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Examples of Car Accident Cases Involving Insurance Issues

Insurance payment at damage of the car filling of documents

A look at a few real-world car accident injury claims that hinged on issues related to car insurance.

If you’re making an injury claim after a car accident, you could find yourself in a dispute with a car insurance company over issues like coverage or the severity of your injuries, to name just two examples. In this article, we’ll look at a few real-world car accident injury claims that hinged on issues related to car insurance.

Indiana collision causes arm, neck and low back injuries.

Darlene reports that a red light runner rammed into the rear of her car, totaling it. As a result of her accident, Darlene has limited mobility in her left arm and pain in her neck and low back. So far, medical treatment has cost $3,000. In addition, Darlene has had to quit a part-time job because of her arm problem. She says that has cost her $14,000. Darlene is representing herself and has sent a demand letter to State Farm asking for $37,000, the amount she would like to recover.

Comments: Darlene may be beginning negotiations with State Farm too soon. It sounds like Darlene is still in treatment. If that is right, she doesn’t know yet how long she will be in treatment or how long she will suffer from the symptoms of her injuries. On top of that, she doesn’t know whether she will ever be able to return to her part-time job.

You should not begin settlement negotiations until you completely recover from your injuries or, if you won’t recover fully, until you recover as much as you will. Only then will you know the full story of what your accident caused. Darlene doesn’t know her full story yet. So it would be wiser to hold up settlement negotiations until she ends treatment and returns to her normal pre-accident health.

Arizona head-on collision caused by driver with low insurance limit

Noelle reports from Arizona that an erratic driver ricocheted off a retaining wall and ended up in Noelle’s lane where Noelle hit her head-on. Noelle received 3 fractures in her wrist, severe soft tissue damage to her knee, disc injuries in her neck (which will be chronic) and a right shoulder strain. She has been treated for 5 months, at a cost of more than $12,000, and is not yet fully recovered. Unfortunately, because she couldn’t work due to her injuries, Noelle lost her job. The value of that loss, to date, is more than $20,000. The driver who caused all of this had only the Arizona minimum liability insurance coverage of $15,000. On her insurance policy, Noelle has uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage of $50,000.

Comments: The driver who caused this accident is financially responsible for all of the damage and harm that she caused. Therefore, Noelle can file a lawsuit against her and expect to get a judgment for the full amount of her damages, whatever that turns out to be. However, because the at-fault driver only has $15,000 of liability insurance, that is all her insurance company will have to pay. The balance owed will be the at-fault driver’s problem. Actually, it will end up being Noelle’s problem, too, if that driver doesn’t have any assets that can be used to pay what Noelle is owed.

Fortunately, Noelle has uninsured motorist and underinsured motorist coverage on her insurance policy. Uninsured motorist coverage pays when the driver who caused your accident has no insurance. That is not the case here. Underinsured motorists coverage pays you if the driver who caused your accident doesn’t carry sufficient coverage, as is the case here. So, after the at-fault driver’s insurance company offers its policy limit, Noelle can make a claim under her underinsured motorists coverage and recover up to a total of $50,000, her policy limit.

Ohio rear-ender causes herniated discs, depression and hopelessness.

Ada and her fiancé were stopped at an intersection in Ohio waiting to make a left turn when they were rear-ended by a car going about 40 mph.

Ada sustained 3 herniated cervical (neck) discs and severe middle and low back problems. Ada has had surgery on her neck in which the surgeon “fused” the bones together, causing a loss of mobility and leaving a 5 inch scar on the front of her neck. She needs more surgery on her back, but she is putting it off. So far, Ada’s medical care has cost about $68,000.

More than 3 years after her accident, Ada is still in treatment. Her injuries are permanent.

Ada has not been able to work since her accident. She has applied for disability, but her claim is pending. She is thinking about filing bankruptcy.

Ada reports that this ongoing saga has caused problems in her marriage, including a loss of intimacy because of her constant pain.

She cannot sit or stand for long or do many of the things that she used to do.

Ada has hired a large law firm to represent her, but she reports that her lawyer does not return her phone calls.

The insurance company that is defending against Ada’s claim is American Family Insurance which is arguing that the “real cause” of Ada’s problems is degenerative disc disease that she had before the accident, not her accident. However she never had any neck or back problems before the accident and her doctor has testified (at a deposition) that, in his/her opinion, the accident caused the herniated discs.

