What does "Failure to Warn" Mean?

All products have the potential to cause harm when used incorrectly. Some products, however, are dangerous even when used as intended. It is the responsibility of product manufacturers to provide adequate instructions and warnings when products pose any type of hazard to consumers. Failing to warn consumers of inherent dangers is a form of negligence that often results in devastating injuries or even deaths.

failure to warn warning sign

Types of Defects

Companies can be held liable for making, selling and distributing defective products. A product is considered defective if it has:

  • Defective design: This means that it does not work properly even when assembled and used correctly.
  • Manufacturing defects: This is when a certain number of products are defective because of errors made during the assembly of the product.
  • Marketing defect: This is when there are inherent, non-obvious dangers associated with the product and the company responsible fails to warn consumers. Marketing defects involve dangers that exist whether or not the product is designed and manufactured correctly.

Inherent Dangers and Failures to Warn

Some products have inherent dangers that cannot be removed without making the product less effective. For example, the inherent risk of gasoline is that it is flammable. If gasoline were not combustible, however, it would not be able to power an engine. In this example, it is not the responsibility of gasoline companies to make gas less combustible, but to warn consumers that gas is flammable.

Product manufacturers are not, however, required to warn consumers of all obvious dangers. There is some inherent risk of harm when using sharp kitchen knifes, but consumers should know that. Therefore, it can prove difficult to file a failure to warn lawsuit against a knife manufacturer for not telling you that knives can cause laceration injuries.

Examples of a Failure to Warn

Failure-to-warn lawsuits often involve dangers that the consumer could not have reasonably known without warning. For example:

  • Drug manufacturers must provide a list of the many side effects that can result from using their product.
  • Food companies must inform consumers if their product contains any ingredients that can cause allergic reactions.
  • Tobacco companies must warn consumers of the addictive nature of their product. They also must provide clear warnings on the outside of their product informing consumers that smoking can cause cancer and birth defects.
  • Manufacturers of children's products must warn consumers if their product can present hazards to children of different age groups.
  • The manufacturers of corrosive products, such as paint-removing chemicals, must instruct consumers how to safely handle and use their product.

Adequate Warnings

Adequate warnings under the law must include a complete disclosure of the dangers that exist and the extent of the risk involved. Even when there are warnings, it must be determined if they clearly informed the consumer. Elements of an effective warning often include:

  • Bold signal words such as "danger," "warning," "notice" or "caution."
  • Identification of the nature of the hazard. For example, does the product pose a choking hazard, an electrical shock hazard or a drowning hazard?
  • A cautionary note about what could happen if the warning is not obeyed.
  • Instruction of how to avoid danger.
  • Pictures to clearly display the danger. Pictures are particularly useful for consumers who have difficulty reading.
  • The use of pictures in combination with symbols such as exclamation points to emphasize serious dangers.

Rights of Injured Consumers

Anyone injured by a defective product has the right to file a claim against the product manufacturer for injuries suffered. In such cases, injured consumers must prove that:

  • The defendant sold, manufactured or distributed the product.
  • The product had potential side effects, allergic reactions or risks that were known to the defendant.
  • The known risks presented a danger to the consumer when used in a reasonably foreseeable way.
  • The ordinary consumer would not have foreseen the potential risks.
  • The defendant failed to warn consumers of the potential risks.
  • The consumer was harmed.
  • The lack of warning was a substantial factor in causing the victim's harm.

Victims of dangerous products would be well advised to research their legal options. A successful product liability claim, for example, can result in financial compensation for the victim's losses. Depending on the severity of the injuries suffered, support may be available for medical bills, pain and suffering, lost wages and other related damages. Filing a lawsuit may even force the at-fault company to make chances that protect the health and well being of others.

Why Bisnar | Chase

The experienced California failure to warn product liability attorneys at Bisnar | Chase have a long and successful track record of fighting for the rights of seriously injured victims and their families. Our team of personal injury lawyers is passionate about the pursuit of justice for our injured clients. We have the resources, skill and experience it takes to stand up and fight against large entities be they corporations or governmental agencies. If you have been injured by a defective product, please contact us at 949-203-3814 to obtain more information about pursuing your legal rights.

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Disclaimer: The legal information presented at this site should not be construed to be formal legal advice, nor the formation of an attorney-client relationship. Any results set forth here were dependent on the facts of that case and the results will differ from case to case.

Bisnar | Chase serves all of California. In addition, we represent clients in other states through our associations with local law firms. Through the local firm, we will be admitted to practice law in their state, pro hac vice, meaning "for this particular occasion." When in our client's interest, we employ the local law firm (at no additional cost to our client) to assist us with routine court appearances and discovery proceedings to more efficiently pursue our client's cause.

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