Each and every day, we rely on dozens--if not hundreds--of products to help us carry on with our daily routines. In the morning we style our hair with curling irons and hairdryers, drive our automobiles to and from work, and cook dinner on the stove while waiting for washers and dryers to clean our clothes. We rely on these products to work in an effective manner, but we also count on these products being safe to use. A defective product can cause more than an inconvenience to your daily routine--dangerous or defective products can cause significant injury or even cost a person his or her life.
The loss of a loved one can have an immeasurable impact on your life. If you have lost someone you cared about due to a faulty or defective product, the attorneys at Schauermann Thayer can help you take the next steps toward seeking just compensation for the loss of your loved one.
How Products Can be Dangerous
Not every product is dangerous or defective in the same way--there are multiple ways in which a product can be deemed defective or unreasonably dangerous. The classification of the defect or danger can have an impact on who might be responsible for your loved one's death. In general, a product can be deemed dangerous or defective in one of three ways:
In some instances, a product which would otherwise be safe becomes dangerous due to improper assembly during the manufacturing process. A cell phone might be assembled with a faulty battery which is prone to overheating, or a scaffolding system may be constructed with a faulty weld. Regardless of the circumstances, when a product suffers a manufacturing defect, the type of product itself is not necessarily unreasonably dangerous--rather, the product stands out from similar products due to a defect.
In contrast to a manufacturing defect, a product with a design flaw can be dangerous from its inception, since every product is designed with the same dangerous characteristic. In this instance, regardless of whether the product was manufactured correctly, every product coming off of the assembly line carries the same defect or danger. Power tools that do not come equipped with safety shields which are standard in a particular industry, for example, are dangerous due to a design flaw.
A wrongful death attorney who has experience with product liability cases will be able to make the call as to the best way to classify the product that caused your loved one's death, and such a classification may, in turn, determine whether to bring an action against the product's manufacturer, design team, or stores which sell the product.
Failure to Warn of Dangerous Condition
We've all seen warning signs on products--a hairdryer may come with a tag attached stating that the product should not be used next to water, or a table saw may come with a variety of warnings outlining the dangers of using the tool. Oftentimes, however, the manufacturer of a product will fail to warn a customer of the dangers of product usage that consumers may face. If a person is injured due to an obsolete--or even nonexistent--warning on a product, then a claim may be brought for any injuries the product caused.
Legal Theories of Product Liability
If you decide to bring a wrongful death action for the loss of your loved one, your attorney will need to determine the best legal theory under which to file the lawsuit. Such theories may include:
- Negligence: If death results when a company was negligent in designing or manufacturing a product, then a wrongful death action can be brought under a theory of negligence. This often occurs when there was a manufacturing defect that rendered the product dangerous.
- Strict liability: If a product is deemed to be "inherently dangerous," or dangerous regardless of whether the product is used in a proper manner, a lawsuit may be brought under a strict liability theory.
What Damages can be Recovered in a Wrongful Death Lawsuit?
If you have suffered the loss of a loved one due to an unreasonably dangerous or malfunctioning product, then you may find yourself in a tough financial position that you never planned to encounter. Oftentimes, you may not have lost "just" a companion--you may have lost a significant source of the income which you rely on to live. Your loved one may have been the sole breadwinner of your family, or you may find yourself saddled with tens of thousands of dollars in medical bills that accumulated prior to your loved one's death.
Regardless of the individual circumstances of your situation following the death of someone you loved, you may be entitled to recover wrongful death compensation to offset the financial stress which you are suffering due to your loved one's passing. A wrongful death action may help you recover damages for many losses, including:
- End-of-life medical bills;
- Reasonable funeral expenses and burial costs;
- Wages that the deceased would have earned; and,
- Loss of your loved one's affection, support, and companionship.
In some cases, a product may be so unreasonably dangerous that a judge or jury decides that an example must be made of the wrongful conduct which caused your loved one's death. In such the state of Oregon (not Washington), "punitive" damages may be awarded along with the above-listed compensation. Punitive damages in this context are not meant to compensate you for the loss of your loved one; rather, they are meant to punish manufacturers and retailers for egregious wrongful or even willful conduct.
Who do I Sue in a Wrongful Death Case Caused by a Dangerous or Defective Product?
Products liability lawsuits can become very overwhelming very quickly due to the complex nature of these claims. A notable difference in a products liability lawsuit is the possibility of multiple defendants in a single case. If you have lost a loved one due to a defective or dangerous product, then you may be able to bring a claim for wrongful death against:
- The manufacturer of the defective or dangerous product;
- The company who designed the product in an unsafe manner;
- The distributor of the product; and/or,
- Retailers who carry the product in their stores.
Because of the expertise required in bringing a wrongful death action against so many potential defendants, it is critical to seek assistance from a qualified wrongful death lawyer. Don't try to wade through a wrongful death action by yourself--even a slight misstep such as failing to name a party can jeopardize your chances of succeeding in the effort to achieve just compensation.
How Long Do I Have to Bring a Wrongful Death Lawsuit for a Defective Product?
Time to file a lawsuit for the death of a loved one due to a defective or unreasonably dangerous product is not unlimited; rather, the time period depends on the state in which the injury occurred. In both Washington and Oregon, a person who has lost a loved one and is an eligible beneficiary to file a wrongful death lawsuit has three years to do so. There may be other potentially applicable time limitations requiring that notice be provided to the at-fault person(s) or entity(ies). After the three-year time limitation period has expired or the time for provision of notice has passed, filing a lawsuit can be extremely difficult, if not impossible.
While three years may seem like an ample amount of time to file a lawsuit, it is important to contact a wrongful death attorney as soon as possible following the death of your loved one. A wrongful death action contains many moving parts and preparing to file a lawsuit can take a considerable amount of time. Medical records must be obtained, evidence must be gathered to prove that the product was defective or unreasonably dangerous, and the appropriate parties to the action must be identified. Don't wait until it is too late to file a wrongful death lawsuit--contact an experienced attorney today to get your case moving in the right direction.
Grieving the Loss of a Loved One? We're Here to Help
If you are facing the devastating loss of a loved one due to a defective or dangerous product, you deserve capable representation by a team of attorneys with your best interests in mind. The team of wrongful death attorneys at Schauermann Thayer have built a reputation for competent representation and client-oriented business practices. Don't wait until it is too late to seek just compensation--to schedule a consultation with one of our attorneys, call (360) 695-4244 or fill out an online case evaluation form today.