Filing Personal Injury Claims for Household Appliance Accidents

If you’ve been injured by a home appliance accident, you may be eligible for compensation from the manufacturer. Here’s what you need to know.

Nearly 200,000 people are injured by household appliances each year. Of those, over 14,000 are hospitalized or killed. ¹

Injuries from home appliances can be caused by design flaws, manufacturing errors, use of sub-standard materials, consumer abuse, failure to follow instructions, and use of appliances for non-recommended purposes.

When home appliances fail, they can cause injuries ranging from minor cuts and bruises to serious burns, permanent scarring, and even death.

If you or a loved one was injured by a malfunctioning appliance, you might be entitled to compensation from the appliance manufacturer.

Common Appliances Linked to Injuries

Electric Ceiling Fans: Ceiling fans that are defective or improperly installed may shake loose and crash down on adults or children.

One popular manufacturer has recently recalled a line of ceiling fans because the owner’s manual instructs consumers to install the light globe incorrectly and the light globe can fall off.

Defective wiring or improper fan assembly can also lead to electrical accidents like fires or electrocution.

Contact with the rotating fan blades can cause serious injuries, as can getting hair, fingers, or clothing caught in the moving parts of the fan.

Refrigerators/Freezers: Refrigerators and freezers appear safe. What we don’t realize is they depend on complex machinery and dangerous chemicals to cool our food.

Every year there are more than 7,000 children under the age of 18 sent to the hospital with injuries caused by refrigerators. That number does not include injuries to adults, or injuries treated at urgent care centers or doctor’s offices. ²

Injuries caused by refrigerators and freezers include:

  • Bumps and bruises
  • Pinched fingers and hands
  • Electrical shocks and electrocution
  • Chemical injuries from coolants ranging from chemical burns to poisoning
  • Crushing or suffocation from tipping over

Leaking water from failed and defrosting freezers can cause slip and fall accidents resulting in injuries as severe as broken bones or head trauma.

Space Heaters: Portable and stationary space heaters are the leading cause of home heating fire deaths.

Space heaters come in various forms and can run on electricity, kerosene, propane, and other fuels. Many families use space heaters without realizing the danger they pose.

More than half of fatal home heating fires were started by heaters placed too close to flammable objects such as rugs, upholstered furniture, clothing, mattresses, and bedding.

Space heaters powered by combustible fuels like kerosene or propane can result in deadly carbon monoxide poisoning. Electric space heaters don’t pose a carbon monoxide risk.

Blenders, Choppers, and Food Processors: One of the largest appliances recalls in the history of the U.S. Consumer Products Safety Commission was issued in late 2017 for Cuisinart blenders with defective blades.

Cuisinart voluntarily recalled over 8 million units after 69 consumers reported finding broken bits of blades in their food. Half of the affected consumers suffered from injured teeth and mouth lacerations.

More often, blender and food processor injuries happen to users who place their hands and fingers close to the blade, insert utensils while the blades are moving, or otherwise use the appliance improperly.

Toasters and Toaster Ovens: Most homes have a toaster or toaster oven. Toasters are convenient, easy to use, and very popular. They can also be a serious fire hazard.

Crumbs collect in the bottom of any toaster and may be accompanied by frosting or fillings dripped from toaster pastries and other snacks. The accumulation of crumbs can easily catch fire. Despite the “crumb tray” in some appliances, many toasters and toaster ovens are not easy to clean.

Toasters and toaster ovens with defective timers allow the heating elements to stay on, causing fires.

Even scarier dangers are posed by toasters with heating elements that can start burning when the appliance is not in use, like the line of Hamilton Beach toasters recalled for their fire risk.

Stoves and Ovens: Studies have shown that household stoves are a common source of injury in the United States, averaging five injuries every hour. Nearly half of all stove injuries are to children and teens under 19 years old. ³

The most common injuries are burns, usually to the hands from touching hot stove or oven parts.

Stove and oven injuries can be caused by defective appliances. For instance, a recent recall of gas ranges and wall ovens was prompted by the discovery of a malfunction that could cause an unsafe accumulation of gas to ignite, burning the user when the oven door was opened.

Why Appliance Recalls Matter

Most manufacturers have extensive quality control procedures to identify and remove defective appliances before they make it to the marketplace. Unfortunately, dangerous appliances sometimes slip through manufacturers’ stringent reviews, ending up in consumers’ homes.

Often the only way a manufacturer learns about a defect is after a consumer gets injured.

Manufacturers issue recalls mostly out of caution. They don’t want their products causing further injuries. They also don’t want to be sued because they failed to issue a recall after learning of a product defect.

Manufacturers will issue recall notices by notifying you directly (if you used your email or mailing address when purchasing the product), via newspaper and website publication, or all three.

In most cases, manufacturers substitute the defective appliance for a new model. In other cases, where the appliance is too large to be returned, a representative will go to your home to make the necessary repairs.

Assumption of Risk

When you are notified of a recall and choose to continue using the potentially dangerous appliance, you are assuming the risk of injury. “Assumption of risk” is a legal term that means you knew you could get hurt using the appliance and decided to use it anyway.

If you are later injured while using the recalled appliance, it will be very difficult to prove the manufacturer is to blame for your accident.

