Our Blogs

Can You Sue for Defective Safety Equipment?

Written by Berkowitz

defective safety equipment

Experienced Injury Attorneys Fighting on Behalf of Victims of Faulty Safety Equipment in Connecticut

Injuries can occur at work or home from defective equipment. Safety equipment is designed to protect you, the consumer, from injury and harm.

However, when the manufacturers or retailers of these products do not take steps to ensure they work appropriately, you can hold them accountable for your injuries and related costs.

Most defective safety equipment claims arise on the job site, whether it is a construction site or other form of employment. Employers are required to protect their employees and utilize the proper equipment. However, even the most cautious employer cannot protect an employee from a defective product.

How Product Liability Laws Protect Injured Workers and Consumers Alike

Product liability statutes protect consumers, employers, and employees from harmful products sold on the market. When a piece of safety equipment is defective, the manufacturer falls under strict liability.

Other instances could apply, such as negligence or breach of warranty. However, claims with product liability as the main complaint are governed at the state level. Therefore, the state determines which laws apply and if the manufacturer or retailer is liable for strict liability or another form.

Options when a Product is Defective

When a safety component is defective, a person injured by that defective product can bring an action against the responsible party via product liability. They can then seek damages under one of the three theories.

Strict Product Liability

In a negligence claim, to hold someone liable for your injuries you would show that the defendant was careless. In a strict liability case, you do not have to do that. These products are sold to the public or your employer, and it is hard to prove that the individual was careless making the product.

The consumer cannot prove that the product or system for checking defects failed. That is why the law established the strict product liability rule. This allows you to seek damages for a defective product and seek compensation from the manufacturer without showing that the manufacturer or retailer was negligent or careless.

The rule of strict liability is simple: all manufacturers and retailers are held to a higher standard. In that standard, they must ensure that all products they sell are safe for consumer use – even if they are safety products.

If a product is defective, the manufacturer is liable automatically. However, three conditions must be present in the case for strict liability to apply:

  1. The product was unreasonably dangerous, or the defect was reasonably apparent during the product design, manufacturing or handling.
  2. The defect led to the person’s injury.
  3. The product was substantially changed from how it was originally sold or designed.

Negligence Liability

Negligence is more common in personal injury claims, but also applies to defective product claims. In this case, four elements must be present for a case to qualify for negligence-based lawsuits.

  1. Duty of Care: You must show that the retailer, manufacturer, or another distributor owed you a duty of care to protect you from injury.
  2. Breach of Duty: You must establish that there was a duty and that the duty was breached.
  3. Causation: Next, you must establish that the breach of duty is what led to your injury.
  4. Damages: Damages, such as financial losses, must also accompany the injury to be valid.

Breach of Warranty

Sometimes there is no defective safety equipment, but instead, the manufacturer violates their warranty.

The breach of warranty claim is based on the expressed or implied warranty from the defendant to the plaintiff. The warranty is one that is stated by the seller or manufacturer to the buyer. The warranty can come in the form of an advertisement or a printed warranty on the product.

However, if the warranty is breached, the manufacturer or third party could be liable. If the product is guaranteed to be safe for use in that guarantee, then it must remain safe during use. A defective product would be the breach of warranty.

Responsible Parties in a Defective Safety Product Liability Claim

Once you have established that you have a defective product and a theory of the product liability statute applies, you must then identify the parties who are responsible for your injuries. These are the defendants in your injury claim, and you will file your lawsuit against these parties for your compensation.

For a product liability lawsuit to be valid, the product must be sold to the consumer or employer marketplace.  A contractual relationship is not required for a product liability claim, though there was once a requirement in the past.

Responsibility for your defective safety equipment might not solely be in the hands of the manufacturer. In fact, these types of claims typically generate multiple defendants based on the chain of supply and distribution.

Some parties who may be named in your lawsuit include:

  • The manufacturer;
  • The manufacturer that created distinct components;
  • The party that installed or assembled the product;
  • The wholesaler;
  • The distributor;
  • The retail chain that sold the product.