Ada reports that “I am so depressed that I do not even get dressed most days.. . I just feel like my life is hopeless.” “I am trying so hard to be patient but when you cannot pay bills or go to the grocery and your marriage is hanging on by a thread, it is tough to be optimistic.”

Comments: American Family Insurance is claiming that the obvious cause of Ada’s injuries — a 3,000 metal missile going 40 mph ramming into her stopped car — is not the “real cause.” They are arguing that the real cause of Ada’s neck problems is that, like virtually all of us, she had degenerative (aging) changes in her neck and back before the accident that were causing her no problems and might never have caused her any problems. But, she had no neck or back pain before the accident and massive neck and back pain after it, so there is a clear opportunity to fight the carrier on this argument.

Finding the Right Car Accident Lawyer

While the above examples are helpful, remember that every case is unique. The best way to get a sense of the strength of your claim is to sit down and discuss your case with an experienced car accident lawyer. You can always count on Womick Law Firm. Please contact us with any questions you have.

Disclaimer: This information is not a substitute for legal advice. Laws change from time to time, so if you are injured, protect your rights and call today at 1-800-598-2440 or contact the Womick Law Firm online.

For more information about car accidents, please visit All-About-Car-Accidents.com.

What to Do If You Get in a Car Accident

Two crashed cars close up

Getting in a car accident is no fun. I can still remember my first (and only!) accident. It happened just a few weeks after I turned 16. Rear-ended a guy. My small, but noble Isuzu Hombre was no match for the other guy’s giant Ford F-150. The front end of my comparatively small pick-up was swallowed underneath the rear bumper of the truck I hit. While he had just a few dings, my vehicle was totaled.

I remember getting out of my truck feeling sort of shell-shocked. I made sure the other person was okay and was relieved to find out that I hadn’t maimed or injured anyone. By then, my friends who had been driving behind me arrived at the scene of the crash. They tried to console me, but all I did was pace back and forth, pointing at my car and yelling “MY CAR IS SCREWED!” over and over again like a crazy man. Not my finest moment. My friends thought it was the funniest thing in the world, however, and still rib me about it.

I had no clue what I was supposed to do in a car accident, but I knew someone who did: dear old Mom. I called my mom on my 1999 Motorola MicroTac (eat your heart out Zach Morris), and she was on the scene in no time flat, ready to basically take care of things for me.

But what would have happened if I had gotten in the accident when I was a few years older and hundreds of miles away from home at college? Would I have known how to handle the situation correctly without Mom and Dad? Probably not.

To avoid pulling a Brett and going crazy when you get in an accident, read this article and prepare yourself.

Note: This advice applies to accidents when it is obvious you are not seriously injured. If you are, call 911 immediately, or if you cannot, hope that someone else will, and wait for the ambulance to arrive.

Stay calm. Now is not the time to lose your cool. Keep your wits about yourself.

Safety is your top priority. Your first priority is to maintain the safety of everyone involved in the accident and to take actions to prevent more smash-ups and injuries. If the accident is minor and the cars are still functioning, move them off or to the side of the road.

If the cars aren’t going anywhere without a tow truck, turn on your hazard lights, exit the vehicle when it’s safe to do so, and walk to the side of the road and out of traffic. Ideally, you should have a warning triangle or flares in your car’s emergency kit. Place those on the road to give other drivers a heads up on the accident. You don’t want another car plowing into your pile-up.

Check for injuries. Ask everyone who was in the car with you if they’re okay. Then check on the driver and passengers of the other car. Call 911 for an ambulance if needed.

Call the police. After an accident, the other person involved might suggest not calling the police and settling things between just the two of you. Ignore him and call the police, even if it’s just a minor fender bender. Here’s why:

By law, you may be required to call the police. In most states, you’re only required to call the authorities after a car accident if someone has been injured, the accident is blocking traffic, or property damage (including cars) is above a certain monetary amount. Failure to comply with the law could result in an additional fine, so don’t try to judge for yourself if those requirements have been met. Let the police dispatcher decide that. After you’ve described the accident to the dispatch, they may or may not decide to send officers to the scene. If they don’t, they’ll usually tell you to file an accident report at a station or online.

