When is a Product’s Manufacturer Being Negligent?

By | October 19, 2011

Most of us have heard the legal term of “negligence,” though that doesn’t necessarily mean that we understand all of its complexities. Sure, most people know that negligence that results in someone else’s injury can imply fault according to the law. But when it comes to product manufacturers, we often forget just how relevant a term that “negligence” can be.

The truth is that negligence can still happen on a company-wide scale. There are a number of ways this can happen, and each of the ways end up with that company being ultimately responsible – or liable – for any injury that occurred because of the product’s faults.

First, there may be a design flaw with the product – something that should have been detected from an early stage in a product’s development within the manufacturer’s innovation process. These design flaws can manifest themselves in a variety of ways – and they can similarly lead to all sorts of problems, not necessarily just one problem.

Next, a manufacturing defect might be to blame for a problem with the product. Perhaps the original design of the product was absolutely fine – but the actual production process had some kind of error that wasn’t noticed during quality control inspections. Any type of manufacturing defect could potentially mean that a company is liable for injuries that occur as a result of normal use of the product.

Third, a manufacturer might make a quality product but fail to give accurate warnings that regulate the behavior of the people using the product. For example, if a product is not to be used by children under a certain age, it should be spelled out somewhere in the product packaging – and it should be spelled out clearly. If this is not the case, any injury that results from using the product in such a manner could mean that the manufacturer is being liable.

Each of these potential problems with a product essentially describes a category of potential liability on the manufacturer’s part. But as we all know, individual cases can vary. So let’s look at some variables that might result from these cases of negligence and see if they reflect a situation you find yourself in.

Unreadable warnings: In many cases, a manufacturer might actually warn about certain uses for its product – but the warning is so hard to find or unreadable that the manufacturer could potentially be liable for damages. This seems to fly in the face of the third example of negligence listed above, but if a court deems that a warning could not realistically be expected to make consumers aware of potential hazards, then the case was hardly in vain.

Inherent product flaws: When you’re not sure that a product manufacturer is liable for an injury, but you have a feeling they are – sometimes that can be a feeling worth exploring. This is especially true when you consider that design flaws can be difficult to detect. After all, a product has been sold to you with complete safety instructions – and it still didn’t work. And it failed not because a piece of the product snapped or worked incorrectly…but it still failed. In these cases, be sure to ask if a negligent design flaw might be to blame for what’s happened.

Failures despite safety warnings: When you make sure to pay attention to all of the instructions and warnings that come with a certain product and it still fails, a manufacturing flaw might to blame. If you read about similar problems with the product either in the news or on the Internet, this is certainly a strong possibility. But manufacturing flaws don’t’ necessarily mean that every product has the same problem. Your product might be unique in that it somehow sneaked past quality inspectors – and this can indeed mean the product manufacturer is liable.

In some cases, a strict liability case can mean that a product was so dangerous when it was shipped out to customers that even negligence on your part might not be enough to take liability away from the company. That’s why many companies are sticklers for quality, ensuring that nothing they do in the factory can be chalked up to negligence. It’s worth real money to companies to pay the salaries of these employees rather than paying out money in lawsuits, court awards and settlements.

Before you blame yourself for an injury or accident that happened, be sure that you check up on the product manufacturer’s possible negligence. You might be surprised what the manufacturer is liable for because of a failure at certain stages of production – even early on in a product’s development.

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