Understanding Product Liability Claims in California

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When you buy a product, you expect it to be safe. Unfortunately, this is not always the case. Products can have defects that make them unsafe and cause injuries or even death. These may qualify for product liability claims.

Understanding these claims can help you make better decisions about your purchases. It also makes you more aware of your rights when you need to contact a product liability claims attorney in Los Angeles.

What are Product Liability Claims?

In a nutshell, product liability claims are brought against a company by someone who has been injured by one of its products. These claims can be filed for injuries caused by defective or dangerous products. There are three kinds of product defects, namely:

Design Defects

When a product such as a car or an appliance has a design flaw that contributes to an accident or injury, it is considered defective. A design flaw could be anything from a structural issue to an inconsistency in manufacturing.

In California, the courts use two different tests to determine if a product is defective due to design:

  • The Risk/Benefit Test: This test is used when technical issues like cost, practicality, risk, or benefit must be considered to determine whether a product is defective due to design. For example, a court might consider whether it would be feasible to make a product safer without significantly increasing the cost of manufacturing it.
  • The Consumer Expectations Test: This test is only used when expert opinion is unnecessary to prove that a product is defective due to design. For example, a court might consider whether an everyday consumer would expect the product to perform safely when used in a reasonably foreseeable manner.

Manufacturing Defects

Products that have not been thoroughly tested for safety are more likely to have manufacturing defects. These defects can occur during the manufacturing process, when components are assembled, or when products are shipped from one location to another.

Under the theory of strict liability, even if the manufacturer took all appropriate precautions to create the product, a plaintiff may still seek compensation. The focus is on whether the product was defective, not on whether the manufacturer was negligent or otherwise at fault for the injury.

Marketing Defects

A product is considered defective if it has been marketed in a way that makes it unsafe for consumers. For example, if a toy is marketed as being safe for children under the age of three, but it contains small parts that can choke a child, the manufacturer can be held liable for any injuries caused by that product.

The Types of Product Liability Claims You Can Make

There are different types of product liability claims that you can make depending on the circumstances of your injury. Common claims include failure to warn, breach of warranty, and negligence. Here’s a closer look:

Failure to Warn

This type of claim typically arises when consumers suffer injuries due to not being warned about a product’s dangers or risks; these usually occur when the product has been mislabeled.

Breach of Warranty

A warranty guarantees that a product meets specific safety requirements or will perform a certain way. If a manufacturer fails to honor the warranty, they can be held liable for injuries caused by the product.


A company can be held liable for negligence if it has failed to exercise reasonable care regarding its products’ design, manufacturing, or marketing.

Potential Defenses Against Product Liability Claims

Like how you and your personal injury lawyer will do everything to defend your case, the defendant will also do everything in their power to disprove your claim or minimize their liability. Here are two defenses that a defendant may use to deny liability:

The “Sophisticated User” Defense

To use this defense, the defendant must prove that you knew or should have known about the risks of using the product. For example, if you have experience with a particular type of product, the defendant might argue that you knew about its potential defects and dangers.

The Misuse Defense

To use this defense, the defendant must prove that you used the product in a way that was not reasonably foreseeable. For example, if you are injured while using a power tool to do something other than what it was intended for, the defendant could argue that you misused the product.

Product liability claims can be complex, and it’s essential to understand all the elements before you take legal action. By doing your research and working with a lawyer, you can increase the likelihood of receiving the compensation you deserve for your injuries.

Haffner Law is a Los Angeles-based law firm that can assist you with product liability claims. If a defective product has injured you or someone you know, call us today.

Calculating Damages in Product Liability Personal Injury

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Every day, consumers are at risk of buying items that not only fail to meet customer expectations but worse, harm health and safety. Below are examples of products that often reported as defective:

  • Vape – Devices that ignite or explode, causing severe burns and wounds.
  • Infant car seats – Faulty straps or mechanical locks that entrap children
  • Children’s toys – Toys that are too tiny or have detachable, tiny parts that can be accidentally swallowed by toddlers.
  • Energy drinks
  • Car airbags – Airbags that deploy late or deploy at the slightest impact that it causes injury instead of preventing it.
  • Grooming products – Topical products that contain harmful chemicals.

If you encountered a defective product that has harmed you, you might have a case for a personal injury product liability claim.

What Is Personal Injury Product Liability?

Personal injury and product liability have different governing laws, but both sets can apply when in cases when a defective product results in a personal injury.

Personal injury occurs when a victim sustains physical, mental, and emotional trauma because of another person or entity’s negligence. Product liability, on the other hand, occurs when a product defect results in physical injuries and damages. Both protect the victims’ rights to demand compensation from the guilty party.

How Are Personal Injury and Product Liability Claims Calculated?

Product liability claims that are negotiated outside of court are settled between the plaintiff and defendant, as well as their respective insurance companies and personal injury attorneys. If the case goes to trial, the jury or a judge will decide how much the guilty party should pay in damages to the victim.

There is no mathematical formula for calculating the compensation for personal injury (and if ever there is, insurance adjusters are unlikely to reveal it during negotiation). Rather, the parties or judge decide the amount based on the following factors:

  1. Medical expenses and post-treatment rehabilitation costs
  2. Loss of income during recovery
  3. Loss of future income due to a resulting disability or disfigurement
  4. Emotional trauma
  5. Pain and suffering
  6. Wrongful death

The known costs such as the bills from the hospital, specialists’ fees, and payslips are typically added and then inflated to account for the non-quantifiable factors like emotional trauma and pain and suffering. Lost wages are also included in the calculation. The sum becomes the starting point for the negotiations of both parties.

Plaintiffs can negotiate for a higher settlement if:

  • They sustained serious injuries (e.g., head injuries, spinal injuries)
  • Their injuries require rehabilitation or lifelong medical treatment.
  • They have to undergo invasive procedures to recover from their injuries.
  • The consequences of their injuries are permanently visible (e.g., scars, deformities).
  • They became disabled as a result of the injury.

Qualified Liability Claims

Since the cause of the injury is a defective product, the victim is also burdened with proving product liability. These claims can fall in any of the three recognized categories in the U.S.:

  1. Manufacturing Defect – A flaw in the manufacturing process meant the product was defective before it left the manufacturing or distribution chain.
  2. Design Defect – The design itself is flawed.
  3. Failure to Provide Adequate Warnings – There are no warnings about the possible risks when using the product.

Find a Personal Injury Lawyer Specializing in Product Liability

Product liability victims cannot rely on the charity of product manufacturers. They also need fierce personal injury attorneys who have experience in proving product liability. More importantly, they need attorneys who will negotiate for the compensation they deserve.

You’ll find such attorneys here at Haffner Law. Contact us today to schedule a consultation with our personal injury and product liability attorneys. Call 213-514-5681 or fill out the contact form on our website.

(This is an attorney advertisement by Joshua Haffner)