A police report can help establish liability. The insurance companies of the respective drivers will work together to determine fault. One of the most credible documents the insurers will use in doing so is an official police report. Without a report, figuring out liability becomes an issue of he said/she said. If you were the one hit, you definitely want a police report. I know a few instances where people didn’t call the police after an accident, and ultimately regretted not doing so. Those involved exchanged information, but when the drivers who were hit called the offending drivers’ insurance companies to make a claim, the offending drivers denied the whole thing and accused the victim drivers of insurance fraud. That wouldn’t have happened with a police report.

Even if you are responsible for the accident, you should still call the police. It could be the case that the driver you hit contributed to the accident and shares responsibility, or there may have been factors beyond your control that reduce your responsibility. If you don’t want to be held completely liable for the accident and have your insurance rates jacked up, get that information in an official police report.

Even if the police don’t come, file a report as soon as you can. At least you’ll have your side of the story on record. That can help in the insurance claim.

A police report can protect you from fraud. You come to a red light and roll to a stop behind a car. The light turns green and as the car in front of you begins driving forward, so do you. All of sudden, the car in front of you immediately stops, causing you to rear-end the other driver. While it’s certainly possible the driver in front of you had a good reason to stop, it’s also possible that he’s a fraudster pulling the old “start and stop” auto-insurance scam on you.

Individuals who stage accidents in order to fraudulently collect insurance money will often suggest not calling the police and just exchanging information. But even if the accident is minor, call the police. Officers are trained at detecting staged accidents. Having them at the scene can help expose the fraud so you’re not held liable for what happened.

Having the police on the scene can keep everyone calm and collected. Emotions can run high at an accident. Having the police there to act as an impartial referee can ensure that things don’t get too heated.

Bottom line: call the police no matter what. If the accident is a minor one, don’t call 911, just call the police directly (you might want to program this number into your phone).

Before the officer leaves, get his name and badge number

Exchange information with the other driver. You’ll want to exchange the following information with the other driver:

  • Name
  • Address
  • Telephone number
  • Email
  • Driver’s license number
  • Insurance company
  • Policy number

You don’t need a Social Security Number in order to file a police report or claim. If a driver or even the police ask for it, politely, but firmly say, “You don’t need that information in order to file a claim/report.”

You should always have a pen and notebook in your car, so you can write down the details we mention above and below. Alternatively, many insurance companies now offer extremely useful apps that not only allow you to record the details of the accident, but also have features which help you “draw” the scene of the accident, take photos, collect witness observations, jot down notes, and file a claim.

Write down the information about the car accident. After you’ve exchanged information with the other driver, write down the following information about the accident itself:

  • Time
  • Location of accident (It also doesn’t hurt to draw a rough sketch of how you think the accident went down)
  • Description of other car, including: make, model, year, color, license plate number, and any visible damage
  • Description of individuals involved in accident, including passengers

Take plenty of pictures. Use the camera on your cellphone to document the vehicle damage. The more pictures the better. Keep in mind that you want your photos to show the overall context of the accident so that you can make your case to a claims adjuster. Take pictures from a distance to show the accident in its entirety, as well as pictures up close to show property damage. If there are any skid marks, take pictures of those too. If you think you were responsible for the accident, take pictures of the car you hit from the rear, front, and sides. That way, if the driver accuses you of causing damage to his car that existed prior to the accident, you’ll be able to prove he’s lying.

Get witness information. If there are witnesses, try to get their information including their name, address, and phone number. Their observations can help your case in assigning liability.

Don’t admit fault or assign blame. Even if it’s obvious whose fault the accident was, don’t ever admit fault or assign blame. That’s for the police and insurance companies to figure out. While it may pain your inner-gentleman (and Louis C.K.) to do so, don’t say “I’m sorry.” It’s an admission of fault. As soon as you exchange information with the driver and find out he or she is okay, zip your lip and keep discussion to a minimum. You don’t want to say anything that could be used against you during the insurance claims process or police report. The only people you want to talk to about the accident are the police and your insurance company.

Call your insurance company. Regardless of fault, call your insurance company and report the accident as soon as possible. If it is your fault, your policy likely requires that you do so. Calling your insurer to report the accident also ensures you get your side of the story on record before the other driver files a claim. That can put you at an advantage in reducing the amount the other driver claims.