Strict liability and product liability does not apply to a product that you purchase at a garage sale or from an unauthorized source. Private sales and distributions do not count because the manufacturer cannot be held responsible for how individuals treat their products and resell them to the public.

The Types of Product Defect Claims for Safety Equipment

Safety equipment, under the liability theory of law, means that you must show that your product was defective, and the defect in that safety equipment is what led to your injury. Three main types of defects could lead to an injury while using safety equipment. These include:

  1. Design Defects: A design defect means that the product itself was designed improperly. The injuries should have been foreseeable due to this design defect, and the product was inherently unsafe.
  2. Manufacturing Defects: While the design of the product is safe, the production process created an error. Sometimes you have a handful of safety equipment affected, while other times it is the entire lot. These manufacturing defects may include third parties, especially if the manufacturer uses another company to create specific components. If that component manufacturer has a defect during their process, it will affect the final product.
  3. Marketing Defects: Sometimes the product had a safe design and was not defective during manufacturing. Instead, the marketing is what creates the safety defect. For example, a safety product that is marketed for off-label use, or the product with inadequate safety warnings telling you how to use the item properly.

Examples of Defective Safety Equipment

Safety equipment comes in many forms. Moreover, despite the laws regarding safety, and the burdensome rules and regulations requiring manufacturers to be more cautious when creating equipment, people still suffer injuries from defective products daily in the United States.

Equipment with defective components is no longer protecting someone. Instead, it puts them at risk for severe injury or even a fatality.

Some types of defective safety equipment can include:

  • Defective Personal Protective Equipment: Helmets, eye goggles, and gloves that have defects can injure a person in construction, medical professional, or even the consumer using these products while performing do-it-yourself maintenance on their home.
  • Hand and Power Tool Safety: Power tools have safety components in place to prevent injury, such as an automatic shutoff. However, when that automatic shutoff does not initiate, a person could suffer a serious harm, such as a laceration or amputation.
  • Defective Smoke Detectors: Smoke detectors are essential safety devices. They notify occupants of smoke and give them forewarning so that they can exit the building safely. When these are defective, residents may not receive adequate warning. The same applies to carbon monoxide sensors in the home, apartment buildings, or even in the office.
  • Broken or Defective Fire Sprinklers: Like smoke detectors, fire sprinklers are required in commercial residences and some multi-purpose homes. Therefore, when these items are defective, they could significantly increase fire damage and cost lives.
  • Airbags: Airbags are safety devices. They are designed to protect a person involved in a motor vehicle collision. By deploying, they prevent the facial and head trauma of striking the steering wheel or dashboard. However, when these devices fail to initiate, serious injuries occur.

What Must You Prove in a Product Liability Cases for Defective Safety Equipment?

Defective safety equipment might be easier than other types of product liability claims. This is because you must only show that the safety component of the product was defective. While the product itself might have worked, the safety component did not. Therefore, the product did not protect you from harm as it had promised.

In these cases, you may have strict liability or breach of warranty; depending on the state and the product.

You Were Injured and Have Damages

Horrible things happen when safety devices are defective. Therefore, you are likely to have monetary losses, physical harm, and emotional trauma. Defective and dangerous product claims only apply if there are damages.

Damages include:

  • Medical Costs: Initial and future medical treatment costs apply to this case and can include hospitalization, surgeries, and follow-up appointments.
  • Lost Wages: Lost wages might include time that is taken off work to recover, or future lost wages for permanent disability.
  • Pain and Suffering: Naturally, you are traumatized after your injury; therefore, you may seek compensation for that emotional suffering. Also, serious injuries might result in long-term debilitating pain. Therefore, you may qualify for additional compensation because of that physical suffering.

You Used the Product as Intended

A big defense strategy for defective safety equipment is the use. You must prove that you were using the product as intended and following instructions. The manufacturer is not liable when you suffer an injury because you misused or blatantly ignored instructions for the product.

Speak with a Product Liability Attorney in Your Area

If you were injured from defective safety equipment, you can file a lawsuit and seek damages.

However, you need an experienced product liability attorney to assist you.

Contact Berkowitz and Hanna, LLC to schedule a no-obligation consultation. Call 866-479-7909 or contact us online to get started.