Tool injuries are one of the most common causes of emergency room visits across the U.S. Large home improvement stores have cropped up across the U.S., selling major tools like table saws, circular saws, nail guns, etc. These types of tools can cause major injuries. While many tool accidents result from misuse or fault of the user, some happen as the result of a product defect.
For those who suspect their tool accident happened due to a product defect, time is of the essence. In order to make the initial determination, whether there is a viable product injury case, the tool must be examined immediately. Oftentimes, a tool accident happens, and the owner disposes of the tool. This is mistake. The tool must be preserved, so that defects, if any, can be uncovered.
Three Types of Product Injury Claims
There are three types of product injury claims, and each require proving a different set of elements:
- mechanical defect,
- defective design, and
- failure to warn.
Mechanical Defect – AKA: Assembly Line Defect
A product has a mechanical defect when there is some flaw in its production or manufacture. Something occurred during manufacture of the specific product that rendered the product unsafe for its intended use.
In 2015, nearly 2 million hand-held cordless drills were recalled after the manufacturer received about 25 reports of overheating. Apparently, an internal switch was getting stuck in the on position and overheating, which posed fire and burn risks to users. Let’s assume this is a mechanical defect. Something occurred during the production of a certain batch of the tools, which created the risk of overheating.
Defective Design – Product Designed Poorly
A product is defectively designed if there is something dangerous about the product itself. If a product was designed defectively, the defect would apply to each and every product, of the same model, kind, type, etc. By way of comparison, a mechanical defect only applies as to that product (or a batch of products).
Proving a design defect is more complex than proving a mechanical defect. A mechanical engineer will have to examine the product and be credible as to why it was designed defectively.
Failure to Warn – Warnings Were Insufficient
Failure to warn cases involve arguments that a product did not include adequate warnings about some aspect of the product that isn’t reasonably apparent to the average consumer. A manufacturer can be held liable for failing to provide warnings about a specific danger or failing to provide warnings about how to avoid a specific danger.
It is important to note that the laws of each state vary in terms of the specific elements required under each. In addition, product liability law is always changing. Just a few years ago, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court overturned well-established case law in PA regarding product injury law in Pennsylvania. See Tincher v. Omega Flex, Inc. (2014), which held that juries, not courts, must determine whether a product is defective.
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