If the accident is the other driver’s fault, you have the option to call their insurance company and file a claim on your own without even letting your own company know about the accident. But it’s probably better that your insurance company files the claim on your behalf. The other driver’s insurer is going to do whatever it can to give you the least amount of money. Instead of trying to fight a giant corporation for the money you deserve, let another giant corporation (your insurance company) do the fighting for you.

When you call the insurance company, give them your information, when and where the accident occurred, and the insurance information of the other driver. If the other driver didn’t have insurance, give the driver’s name and address. Let the agent know that a police report has been filed and that you took pictures.

Your insurance company will send out an adjuster to look at your car and give you an estimate on the damage. The other driver’s company will also send out their own adjuster to get their own estimate. The two insurance companies will duke it out on what amount you’ll get or what insurance will pay, depending on who’s at fault.

After you’ve called the insurance company, everything else sort of takes care of itself. You’ll likely be told what shop to take your car to. If you need a car while yours is getting repaired, the insurance company will pay for it. Barring any injuries, your life will likely go back to normal soon enough.

What Should I Do If I Hit a Parked Car?

You’re driving in the parking lot and in a moment of carelessness you run into an unattended parked car. While it may be tempting to just hightail it out of there and let no one be the wiser, you should try to find the owner or at least leave a note for two very good reasons. First, it’s just the right thing to do. You made a mistake that damaged someone’s property, so you should shoulder the responsibility of getting the car repaired.

Second, you’re required by law to find the owner or at least leave a note. Hitting an unattended parked car and leaving the scene without contacting the owner or leaving a note with your information constitutes a hit and run violation. If you were tracked down somehow (which gets easier and easier, especially with parking lot cameras and witnesses with smartphones), you’d likely face a heavy fine for leaving the scene of an accident on top of having to pay for the damages you caused when you hit the car.

So what’s the protocol if you a hit an unattended parked car?

First, get out and assess the damage. If you totally smashed the car, you should probably go ahead and call the police. But if it’s just a fender bender or busted taillight, there’s no need to call the cops. With your cellphone camera, take lots of pictures of the front, sides, and rear of the car you hit. You don’t want the owner trying to milk you and your insurance company for damages you didn’t cause.

After you’ve taken pictures and if it’s possible, find the owner and give him your information, including your name, phone number, insurance company, and policy number. If you can’t find the owner, leave a note on the windshield of the car with the same information. The vehicle’s owner may or may not call you. They’ll likely just call your insurance company to file a claim. If they do call and are irate, just stay calm, tell the person to get in touch with your insurance company, and hang-up.

Disclaimer: This information is not a substitute for legal advice. Laws change from time to time, so if you are injured, protect your rights and call today at 1-800-598-2440 or contact the Womick Law Firm online.

For more information regarding this post, please visit ArtOfManliness.com.

Worker’s Compensation – Know Your Rights

Work injury claim

Worker’s Compensation, sometimes referred to as “Workman’s Compensation” or “Worker’s Comp”, is the name given to a system of laws meant to protect injured workers. The goal is to make sure that somebody who is injured at work receives appropriate medical care, lost wages relating to the on-the-job injury, and, if necessary, retraining and rehabilitation, so as to be able to return to the workforce. When workers are killed on the job, members of the workers’ families are ordinarily eligible for benefits.

Frequently, injured workers will benefit from consulting an attorney who can advise them in protecting their Worker’s Compensation benefits and defending against the premature termination of benefits.

Exclusions From Coverage
Depending upon the jurisdiction, employees may be restricted from collecting benefits if their injuries or deaths result from willful misconduct or from intoxication.

Special Federal Statutes
There are some special federal laws which provide additional protection to certain classes of worker:

The Jones Act (The Merchant Marine Act) provides seamen with the ability to seek benefits known as “maintenance and cure” when they are injured as a result of their employer’s negligence while working on U.S.-flagged vessels.

The Federal Employment Liability Act (FELA) makes railroads engaged in interstate commerce liabile to employees, where the employees’ injuries result from the railroad’s negligence.

The Longshore and Harbor Worker’s Compensation Act (LHWCA) provides Worker’s Compensation benefits to certain classes of employees of private maritime employers.

The Black Lung Benefits Act provides compensation to miners suffering from “black lung” disease (pneumoconiosis).

There is a possibility of the creation of a new federal compensation scheme for workers injured by asbestos, who may suffer from asbestosis or mesothelioma as a result of asbestos exposure. At present, asbestos-related injuries are typically handled by private attorneys.

