Power Tool Injuries at Work and Home: Liability and Compensation

When you’ve been injured by a defective power tool at home or at work, you have the right to seek compensation from the manufacturer.

Over 960,000 people are injured each year in power tool accidents, with nearly 200 fatalities. ¹

We use power tools for home repairs, DIY projects, and on the job. With so many people relying on these tools, injuries are bound to occur.

Many power tool accidents are the result of user error or inexperience. Sometimes accidents are caused by trying to use tools in ways they were not intended to be used.

When defective power tools cause accidents, the resulting injuries can be life-changing. If you are seriously injured by a dangerous power tool, you have a right to expect fair compensation from the manufacturer.

Common Dangerous Power Tools

Power tools are meant to cut and puncture through steel, wood, fiberglass, and other dense materials, so even a minor mistake can end in catastrophe.

Power tools are used safely by millions of people every day. Yet, thousands are injured by dangerous tools every day. Some of the most dangerous tools in your garage or worksite include:

Chain saws are used to cut down trees and cut up branches, and in the same way, can easily cut through an arm or leg.

There is an active recall of more than one million Harbor Freight chainsaws. The power switch can malfunction, causing the chainsaw to continue running after the switch has been turned “off.”

Table saws have a fast moving sharp blade that can easily sever fingers or a hand.

Nail guns can rapidly shoot nails with great force. There are different styles of nail guns, including pneumatic, electric, and battery-powered nail guns. High-velocity nail guns are now banned from sale in the U.S. after several horrible accidents.

Case Summary: Catastrophic Nail Gun Injury

Eugene Doran was left paralyzed from the neck down by a gun-fired nail that severed his spine. Doran was sitting in a barber’s chair on April 15, 1986, when he was hit by a three-inch nail fired from a high-velocity gun being used next door.

The worker next door, an uninsured part-time carpenter, was using a rented nail gun. The carpenter thought he was working on a concrete-backed wall when he shot the nail into the wall. The nail traveled through wood and sheetrock before striking Doran in the side of the neck.

Attorneys for Doran filed suit against the nail gun manufacturers. They also sued the rental company for renting the tool after company headquarters knew the nail gun were a safety risk.

Doran’s lawsuit settled for $15.35 million. According to the settlement, the rental company will pay approximately $11 million and about $3.25 million will be paid by the nail-gun manufacturers.

Circular saws are much like table saws, but without the stability of a table for support. Circular saws can cause serious injuries to hands, arms, and legs, including amputations.

Power drills are run by electrical cords or battery packs. A drill can cause puncture wounds, or cause electrical injuries if the user drills into live wires.

Lawnmowers are well known for injuries from the rotating blades, tipping over, and other dangers to users.

Case Summary: Defective Lawnmower Class Action

A federal judge has approved a multi-million dollar class action settlement against Sears to compensate customers who bought defective Craftsman lawnmowers.

The lawsuit alleged some models of Craftsman riding lawnmowers caught fire as a result of faulty fuel systems.

Named plaintiffs Rebecca Rysewyk, Katie Smith, and Brian Van Vooren, as well as a former plaintiff, Mary Rood, will get service awards of $10,000 each for filing the lawsuit.

Sears will offer $125 cash reimbursements to thousands of eligible lawnmower owners that could add up to nearly $1 million.

Common Power Tool Injuries

Injuries can be caused by user error, accidents, or from manufacturer’s defects in the tool. Common power tool injuries range from minor bumps to fatalities, to more serious injuries.

Common power tool injuries include:

  • Lacerations
  • Burns
  • Amputations
  • Eye injuries
  • Puncture wounds
  • Electrocution

Seeking Compensation from the Manufacturer

When a power tool has a design flaw or manufacturing defect, proper use may not be enough to prevent an injury. If you were injured while using a defective power tool, you may have the basis of a product liability claim.

You might also have a claim against the retail store where you purchased the defective tool.

In a product liability case you’ll need to show that you wouldn’t have been hurt “but for” the defect in the tool that caused your injuries.

A product liability claim usually involves one or more types of product defect:

  • Design defects are mistakes or flaws built into the equipment, like saws without safety cut-offs.
  • Manufacturing defects can occur even if the product was safely designed, but there was a mistake while the tool was being made, like loose blade guards or missing connectors.
  • Marketing defects (“Failure to Warn”) happen when the manufacturer doesn’t provide the user with enough information to safely use or maintain the equipment, like failing to specify the appropriate replacement blades for a saw.

Product liability cases can be complicated. It helps to know some of the legal terms used in injury claims.

Common legal terms:

Duty of Care is the legal obligation of the manufacturer to avoid causing harm to power tool users.

Negligence occurs when the manufacturer sells a defective power tool or fails to warn users on how to use the tool safely.

Liability means the manufacturer is responsible for damages caused by a dangerous power tool.

Damages are the losses incurred by the injured person, such as medical bills, lost wages, and pain and suffering.

Proving a Power Tool Injury Claim

If you’ve been injured by a defective power tool, and want to file a claim for damages, you have a burden of proof to win your claim.

The elements you’re required to prove are:

  1. The manufacturer and retailer had a duty to do everything reasonably possible to make and sell a safe power tool
  2. The manufacturer or retailer was negligent, and therefore breached their duty to keep you safe
  3. Their negligence was the direct cause of your injuries
  4. Your injuries resulted in compensable damages

Power tool manufacturers have a duty to do everything reasonably possible to ensure their tools don’t cause injury to users. If you can prove a product defect directly caused your injuries, you likely have a strong product liability case.

