Dangers are everywhere in the 21st century. In 2015, for example, federal agencies in the United States issued 4,217 product recalls for dangerous and defective consumer items, and the number of product liability lawsuits in the U.S. is increasing.

Are the products you buy safe for you and your family? What happens when a defective consumer product injures someone? Keep reading, and you’ll learn how California law protects consumers from defective products.

If you or someone you love is injured by a dangerous consumer product, you’ll need this information. And if you are injured because your brakes failed, if you’re burned by a defective toaster, injured by a defective power tool, or made ill by a bad prescription, an experienced Orange County product liability attorney can explain how California’s product liability law applies to your own circumstances and determine if you have grounds for taking legal action.

When someone is injured by a consumer item, identifying the responsible party or parties is the first step. It sounds simple, but determining precisely who should be targeted by your product liability lawsuit can be quite complicated.

Generally speaking, each party in a product’s chain of distribution – from the manufacturer to the retailer – can be considered as possible defendants in a product liability lawsuit.

WHAT PARTIES CAN BE SUED IN A PRODUCT LIABILITY CASE?

Often, more than a single manufacturer can be named as a defendant in a defective product case. Large items with many parts – vehicles and appliances, for example – are made by a number of manufacturers.

If, for example, you are injured by a defective automobile airbag, both the airbag manufacturer and the vehicle manufacturer should be defendants in your case.

Japan’s Takata Corporation, for example, provided nineteen automobile manufacturers around the world with defective airbags. Those airbags have been linked to eleven fatalities and more than a hundred serious injuries in the United States.

The defective air bags are at risk of exploding violently, with no warning, and launching shrapnel at drivers and passengers.

Those who design and market consumer items may also be considered as defendants in product liability lawsuits. A potential plaintiff and his or her product liability attorney should attempt to obtain the names of everyone who worked to design the product.

A product liability lawsuit may name as a defendant the company that built the product and the company or companies that designed it, contributed parts, or inspected the item for quality.

CAN THOSE WHO SELL DEFECTIVE PRODUCTS ALSO BE SUED?

And although the retailer who sold the product may have had no direct link to the product’s design or manufacture, the seller of a defective product is also usually named as a defendant in product liability cases.

California applies its strict product liability laws to all products sold to the public, and the liability for injuries caused by defective items extends to all parties in the design, manufacture, production, distribution, and sale of those products.

If you are injured in this state while using a defective consumer item, and if you need compensation for your medical treatment, lost wages, and related expenses, you and your attorney will have to prove that you were using the product as it was meant to be used.

You can’t sue if you hurt yourself by misusing a product that isn’t defective when it’s used as intended.

Defective products can be anything you buy – from a child’s dangerous toy to faulty appliances, defective auto parts, contaminated food products, and defective over-the-counter or prescription drugs. Sometimes, however, product liability cases are more difficult when the manufacturer, retailer, or other parties with liability are located in other nations.

WHAT IF THE PARTY THAT INJURED YOU IS LOCATED OUTSIDE THE U.S.?

Legally speaking, foreign corporations are subject to the laws in the jurisdictions where they do business, but foreign companies usually fight inclusion as defendants in product liability lawsuits, and the requirements for “serving papers” on a non-U.S. corporation can be laborious, technical – and sometimes, not worth your effort.

When a corporation that has manufactured, designed, or sold a defective consumer product changes owners or reorganizes before a consumer is injured by the product, the consumer still has legal recourse.

The legal doctrine of “successor liability” means that a successor company “inherits” the previous company’s liability.

Injuries caused by defective consumer products range from trivial cuts and bruises to permanent disabilities.

A personal injury linked to a defective vehicle or vehicle part, a defective power tool, a defective electrical appliance, or a defective prescription or over-the-counter drug may cause long-term, catastrophic physical damage.

WHAT WILL SOME INJURY VICTIMS NEED?

Injury victims who have sustained traumatic brain injuries or severe spinal cord injuries, those who require amputations or multiple surgeries, and those who require lifelong medical treatment and care will need the maximum amount of compensation that’s available – and they’ll also need an attorney who will not settle for less.

That’s why it’s imperative for you and your personal injury attorney to carefully consider every party that may conceivably be liable for a product-related injury.

When a victim’s lawsuit prevails, that victim may be compensated for all of his or her injury-related medical expenses, lost wages, pain and suffering, and all other related damages.

HOW CAN A PRODUCT LIABILITY LAWYER HELP?

If you are injured in southern California while using any consumer item, seek medical treatment without delay. Do not discuss the case with any insurance company before you have advice from a knowledgeable product liability attorney.

An insurance company may try to offer you a fast, “lowball” settlement amount. Don’t take it. Instead, have an Orange County product liability attorney – a trained and experienced negotiator – represent you and negotiate on your behalf.

Here in California, the overwhelming majority of product liability cases are settled out of court before a trial can begin. Most corporations will do anything to avoid the bad press that can accompany an acrimonious product liability trial.

Still, if no acceptable settlement is offered in out-of-court negotiations, you must be represented by an attorney who will take your case to court and fight hard for the justice you deserve.

The law in California makes it clear that the negligent designers, manufacturers, and sellers of dangerous and defective consumer products can be ordered by a court to pay for the injuries caused by those products.

If you are injured by a defective consumer product in this state, the law is on your side. Legal help is available, and compensation is your right.

By: Chris Purcell

Attorney Chris Purcell is a graduate of the University of California at Santa Barbara and the Santa Barbara College of Law. He exclusively represents the victims of personal injury and wrongful death. Chris was part of the team that won California’s largest-ever wrongful death judgment – a $150 million verdict for a family devastated by a tragic trucking accident. In 2011, he received the Top Gun Award given by the Orange County Trial Lawyers Association.