Worker’s Compensation Litigation
While most injured workers recover quickly, and beyond making the initial injury report to qualify for benefits have no real awareness of the Worker’s Compensation system, those more seriously injured may have difficulty with their employer or with the compensation system. Those workers may benefit from consulting with lawyers. Worker’s Compensation litigation is generally considered to be simpler than traditional injury litigation, as it takes place in an administrative setting and may involve relaxed evidentiary rules. Attorney fees are ordinarily limited by statute.

Workers typically need to hire a workers comp lawyer when they are refused benefits to which they are entitled, are told that they can return to work before they are actually medically able, or are denied extended or permanent disability despite significant disabling injury. If your employer sends you to a doctor who declares that you are able to return to work even though you don’t believe you are yet able, or tries to get you to return to work to a special job created to accommodate your injury, you should consider speaking to a comp lawyer right away.

The reason is this: while a typical injured employee does not know the law, a typical employer is very much aware of how the compensation system works, and how to terminate an employee’s benefits. An injured worker who returns to work in a specially created position may well find that, two weeks later, the position is eliminated and he is laid off – but is no longer eligible for workers comp. Similarly, many employers utilize doctors who are much more interested in maintaining a good continuing relationship with the employer than with accurately diagnosing the employee – too many declarations of continuing disability will likely cause the employer to send injured employees to a different doctor. A lawyer can help you protect your rights when one of these “hired gun” doctors tries to block you from getting necessary treatment, cut off your benefits or send you back to work too early.

It is beneficial to go to a lawyer who handles a lot of Worker’s Compensation cases. Typically, those lawyers will know the administrative judges or hearing officers who preside over comp hearings, and may also know the doctors and defense lawyers who are trying to block your claim. Using an attorney who knows the ins and outs of the system can help ensure that you collect the benefits that are due or, if you are so inclined, get a maximum pay-off to settle your compensation claim.

When Can You Sue?
Ordinarily an employee who qualifies for Worker’s Compensation benefits may not file a personal injury suit against the employer. There are two narrow exceptions where Worker’s Compensation preemption might not apply, and an employer might be subject to lawsuit:

When an employer intentionally causes injury to an employee.

When an employer is required to carry Worker’s Compensation coverage but fails to do so.

This exception for intentional acts is very narrow. It is not ordinarily enough that an employer creates conditions where there is a very high probability that an employee will be injured. Ordinarily the employer must have committed a specific act intended to cause injury to the employee.

For more information regarding Worker’s comp, please visit ExpertLaw.com.

Disclaimer: This information is not a substitute for legal advice.  Laws change from time to time, so if you are injured, protect your rights and call today at 1-800-598-2440 or contact the Womick Law Firm online.

A Brief History of Workers’ Compensation

1

The modern system of workers’ compensation is so complex and arcane it produces considerable grief to those who must deal with it on a daily basis. Yet these often cumbersome regulations are so ultimately vital to society they appear, in one form or another, in all industrialized nations. A look at workers’ law over the years demonstrates the failure of the historical alternatives to formal workers’ compensation systems to meet either the goals of social justice or economic efficiency. While the orthopaedic surgeon may often lament the difficult compensation case appearing in clinic, it may add some perspective to review how and why this system became entrenched in the workplace.

Workers’ Compensation in Antiquity

The history of compensation for bodily injury begins shortly after the advent of written history itself1. The Nippur Tablet No. 3191 from ancient Sumeria in the fertile crescent outlines the law of Ur-Nammu, king of the city-state of Ur. It dates to approximately 2050 B.C.2. The law of Ur provided monetary compensation for specific injury to workers’ body parts, including fractures. The code of Hammurabi from 1750 B.C. provided a similar set of rewards for specific injuries and their implied permanent impairments. Ancient Greek, Roman, Arab, and Chinese law provided sets of compensation schedules, with precise payments for the loss of a body part. For example, under ancient Arab law, loss of a joint of the thumb was worth one-half the value of a finger. The loss of a penis was compensated by the amount of length lost, and the value an ear was based on its surface area3. All the early compensation schemes consisted of “schedules” such as this; specific injuries determined specific rewards. The concept of an “impairment” (the loss of function of a body part) separate from a “disability” (the loss of the ability to perform specific tasks or jobs) had not yet arisen.

