There are many situations in which injury or wrongful deaths occur at work or at home. This brief article focuses on how a lawyer analyzes fault on the part of the manufacturer or contractor in accident scenarios. Many consumer or industrial products and settings can be dangerous, not due to fault of the consumer operator, but for lack of accident prevention in the design or planning of the product or operation. These principles of accident prevention apply where there is potential exposure of the consumer or worker to hazardous conditions or features of a product or operation.
- A list of types of accident cases I have handled over the years will illustrate my points:
- A tire failed on a highway due to poor adhesion of the belts in the manufacturing process, resulting in a car crash;
- A pool gate latch was defective, allowing a small child to enter and drown in an apartment pool;
- An asphalt-laying vehicle affixed with an end-piece on the auger caught the pants of a worker and took his leg off;
- A new type of laser device used to remove wrinkles, without testing, caused second degree burns with scarring;
- A street construction zone was not secure, resulting in a pedestrian entering and getting struck by moving equipment;
- The rear exit door in a nursing home was left open, whereupon a dementia patient wandered out and fell on an uneven walkway, fracturing her hip;
- A scaffolding was poorly built and collapsed, resulting in a worker falling and fracturing his back, resulting in paralysis;
- A young woman became addicted to a drug where the label instructions gave her physician inadequate precautions concerning its use;
- And many others.
In each of these cases, principles of industrial accident prevention and product safety design were ignored or inadequately followed. The basic steps to be followed are found in industry standards and regulations and can be summarized as follows.
- Hazard Identification – the first step in the safe design of products and workplaces, is to identify what injury-producing hazards exist. Hazard is defined as “any condition or changing set of circumstances that present injury potential.” The person or company responsible for identifying any hazardous features of the use of a product or operation must engage in hazard identification before completing design and marketing the product or setting up the operation. A simple example may be: a storage closet where flammable liquid is known to be stored lacks a ventilation opening – this is a hazard.
- Risk Assessment – the next step is to evaluate the risk of exposure to the hazard. This involves a sophisticated process of determining the “probability” of exposure, such as taking into account the frequency of exposure (once an hour? Once a month?), the number of persons likely to be exposed (a single user-operator? A crowd of people?) The gravity of the risk (losing a finger? Death?) and so forth.
- Design or plan how to eliminate the hazard (change the design or operation plan).
- If the hazard cannot be eliminated, provide a guard, cut-off switch, a “dead-man’s switch”, a barricade or other safety devices to eliminate or reduce exposure.
- If the hazard cannot be designed out, then provide an effective warning to instruct the user concerning the existence of and risk of the hazardous condition.
The above formula may seem simple and obvious, and it is. But too many times we have seen flaws in the preparation of a product or setting where, due to negligence, those responsible have overlooked the steps required to create safety. When this occurs, and injury results, this is the groundwork of a claim of liability. Whether in a construction zone, or packaging of a consumer product, or leveling of a walkway, or design of signage on a highway, or failure to anticipate the effect of failure of a part in an electrical appliance, or one of many situations requiring careful design and planning, the degree to which the above principles are overlooked can form the basis for a claim of liability under the law.
This blog should be used for informational purposes only. It does not create an attorney-client relationship with any reader and should not be construed as legal advice. If you or someone you know wishes to seek the help of an experienced personal injury attorney regarding any type of injury, or other personal injury matters, call 480-461-5300 and request to speak with H. Micheal Wright or email firstname.lastname@example.org for a free consultation to discuss your rights and options. Udall Shumway PLC is in Mesa, Arizona and is a full-service law firm. We assist Individuals, families, businesses, schools and municipalities in Mesa and the Phoenix/East Valley.