There is a certain level of trust that we, as consumers, place in product manufacturers. We trust them to make products that are at least relatively safe, and we certainly demand products that are not dangerous by design. After all, we place tools, toys, and machines in the hands of our children, spouses, and other family members every day. Since you expect a product maker to conduct business in an ethical manner, you would be truly shocked at just how many product-related deaths and injuries occur each year. For example, according to the United States Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC), there were 113,272 emergency department-treated injuries in the United States from 2003 to 2013. 90% of these injuries were sustained while using moon bounces, and 61% of the estimated injuries from 2011 to 2013 were sustained by children ages 4 to 15.
While some of these injuries are expected, other product-related injuries are not. In 2017, the CPSC estimates that there were 13 toy-related deaths nationwide all of which involved children under the age of 12. Moreover, the CPSC indicated that there were 251,700 toy-related injuries that were treated in hospital emergency departments nationwide during the same time period. Although it is true that faulty products are not responsible for all product-related injuries or fatalities in our country, there are a large percentage of them that are caused by a dangerous product design or defect. In fact, the Florida Office of the State Courts Administrator has indicated that 1,234 product liability cases reached a disposition in circuit courts across the state of Florida during the 2016-17 fiscal year. As such, there a few aspects of Florida’s product liability laws that you should be aware of if you are ever involved in a product-related accident.
Florida Product Liability Laws
Fla.Stat.§768.81(d) defines a product liability action as a civil action based upon a theory of strict liability, negligence, breach of warranty, nuisance, or similar theories for damages caused by the manufacture, construction, design, formulation, installation, preparation, or assembly of a product. This statute specifically demonstrates just how many different forms a product liability case can take. There is often a misconception that a defective product must be the sole cause of a person’s injury or death, but this is an inaccurate understanding of what a defective product truly is from a legal perspective.
The Florida Supreme Court defines a design defect as a product with a condition that is unreasonably dangerous to the user, and the product is expected to and does reach the user without a substantial change affecting that condition. The Supreme Court elaborates on this definition by defining a unreasonably dangerous product due to a design defect as a product that meets one or both of the following criteria:
- The product fails to perform as safely as an ordinary consumer would expect when used as intended or when used in a manner reasonably foreseeable by the manufacturer
- The risk of danger in the design outweighs the benefits
When is a Product Considered Defective?
So, in light of this information, it is easy to see how a product could be designed in a faulty manner that caused your injuries to be more severe than they would have been had it not been for the defect, but keep in mind, the definition of a defect will change depending on what type of product liability claim you are bringing. There are five common categories of product liability claims that are typically initiated in Florida:
- Manufacturing Defect
- Design Defect
- Warranty Violations
- Failure to Warn
Each category of product liability claims has its own unique definitions regarding the different types of defects a product can have, or the behavior on the part of the product manufacturer that could make them liable for injuries sustained by a consumer due to a faulty product the manufacturer sold or created.
Statute of Limitations for Product Liability Claims in FL
Generally, legal cases become harder to initiate and defend as more time passes from the point when the plaintiff has gained the right to initiate a claim. As such, the Florida legislature has placed time limits on when a plaintiff can initiate a civil action. These time limits are known as a statute of limitations, and once a statute of limitations has expired, you are legally barred from initiating your claim in most cases. The statute of limitations for product liability claims alleging negligence is established under Fla.Stat.§95.11(3)(a), which states that you have four years from the date that your right to bring an action accrues to initiate your case in an action alleging negligence.
Product liability claims that allege a product manufacturing or design defect also fall under a four year statute of limitations established by Fla.Stat.§95.11(3)(e), which states that an action for injury to a person founded on the design, manufacture, distribution, or sale of personal property that is not permanently incorporated in an improvement to real property must be initiated within four years from the date that your right to bring the action accrues.
Damages in Product Liability Claims
The types of damages you can seek in a product liability claim fall into two categories, compensatory and punitive damages. Pursuant to Fla.Stat.§768.62(2) punitive damages can only be awarded in cases where the trier of fact, the judge or jury, has found the defendant to be guilty of intentional misconduct or gross negligence. Thus, punitive damages are typically only awarded in the most severe product liability cases. By contrast, compensatory damages is the category of damages that are normally awarded in most civil cases, and they can be divided into two subcategories, economic and non-economic compensatory damages.
Economic damages are awarded to compensate you for things such as: medical bills, lost wages, and future medical expenses. Economic damages can usually be projected with a certain amount of accuracy, because they are based on evidence such as medical billing statements, pay stubs, and testimony from your physicians on your need for future medical care. Non-economic damages, however, fall under a very different standard, because the judge or jury is trying to determine how your accident affected you from an emotional standpoint by trying to see the effects of your injuries from your perspective. Non-economic damages compensate you for things such as pain and suffering, mental anguish, and loss of enjoyment of life.
Should I Hire a Product Liability Attorney in Miami?
Product liability claims can be extremely complex and adversarial, which is why hiring a product liability attorney to represent you is such an important decision. 1800-Injured is a medical and lawyer referral service that connects defective product accident victims with product liability lawyers in the Miami area. Don’t let a company’s negligence ruin your life. Call 1800-Injured today.