Yet the compensation schedules of antiquity were gradually replaced as feudalism of the Middle Ages gradually became the primary structure of government. The often arbitrary benevolence of the feudal lord determined what, if any, injuries garnered recompense. The concept of compensation for the worker was bound up in the doctrine of noblesse oblige; an honorable lord would care for his injured serf.

Common Law and the Early Industrial Revolution

The development of English common law in the late Middle Ages and Renaissance provided a legal framework that persisted into the early Industrial Revolution across Europe and America. Three critical principles gradually developed which determined what injuries were compensable. They were generally so restrictive they became known as the “unholy trinity of defenses.

1. Contributory negligence.

If the worker was in any way responsible for his injury, the doctrine of contributory negligence held the employer was not at fault. Regardless of how hazardous the exposed machinery of the day was, any worker who slipped and lost an arm or leg was not entitled to any compensation. This was established in the United States through the case of Martin v. the Wabash Railroad, in which a freight conductor fell off his train. Although inspectors subsequently blamed a loose handrail, his injuries did not receive compensation because inspecting the train for faulty equipment was one of his job duties.

2. The “fellow servant” rule.

Under the “fellow servant” rule, employers were not held liable if the worker’s injuries resulted in any part from the action or negligence of a fellow employee. This was established in Britain through the case of Priestly v. Fowler in 1837, a case of an injured butcher boy. In America, precedent was provided five years later by Farnwell v. The Boston and Worcester Railroad Company.

3. The “assumption of risk.”

The doctrine of “assumption of risk” was exceptionally far-reaching. It held simply that employees know of the hazards of any particular job when they sign their contracts. Therefore, by agreeing to work in a position they assume any inherent risk it carries. Employers were required to provide such safety measures as were considered appropriate in the industry as a whole. In the nineteenth century, this often left a great deal to be desired. Assumption of risk was often formalized at the beginning of an employee’s tenure; many industries required contracts in which workers abdicated their right to sue for injury. These became known as the “worker’s right to die,” or “death contracts.”

While these common law principles were quite restrictive, it was their method of enforcement that proved most cumbersome. An injured worker’s only recourse was through the use of torts. In the nineteenth century as in our own, these were exceptionally expensive legal affairs. Most countries required considerable fees simply to file a personal injury lawsuit. These more often than not were beyond the limited means of the injured worker. It was so uncommon for a working man to win compensation for injury that private organizations such as the English “Friendly Societies” and German “Krankenkassen” were formed that offered more affluent laborers the option of buying various kinds of disability insurance5. Nevertheless, the worker did occasionally prevail through tort legislation. As the century wore on, this began to happen frequently enough that employers too became uncomfortable with the capricious nature and high cost of battling civil suits.

To read the full article, please visit NCBI
Disclaimer: This information is not a substitute for legal advice. Laws change from time to time, so if you are injured, protect your rights and call today at 1-800-598-2440 or contact the Womick Law Firm online.

Defective Product Liability Claims: Who to Sue?

Legal documents and terms

If you’ve been injured by a defective product, here’s how to identify all potential defendants in your product liability case.

If you’ve been injured by a defective product and wish to sue to recover for your injuries, one of the first things you’ll need to do is identify which people and companies might be liable and then name them as defendants in your claim.

Unfortunately, depending on the product, identifying all of the parties that may be liable for your injury can be complicated. But it’s important to take the time to dig up all potential defendants because this will increase your chances of getting full recovery for your injuries.

With few exceptions, most state laws are more or less the same when it comes to the types of defendants that can be held liable in defective product cases.

All Parties in the Chain of Distribution
As a general principle, you want to include any and all parties involved in the chain of distribution (the path that the product takes from manufacture to distribution to the customers) of the injury-causing product. The following is an overview of the types of entities typically involved at some point in the chain of distribution of any given product. It is important to remember that there may be more than one potential defendant within each category.

Manufacturer
At the beginning of the chain of distribution is the manufacturer of the injury-causing product. The manufacturer may range in size from a multinational company to an individual working out of a garage (in which case you hope they have a good insurance policy).

If the defective product is part of a larger product, you should include both the manufacturer of the defective part and the manufacturer of the whole product containing the defective part. So, for example, if you were injured by a car with an exploding battery, you would bring your defective product liability claim against both the car manufacturer and the manufacturer of the battery (as well as any additional participants in the chain of distribution discussed below).

