Who Do I Sue If I've Been Injured by a Defective Product?

You depend on products you purchase do work properly and when one doesn’t, the consequences can be severe. Millions of products hit the market every year, and while many of them have undergone substantial testing, revisions, and modifications to ensure they are safe for use, some can still backfire and wind up doing more harm than good. In fact, these defective products cause numerous serious injuries every year, ranging in severity from small cuts to serious, potentially lifelong consequences.

For this reason, you as the consumer have the right to file a lawsuit against those responsible and claim damages when you have been injured by a defective product. But who are you actually filing the suit against? Who is actually at fault for your injuries when many different parties have likely played a hand in the product that caused your injury? Who you file your suit against will make a huge difference as to whether or not you are successful in recovering compensation for the damages you have suffered. So let’s take a closer look at who you should file your lawsuit against, and when it’s appropriate to do so.

The Manufacturer

A product begins its life at the factory or facility where it is produced. Some manufacturers are colossal, multi-national companies with suppliers and distributors from around the world that produce thousands or even millions of units of hundreds of different products each day. Others are one person working out of their garage to make something they love and believe will better the lives of those who purchase their product.

Whatever your product is, if it leaves the manufacturer with a flaw or problem that inherently could make it fail when used in a normal, proper circumstance, the manufacturer could be held liable. However, if the defective part is just one component that’s part of a larger whole, then you could potentially hold both the manufacturer of the smaller component and the larger product liable should something happen. This is more common than you might think, particularly in the automotive industry where things like brakes, steering pumps, suspensions, and even engine parts could wind up being faulty or defective, leading to tremendous safety concerns for vehicle owners. This often prompts car companies to issue recalls on vehicles in order to repair the problem before it can cause a serious injury or death.

The Retailer

The manufacturer is responsible for their products, but those who sell the products are also responsible for making sure they’re not selling you something that could wind up being dangerous. Therefore, if you purchase something that winds up being defective, you could hold the retailer liable for it, particularly if they knew it was defective while it was on the shelves. This is frequently the case when a product has a recall issued on it: retailers are supposed to remove them from the shelves and send them back to the manufacturer for repair or disposal. However, sometimes stores are negligent on this duty and fail to pull them in time before selling them, and the product then causes a serious accident and a devastating injury. Because the retail store should have known about the recall and stopped selling the product, they could then be held liable. However, the retailer may not necessarily be held liable for recalled products sold before the recall was officially issued.

Can you sue the retailer? There’s a few things you should consider:

  • You don’t have to be the buyer of the product: even if you didn’t purchase the product that injured you, you can still hold the retailer responsible. For example, if you receive a piece of safety equipment at work, and the safety equipment fails, leading to your injury, you could still sue for damages, even though you didn’t buy the product.
  • You don’t have to be the user: Sometimes people who are essentially innocent bystanders can be injured by a defective product. Say you live in an apartment complex and the unit upstairs is using a battery charger that goes defective, fails, overloads, and sets the entire apartment complex ablaze. You suffer moderate burns while trying to get out of the building. You could still potentially sue the retailer for selling the defective battery charger, even though you never purchased the charger, nor were you the one actually using it when it caused your injury.
  • You may be able to sue if you purchase a used product: Used products are still assumed to be in good working condition and free from defects, so you could potentially still hold the retailer you purchased the used product from responsible if the product turns out to be defective. As you might imagine, this is huge in the automotive industry, which is why dealers and manufacturers are extremely cautious when inspecting vehicles for their condition before refurbishing them and putting them on the lot as “pre-owned” vehicles.

The Wholesaler or Distributor

The wholesaler or distributor is anyone who takes possession of a product between the manufacturer and the retailer. These “middlemen” can often make the task of distributing large numbers of products around the world simple for companies that don’t have the capacity to do so on their own. As far as product liability goes, distributors are also responsible for making sure retailers only receive products which are safe for sale. If they receive a product from the manufacturer which is knowingly unfit for consumption or use and still send it to retailers, they could be blamed in the even that product causes you harm.

“Joint & Several” Liability

When you are injured by a defective product, you don’t have to sue just one of these parties, in fact you can potentially file a lawsuit against them all if they all knowingly had a hand in causing your injury! This is known as the doctrine of “joint and several” liability. Joint means “shared,” while “several” means separate. Essentially, what this means is that when one party can’t pay their share of liability for the damages you have sustained, the others must pick up the tab. This often leads to a lot of litigation between the various parties involved, but no matter what happens you’ll still receive the amount you’ve been awarded.

Have you been injured by a defective product, call the Tulsa product liability attorneys at Richardson Richardson Boudreaux, PLLC today at (918) 347-6456 and ask to receive a free consultation!
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