Holding a Manufacturer Accountable for a Wrongful Death

Jason Hutzler January 9, 2023

Every single day, people use products as part of their daily lives. You drive your car to work or school, a coffee maker for your morning cup of coffee, a hair dryer to fix your hair, your child’s newest gadget or toy, the list is endless. When you purchase and subsequently use these and many other products, you do so under the assumption they are safe.

Unfortunately, products can malfunction and lead to injuries and, sadly, in some cases, death due to errors in the manufacturing process, safety reviews, or due to their labels or instructions.

If your loved one lost their life after using a product, device, or machine, you might have a case to file a claim with a wrongful death lawyer against a manufacturer for the loss of their life. Understanding a wrongful death action, what it entails, and who may be liable can help you better prepare for what to expect and what you need to do to seek justice for your loved one following their unexpected and avoidable death.

What Is a Wrongful Death?

A Phoenix wrongful death is any death that occurs due to circumstances that involve actions from another party contributing to or causing the death of an individual. If the events leading up to the death of your loved one involved questionable action or a lack of action, when necessary, it might amount to negligence and, in turn, make the party liable for their death.

When a surviving family member pursues legal recourse for the untimely death of their loved one because of the negligence of another party, it is usually through a wrongful death action.

Anyone can be a victim of wrongful death due to a manufacturer’s negligence. For example, in just one year, nearly 12 million people visited an emergency room seeking treatment for injuries from consumer products. In addition, vulnerable populations such as the elderly and children are at especially high risk of serious injuries and fatalities.

How Could I Hold a Manufacturer at Fault for the Wrongful Death of a Loved One?

Holding a Manufacturer Accountable for a Wrongful Death

When people interact with one another, when businesses provide services to their customers and when manufacturers make products for consumers, they all have a duty of care they must uphold.

Manufacturing a product is not as simple as making an item and selling it to consumers. The companies and people that design and make these items must ensure the products are free from defects and provide proper instructions to prevent injuries to those that use or operate their products.

Wrongful deaths from products can happen in any facet of life. Workers could be at risk while operating equipment and everyday consumers are at risk as they go about their day. Sometimes, another party’s actions may trigger an event leading to an injury that later results in death because of the properties of a product.

For example, a victim may suffer injuries initially in a car or motorcycle accident caused by a reckless driver. However, in the immediate moments following the impact, an unexpected explosion or fire of the vehicle may occur, resulting in the victim’s death. In this situation, it is possible that there was a manufacturing problem that put the vehicle at risk of exploding and, in turn, created a dangerous hazard that contributed to the death of a victim.

Types of Consumer Products that Can Lead to Deadly Injuries

Many products can cause injury or death. The National Safety Council tracks the source of injuries related to consumer products. While not all injuries end in death, some victims sustain catastrophic injuries or do not survive because of a defective product.

Types of products that may result in injuries due to manufacturing errors include:

  • Furniture
  • Fixtures
  • Personal products
  • Prescription drugs
  • Automobiles, motorcycles, and other recreational vehicles and/or their components
  • Appliances and other household products
  • Tools
  • Heavy machinery
  • Medical devices
  • Sports-related equipment and gear, including protective equipment
  • Children’s toys, nursery items, or other products

Common Causes of Wrongful Death Linked to Manufacturers

Injuries from consumer products can occur when a product has a defect. All defects are not the same and do not occur simultaneously during the manufacturing process. Part of the preparation for a lawsuit or claim for wrongful death related to a consumer product will be to determine what caused the defect and how that, in turn, resulted in fatal injuries to the victim.

Some of the most common issues relating to the safety of a product include the following:

  • A defective design. Some products are inherently dangerous due to their design or marketed use. This is not that something went wrong during the making of the product but rather that the product itself is hazardous and likely to cause injuries or death to the people that could use it.
  • A manufacturing defect. Even when a product design is safe, its manufacturing could render it dangerous to consumers. Manufacturing defects can include chemicals not safe for consumers, the type of materials used, or failing or missing parts that make the use of the product potentially harmful. Frequently, safety testing addresses many of these defects. However, suppose a manufacturer cuts corners for testing or ignores potentially negative results and allows the sale of the product. In that case, the defects threaten all consumers who purchase and, in turn, use the product.
  • Defective marketing or labeling. Instructions and labels for products allow a manufacturer to notify a consumer of what to avoid when using the product and how to safely use the product. For example, this can include dosage information for medication or instructions on how to use an appliance or tool. Additionally, it is a product label that can include warnings about potential hazards, such as when a product may contain a choking hazard or poses a high risk to a vulnerable population such as children.