Be sure to include any additional parties involved in the manufacture, design, or marketing of the product who might potentially be linked to the defect, especially if they are a separate entity from the manufacturer, such as an outside consultant or contractor.

For example, if your claim involves a manufacturing defect, you would include any quality-control engineers used by the manufacturer; if your claim involves a design defect, you would include any design consultants used by the manufacturer; and if your claim involves a failure to warn or provide adequate instructions, you would include any technical experts retained by the manufacturer to help write the instructions for the injury-causing product.

Retailer
Even though the retail store where you bought the injury-causing product may not have manufactured it, the retailer may still be liable for selling you a defective product. Keep in mind that it is not a question of choosing one defendant over another (regardless of the protests of the retail store where you bought the defective product) — any party involved in the chain of distribution should be named as a defendant in your lawsuit.

When figuring out if you can sue the retailer, keep the following in mind:
You don’t have to be the buyer. Even if you were not the actual buyer of a defective product that caused you injury, you may still be able to recover. For example, if you were injured by some improperly manufactured cough syrup given to you by a co-worker, the fact that you did not purchase the cough syrup yourself would not prevent you from bringing a defective product claim or naming as a defendant the retail store where your co-worker purchased the cough syrup.

You don’t have to be the product user. In addition, even if you were injured by a defective product that someone else was using, you may still be able to bring a defective product claim. For example, if you are injured by a blade that flies loose from your neighbor’s defective lawnmower, you may have a defective product liability claim and you should name all parties involved in the chain of distribution of the lawnmower as defendants, regardless of the fact that you were neither the purchaser nor the one using the defective lawnmower when you were injured by it.
You might be able to recover for used products. If you purchased a used product that turns out to be defective from a supplier of used goods, you might still be able to sue the supplier, depending on the product, the nature of the defect, and the particular state law applicable to your case. This is a developing area of the law and varies from one case to the next.

Wholesaler or Distributor
In between the manufacturer and the retailer, there may be any number of wholesalers, suppliers, distributors, or other “middlemen.” Each and all are part of the chain of distribution of the defective product, are therefore potentially liable, and should be named as defendants in your defective product lawsuit.

When the Defendant Is a Corporation
The manufacturer, retailer, and any “middlemen” who are part of the chain of distribution of the defective product may be corporations. As far as product liability law goes, corporations are considered to be the equivalent of persons and can be held liable. But corporations can change shape, form, and owners frequently by means of mergers with or acquisitions by other companies, reorganizations, spin-offs, re-naming, and so on. Each of these successor companies may “inherit” liability for its predecessor’s participation in the chain of distribution of a defective product. If possible, name these successor companies as defendants in your claim.

Dealing With Foreign Defendants
You may discover that certain companies in the chain of distribution are foreign corporations or businesses. This typically does not prevent you from suing them, because doing business in this country usually renders a foreign company subject to the jurisdiction of the courts where it does business.

The More Defendants the Merrier: Joint and Several Liability
Among the many reasons to identify every potential defendant in your case is the legal doctrine of “joint and several” liability. The essence of this doctrines is that each and every defendant is liable both “jointly” (together) and “severally” (separately) for the entire award of damages. This means that if one of the defendants in your case is unable to pay up for any reason, the others have to pick up the tab. The defendants may end up fighting among themselves as to how to divvy up the hit, but as plaintiff, that is not your problem. Joint and several liability aims to ensure that a winning plaintiff gets paid and leaves the defendants to work out among themselves how much each of them should have to pay out.

In states that follow pure joint and several liability, even if the only defendant who can afford to pay anything was only marginally responsible for the defective product, that defendant is obligated to pay the entire award of damages. This is why personal injury attorneys always try to track down as many “deep pocket” (wealthy) defendants (which usually means large corporations) as possible. Because of this, the search for every corporate entity that might be liable for the defective product in your case is usually well worthwhile.

Getting Help
Identifying all the parties involved in the chain of distribution of a defective product can be deceptively complex. Depending on your case, you may wish to retain the services of a lawyer who specializes in products liability. If you think you are in need of a Liability lawyer, please contact us today.

Disclaimer: This information is not a substitute for legal advice. Laws change from time to time, so if you are injured, protect your rights and call today at 1-800-598-2440 or contact the Womick Law Firm online.

For more information regarding this post, please visit Nolo.com.

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