their legal options in pursuing a wrongful death lawsuit. In the meantime, here’s some important information to consider for anyone who has questions about what happens when a defective product causes death.
Wrongful Death & Defective Products: Common Questions
What is Product Liability?
Product liability refers to the legal responsibility of companies that design, manufacture, distribute, or sell products that hurt consumers. In the U.S., product liability cases are brought by victims who allege a dangerous product caused them preventable harm, or by families whose loved ones have died as a result of product defects – it doesn’t get more serious than that.
Though every case is different, there are three distinct types of product liability claims:
- Manufacturing defect claims allege products were defectively made, often as a result of poor workmanship, inferior materials, poor quality control, or other failures during the manufacturing phase. Examples may include a porch constructed with sub-par concrete or inferior wood prone to rotting, or tires made with inferior rubber, when better quality rubber was easily and readily available.
- Design defect claims allege a product was inherently unsafe from its inception, no matter how it was manufactured. Product makers, or any companies involved in the design of an unsafe product can be held liable for wrongful death if victims can prove products were defectively designed, and posed unreasonable dangers as a result. An example may include a defective seatbelt with a design that most people would not intuitively understand how to use correctly.
- Marketing defect claims are brought when victims allege product makers failed to provide adequate warnings or instructions related to non-obvious dangers. Typically, such claims focus on how proper warnings or instructions could have helped consumers avoid injury or death when using products as intended.
When successful, product defect claims can allow victims and families to recover financial compensation for their damages. They can also hold manufacturers accountable for negligence and dangerous failures, prompt needed changes associated with hazardous products or practices, and warn the public about potential risks.
Does My Family Have a Case?
Product defect cases are highly fact-specific, which is why speaking with an attorney is the best way to determine whether your family may have a viable claim. Generally, however, you may have a case if:
- You are an eligible family member under Florida’s wrongful death law (i.e. parent, spouse, child, sibling, or other close relatives);
- The statute of limitations has not yet expired (in Florida, the statute of limitations for wrongful death/product liability lawsuits is 2 years from the date of death);
- Your loved one’s death was caused by a “defective product.”
What Do Victims Need to Prove?
In order to prevail in any product liability claim – whether it caused injury or wrongful death – plaintiffs will need to prove several key elements. Typically, these elements are based on negligence theories, meaning victims would need to prove product manufacturers, or other parties involved in making products publically available, were negligent in breaching their duty of care during the design, manufacturing, or marketing phases.
Following precedent-setting Court rulings, however, Florida has increasingly applied strict liability to cases involving defective products. In Florida, manufacturers are strictly liable for product defects that cause injury or death due when products are unreasonably dangerous – meaning they fail to perform as safely as an ordinary consumer would be expected to use the product.
Strict products liability does not mean defendants are unable to raise a defense, or that victims will always win a case. Even though Courts will not require victims to prove a product maker was negligent, victims can still support their claims with evidence – particularly, evidence that combats common defenses. For example, this may include proving that a defective product was used as intended, and not “misused” by the victim.
What Compensation Can I Recover?
When successful, product liability claims allow victims and families to recover their damages, including:
- Economic damages: Medical bills, lost financial support, funeral and burial costs, etc.
- Non-economic damages: Physical pain and suffering of the victim, emotional suffering, lost companionship, lost emotional support, and other emotional injuries suffered by a victim’s family.
In wrongful death cases, damages incurred by families may include calculable losses such as lost financial support. However, they often focus on intangible damages that aren’t so easy to equate into monetary sums, such as grief and mental anguish, and lost emotional support. Illustrating the impact a tragic death has on families is a critical component of any wrongful death suit.
How Can I Help My Case?
Litigating fatal product defect cases is a complex task, and one that demands considerable attention to detail, and extensive resources. As such, one of the most important things victims can do to help their potential case is to seek the counsel of experienced lawyers. When it’s time to get serious, Robert Sparks Attorneys offers free consultations to help victims and families learn about their rights and whether they have viable claims, and assist them in litigating what are often costly and difficult cases – without any up-front fees.
In addition to working with legal representation, families should also be mindful of taking timely action – both to avoid expiration of the statute of limitations, and to ensure any necessary investigations can be conducted. Additionally, timely action can help ensure evidence is preserved for assessment by experts should a lawsuit be filed. Even if families are not sure about their rights, or have other more immediate matters to attend to, it can be beneficial to any future case to preserve the defective product in question, as well as any relevant information and documentation pertaining to the accident.
Serious Cases Need Serious Attorneys Serving Tampa
As a Civil Trial Practice that has recovered millions in compensation for victims across Tampa Bay and the surrounding areas of South Florida, Robert Sparks Attorneys is well versed on our country’s considerable problem with ensuring the safety of consumer products, and with the tremendous turbulence families must face when unsafe products cause their loved ones’ fatal harms. Those struggles do not end simply because Florida now adheres to strict liability in product defect claims – victims still need to fight back against corporations that put profits over people. #getserious
If you have questions about product liability or wrongful death lawsuits in Florida, it’s time to get serious results from a team that has a proven track record in dealing with the most serious cases. Call (813) 336-3348 or contact us online to request a free case evaluation.