How Do You Know Whether a Manufacturer’s Actions Played a Part in Your Loved One’s Death?

If there is a failure at any point in the design or manufacturing process of a product that later leads to the death of a consumer, the manufacturer can be liable for the death and the losses that a family might incur because of the untimely death of their loved one.

As a surviving family member, however, you may be wondering how you know if a product was faulty and if it was to blame for your loved one’s injuries and death. The answer may be clear in some cases, but in others, particularly when other parties are involved and possibly shared liability, the answer could be more difficult.

For example, it is not uncommon for a surviving family member of a wrongful death victim to not realize that a manufacturer’s actions could have played a part in the death of their family member. It is best to contact a lawyer to determine your legal options and find out all parties that may be liable for your loved one’s death.

A wrongful death attorney can help you by looking into your case and whether they believe a manufacturer issue is to blame, and what steps you may be able to take against the manufacturer for damages.

What if a Manufacturer Did Not Know Their Product Was Unsafe?

It may happen that a manufacturer was unaware of the defect or danger that caused your loved one’s injury. This, however, does not absolve them of liability. In fact, the area of product liability law is unique to other personal injury-related cases in that the doctrine of strict liability applies.

Strict liability in tort cases means that a manufacturer is liable for any harm caused by their product if the product is defective. A victim of strict liability or a representative on their behalf through a wrongful death claim must only prove that the manufacturer made the product, the product was defective, and the product was the cause of your loved one’s death. Negligence is not necessary in a wrongful death action for product liability when strict liability applies.

Who Can Bring an Action for Wrongful Death on Behalf of a Victim?

If you wish to know whether you can file a wrongful death action for the death of a loved one, you should speak with a lawyer who can guide you through the laws in your state. Each state sets its own laws that apply when filing a wrongful death action.

Typically, however, the closest familial relationships are eligible to make such a claim. In some states, the law may require the personal representative of an estate to take wrongful death action on behalf of the deceased or the family.

Why Might a Person Want to Take Legal Action Against a Manufacturer?

For many surviving families, taking action against a manufacturer can feel pointless. After all, nothing can bring your loved one back. However, there are many reasons why a family may decide to take action against a manufacturer.

Seeking Justice

Honoring your loved one and bringing the cause of their death to light can help you seek justice on their behalf. When an action leading to the death of another is not criminal, the only avenue for justice is often through the courts in a civil claim against the parties responsible under the law.

Planning for the Future

As families, we rely on one another to care for each other, contribute and help with the day-to-day tasks and responsibilities of the family unit. When you lose a loved one, you do not only lose their love and support but also their ability to provide for and guide your family now and in the future.

If the loved one that dies is a spouse and you have children, you must think about how you will continue to support them without the help of your partner. A wrongful death claim or lawsuit allows you to seek compensation that can provide financial security and stability for your family moving forward from this tragedy.

Preventing Harm to Others

Oftentimes, a wrongful death victim’s family can pressure a manufacturer to admit mistakes and institute changes. For example, the claims made against a manufacturer for a defective product can help get the dangerous product off the market and alert others of the possible dangers of a product, which can, in turn, prevent future harm and deaths.

What Types of Damages are Available in Wrongful Death Cases Caused by a Manufacturer?

Through a wrongful death action, certain family members can seek compensation for the death of their loved one. The amount of compensation a family member can be eligible for will depend on several factors in the case and the state’s laws where the wrongful death occurs. Each state has laws regarding who can bring an action for wrongful death and the types of damages a surviving family member can pursue.

Examples of damages in a wrongful death action can include:

  • Funeral and burial costs of the victim
  • Loss of income
  • Loss of familial support and contribution
  • Loss of inheritance
  • Loss of benefits

Can You Resolve a Wrongful Death Case Against a Manufacturer Without the Help of an Attorney?

Attempting a claim against a product manufacturer without a lawyer will not lead to success. The reality is that going up against a product manufacturer means you are likely going up against their stable of attorneys, any insurance companies involved in the case, and the insurance company’s attorneys.

The advantage these parties will have due to their experience and self-interest to protect their reputation and name against a victim’s family will make it highly unlikely that you will receive any meaningful compensation and will most likely walk away with nothing.

Contact a wrongful death lawyer in your area to schedule a free case consultation. A free consultation allows you to discuss your loved one’s death and the options available to your family under the law.