Look for product recalls that may affect you at Recalls.gov.

Appliance Accident Damages and Liability

Due to strict quality control testing before products are available for retail sale, home appliances are usually safe. Most injuries occur because the consumer either used the appliance improperly, abused it, failed to maintain it, or purposely ignored a manufacturer’s recall notice.

Despite quality control, some appliances still come off the assembly line with design or manufacturing flaws. When those flaws result in consumer injuries, the manufacturer and retailer may be liable.

Appliance manufacturers have a legal duty of care to make sure their products don’t cause injuries to the public. If they fail in their duty, they are considered negligent and therefore responsible for any injuries their products cause.

If you’ve been injured by an appliance and want compensation from the manufacturer, the law requires you to prove:

  1. The appliance manufacturer had a duty to make a safe product
  2. The manufacturer was negligent and breached that duty
  3. The negligence was the direct and proximate cause of your injuries
  4. Your injuries resulted in compensable damages

Damages for appliance accident injuries can include:

  • Medical bills
  • Out-of-pocket medical expenses
  • Lost wages
  • Pain and suffering

If you haven’t received a recall notice and are injured while using an appliance, you may have grounds for a product liability claim. In that case, you may be entitled to compensation for your damages.

Example: Disregarding a recall notice

Bob purchased a new blender from a national appliance retailer so he could make fruit smoothies. He used it daily for several months without problems.

One day, he received an email from the manufacturer stating his blender’s model number was on the recall list. Purchasers of the blender were told to bring them back to the store where they would be exchanged for a newer model. The recall was due to a wiring problem which may cause electrical shocks to the user.

Bob ignored the recall notice and continued to use his blender. Several weeks later, while turning on his blender, Bob received an electrical shock. It caused a serious burn to his hand.

Because the manufacturer had taken reasonable steps to protect customers by sending a recall notice and offering to replace the blender, the manufacturer was not liable for Bob’s injury.

Example: Manufacturer liability

Amy purchased a toaster oven from a local retail store. She used it without incident for several months. After re-heating some leftover pizza one evening, Amy reached for the toaster oven door. It fell from its hinges onto her hand, causing 2nd-degree burns.

The manufacturer had previously received complaints about the defective oven door from several hundred customers. However, because the number of reported incidents was small, the manufacturer decided not to issue a recall.

In this case, the manufacturer and retailer would be liable for Amy’s damages. They knew about the hazard but failed to warn consumers.

Appliance Injury Lawsuit Deadlines

If a defective appliance has injured you, you have the right to seek compensation for your damages, but you can lose that right if you miss your state’s statute of limitations.

A statute of limitations is the legal deadline to either settle your injury claim or to file a lawsuit against the manufacturer of the faulty appliance.

Generally, the statute begins to “run” on the date you were injured. Each state has its own deadline. Some states only allow one year to settle your claim or file a lawsuit before you lose your right to seek compensation, no matter how badly you’ve been hurt.

If you’re dealing directly with the insurance company, you must completely settle the claim within that time, or lose everything. The insurance company has no authority to grant an extension, so don’t trust them to do the right thing when the statute runs out.

The adjuster isn’t obligated to help you settle before time runs out or warn you the deadline is approaching. It’s up to you to know the statutory deadline for your claim.

Don’t let the manufacturer or their insurance company tell you it’s too late to seek injury compensation. In most states, the clock starts running when you are injured, not when you purchased the dangerous appliance.

Talk to a
personal injury attorney

about the value of your claim and the statute of limitations in your state.

Attorneys Protect Your Interests

If you’ve been injured in an appliance accident and your injuries are relatively minor, you can probably settle your claim directly with the manufacturer or their insurance company. In any injury scenario, it’s important to collect all the evidence you can about the appliance, its defect, and the injuries it caused.

For serious injuries to you or a family member, and for claims that also include property damage, you will need the help of an experienced personal injury attorney.

Product liability cases can be extremely complicated. You’ll need a skilled attorney to gather the evidence and experts needed to prove the appliance was defective, and that the manufacturer should have known about it.

To further complicate matters, there may be more than one lawsuit going on.

Understanding Subrogation

“Subrogation” is a legal term used in insurance law. It means if you were damaged due to the negligence of another (like an appliance manufacturer) your health insurance company has the right to recover what they paid on your behalf from the negligent party, or from any settlement you collect from the negligent party.

For example, if you were injured and your house caught on fire because of a defective appliance, your homeowner’s insurance will cover the cost to repair your home, but won’t cover your medical bills, or pain and suffering.

Your homeowner’s insurance company may sue the appliance manufacturer to recover what they paid to fix your house. While those two corporate giants are slugging it out, who is looking out for you? Your attorney.

Your attorney can handle subrogation claims and medical liens. To ensure you get as much as possible, the attorney will negotiate with the other insurance companies to convince them to take a smaller amount or waive their claim.

There’s too much at stake to try handling a product liability case on your own.

Most attorneys won’t charge for the initial consultation and will represent you on a contingency fee basis, meaning the attorney won’t get paid unless you reach a settlement or win your case in court.

Get the expert legal help you need. There’s no obligation, and it costs nothing to find out what a good attorney can do for you.

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