Strong Claims Have Good Evidence

Product liability claims as supported by good evidence. Start collecting evidence as soon as possible after your injury.

Photographs and video: Take plenty of photos and video of the power tool that caused your injury. If you’re on the job, ask a co-worker to use a cell phone to get pictures of the faulty tool, and the area where the accident happened. Capturing pictures of your bloody clothes, gloves, or blood on the ground can only help your claim.

Take pictures of your injuries as soon as possible. Continue to take pictures as you recover.

Witnesses: Witness statements can come from friends or family members who saw what happened, or from co-workers who are willing to write down what they witnessed.

Medical records and bills: Request copies of your medical bills and records, including emergency care, hospital records, and any follow-up care, physical therapy, or rehabilitation.

Lost wages: Ask your employer to document the wages you’ve lost because of your injuries, including overtime, bonuses, vacation and sick days.

On-the-Job Power Tool Injuries

If you’ve been injured by a power tool while working you should be eligible to file a workers’ compensation claim. Workers’ comp benefits cover your medical bills, out-of-pocket expenses, and part of your lost wages while you recover.

With workers’ comp, you won’t have to prove anyone was negligent to get your benefits. Your benefits won’t be denied even if you were partly to blame for the circumstances of your injury.

The trade-off for workers’ comp is that you won’t get your full lost wages, you won’t be paid for pain and suffering, and you are usually banned from suing your employer.

Claims Outside of Worker’s Comp

Worker’s compensation usually kicks in right away. There’s no waiting for an insurance company or jury to decide if you are eligible for benefits. Unfortunately, worker’s comp doesn’t cover everything.

You have the right to file a third-party lawsuit while you are collecting worker’s compensation benefits.

In a third-party claim or lawsuit, you can seek compensation over and above your normal workers’ comp benefits. A settlement from a third-party claim will include the full amount of your lost wages and an additional amount for your pain and suffering.

Pursuing compensation from the defective tool manufacturer is one kind of third-party claim. But many power tool injuries happen to the worker who was helping the person using the saw, drill, or another tool.

If you were injured by the misuse of a power tool by someone who didn’t work for your employer, like a sub-contractor, you could file a third-party claim.

Case Summary: Severe Hand Injury from Table Saw  

On April 19, 2005, Carlos Osorio was using a Ryobi benchtop table saw when his hand slipped and slid into the blade, causing severe injuries. At the time, Osorio worked for a contractor who repairs and installs hardwood floors.

Osorio’s attorney filed a lawsuit on his behalf against One World Technologies, the makers of Ryobi saws.

The suit claimed that Ryobi was negligent in not using available flesh-sensing technologies in their products, causing unnecessary trauma and injury to Osorio.

Flesh-sensing technology is designed to automatically turn off the saw when a hand or finger is too close to the moving saw blade.

The jury agreed, ordering Ryobi to pay $1.5 million in damages to Osorio in 2010.

Attorneys Boost Your Compensation

If you’ve recovered from minor injuries from a power tool accident, and have little or no losses, it’s probably not worth your effort to pursue a product liability claim.

Whether or not you file a claim or lawsuit, you should report the dangers of the defective power tool.

When defective power tools cause life-altering and permanent injuries, you’ll need the help of a skilled personal injury attorney to get the full amount of compensation you deserve.

Product liability lawsuits are complicated, high-dollar cases. Companies that make and sell power tools are powerful corporations with an army of lawyers ready to fight claimants like you.

One of their favorite tricks is to point the finger of blame at the injured person.

How Shared Negligence Affects Your Claim

If you were injured in Alabama, Maryland, North Carolina, Virginia, or the District of Columbia, the manufacturer’s attorneys could use pure contributory negligence to defeat your claim. They only have to convince the jury you were as little as one percent at fault for your injuries.

Other states aren’t as harsh. However, you’ll still need an attorney to protect your right to compensation, or the defense lawyers will use comparative fault rules against you.

In comparative fault states, your compensation is reduced according to your share of the blame. In some comparative fault states, you can lose your right to compensation if you are equally to blame (called the 50% rule) or more to blame (called the 51% rule) for the circumstances of your injuries.

Your attorney will work hard to get you the maximum compensation you deserve, even when you might have contributed to the circumstance leading to your injuries.

What You Need to Know About Subrogation

Subrogation is a legal term used in insurance law. It means if you were injured by the negligence of another, like a power tool manufacturer, your insurance company has the right to recover what they paid on your behalf from any settlement you collect from the negligent party.

If you were injured on the job, you’ve probably been collecting workers’ compensation benefits. When you win your third-party case against the tool manufacturer, workers’ comp will have to be reimbursed for the medical bills and wages they paid on your behalf.

If Medicaid, Medicare, or private insurance covered your medical expenses, the insurer has a right to ask for repayment if you win your injury case.

Your attorney can handle workers’ comp subrogation and negotiate your medical liens.

If you’ve suffered a serious power tool injury, don’t be afraid to go after the compensation you deserve for your losses. Contact an experienced personal injury attorney to discuss the value of your claim.

Power Tool Injury Questions & Answers

Charles R. Gueli, Esq. is a personal injury attorney with over 20 years of legal experience. He’s admitted to the NY State Bar, and been named a Super Lawyer for the NY Metro area, an exclusive honor awarded to the top five percent of attorneys. Charles has worked extensively in the areas of auto accidents,... Read More >>