What is a Design Defect in a Product Liability Case?

Written by AskTheLawyers.com™ on behalf of Sean A. Koch with Law Office of Bruce A. Ralston.

What is a Design Defect in a Product Liability Case?
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Product liability cases arise when one or more parties are injured by a product that should not have been dangerous to use, and choose to seek recovery through litigation against the negligent party; in these cases, the negligent party is often the designer or manufacturer of the product. While defects can occur throughout the process of a product’s creation, they often start with the initial design of the product. Product designers are required to meet certain standards for safety in their industry, and failing to do so opens them up to liability in the event that one of their products harms a consumer. If you or a loved one were injured by a potentially defective product, reach out to a product liability attorney to discuss your options for physical and financial recovery.

Design defects occur before a product is ever manufactured.

Design defects arise essentially when the designer of the product should have reasonably been expected to realize that their product was unable to perform the duties for which it was intended, and/or was unable to perform them safely. For example, a kitchen blender designed without a lid would be considered defective in design, as it would not only expose the user’s hands and fingers to the moving blades, but would also allow the contents to explode back out the top without a barrier. Similarly, a box fan without an adequately gridded box would just be a circle of quickly moving plastic pieces which could easily cause injury if someone’s finger were to slip through the “protective barrier”. Top heavy furniture and vehicles prone to tipping are other common examples used to illustrate a defect in design.

If a product cannot be used for its intended purpose, or cannot be used for that purpose safely, a design defect may be present.

Products are required to be useful in regard to the purposes they are marketed for. If a product by design cannot accomplish the tasks it is intended to be used for, the design may be defective. Similarly, if the product cannot be used for its intended purpose without putting the user at some kind of unreasonable risk, the design may be defective. For example, if a heated cooking device only works when the user physically holds the top or another portion of the device in place, it puts the user at unreasonable risk of burns; in this scenario, the product would be considered defective by design.

If you suspect a product is defective, do not throw it away.

The most important piece of evidence in a product liability case is the product itself. If you have already turned your product into the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC), you may ask to have it returned to you. Additional evidence that may be necessary to investigate and support your claim of a design defect include any packaging, instructional material, or even receipts which accompanied the product if you still have it. Pictures or videos of the product while in use—if safe to obtain—or simply pictures of the product and its potentially defective elements will also help give product analysis experts a better idea of the defect they are investigating. If you or a loved one were injured by a potentially defective product, after taking photos of the device, attorneys recommend leaving the product in its exact condition as when it caused the injury and storing it in a box until it can be reviewed by industry experts.

Design defects can be particularly difficult to identify without the help of an attorney.

Product liability cases often involve many parties, and especially when the defect is in the design, can be particularly difficult to prove without the help of an attorney. Product liability attorneys offer free consultations and generally work on a contingency fee basis, which means the injured person does not have to pay for their services unless and until they win their case. Hiring a product liability attorney allows the injured person and their family to focus on healing and recovery, while benefiting from the experience of both the attorneys themselves and their network of product liability experts at no cost to you.

If you suspect a product that caused you injury may be defective in design, reach out to a product liability attorney as soon as possible.

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