If you’ve been injured by a defective power tool at home or at work, you may be able to seek compensation from the manufacturer.
Over 418,000 people visit the emergency room annually due to power tool accidents, with nearly 200 fatalities.¹
Manufacturers are liable for injuries caused by a defect in the power tool. Whether at home or on the job, you have a right to pursue compensation for damages arising from defective tool injuries.
Common Injuries Caused by Power Tools
We use power tools for home repairs and on the job. With so many people relying on these tools, injuries are bound to occur. Power tools are meant to cut and penetrate steel, wood, fiberglass, and other dense materials, so even a minor mistake can end in catastrophe.
Injuries can be caused by user error, accidents, or manufacturer defects in the tool. According to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) power tool injuries can range from minor cuts to life-altering or even fatal injuries.
5 Types of Injuries Caused by Power Tools
- Electric Shock – May result in burns, electrocution, heart arrhythmias, and falls from high places
- Eye Injuries – Flying debris or broken pieces of equipment may strike the user’s face and eyes
- Lacerations– Unprotected blades or jagged surfaces can cut into skin, muscle, and bone
- Amputations – Catastrophic lacerations or crushing injuries can result in the loss of fingers, toes, or limbs
- Puncture Wounds – Puncture wounds can lead to infection, including tetanus. Puncture wounds resulting from high-velocity projectiles (like nails) can cause injuries similar to bullet wounds.
Types of Power Tools with High Risk of Injuries
Construction workers aren’t the only ones who regularly use dangerous tools and equipment. Home repairs, DIY projects, and landscaping are all activities made faster and easier with the right power tools. Here are some of the potentially dangerous tools you might have at home, as well as on the job site.
1. Table and Hand Saws
- Table saws have a fast-moving sharp blade that can easily sever fingers or a hand.
- 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.
- 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 a 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.”)
- Pole saws are a variation of chain saw used to reach high branches for cutting. (More than 100,000 Kobalt Electric Pole Saws have been recalled due to laceration hazards.)
2. Nail Guns and Power Drills
- 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.
- 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 was 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.
3. Lawn and Yard Care Tools
- Lawn Trimmers, commonly known as weed whackers, cause an average of 1,000 injuries each year, with nearly half of those injuries to the eye, in addition to contusions and lacerations. Most trimmer injuries result from flying foreign objects, flung at high speed by the trimmer’s rotating string or blades.
- Leaf Blowers are often used to clear leaves and grass clippings from sidewalks and patio areas. Numerous reports have been filed with the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) about exploding motors and disintegrating blower blades injuring users.
- Lawnmowers are well known for injuries from the rotating blades, tipping over, and other dangers to users.
Case Example: Defective Mower 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 must offer $125 cash reimbursements to thousands of eligible lawnmower owners which could add up to nearly $1 million.
Seeking Compensation from the Manufacturer
Manufacturers aren’t liable for user inexperience or trying to use tools in ways they were not intended to be used.
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 product.
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 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. 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 to the Consumer Products Safety Commision (CDSC).
When defective power tools cause permanent injuries, you’ll need the help of a skilled personal injury attorney to get the full amount of compensation you deserve.
Manufacturer Liability Lawsuits Are Complicated
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 claims against the company.
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 product liability attorney to discuss the value of your claim. Most injury attorneys offer a free consultation to the injured party or their family.
Look for an established law firm specializing in product liability injuries, with the financial stability to advance the cost of document discovery, medical experts, and numerous witness depositions.
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 negotiate your medical liens, so you end up with more in your pocket after your claim is settled.
How Shared Negligence Affects Your Claim
Aggressive corporate defense lawyers are quick to point the finger of blame at the injured person.
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.
Most states have modified comparative fault rules, so you can still claim damages. However, you’ll need an attorney to protect your right to compensation, or the defense lawyers will use comparative fault rules to reduce or eliminate your potential compensation.
Your attorney will work hard to get you the maximum compensation you deserve, even if you might have contributed to the circumstance leading to your injuries.
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 to meet a burden of proof.
You need to prove these elements:
- The manufacturer and retailer had a duty to do everything reasonably possible to make and sell a safe power tool
- The manufacturer or retailer was negligent, and therefore breached their duty to keep you safe
- Their negligence was the direct cause of your injuries
- Your injuries resulted in verifiable and compensable damages
Strong Claims Have Good Evidence
Product liability claims are 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 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 after the accident and throughout your recovery.
- 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 verify 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, injured workers don’t have to prove anyone was negligent to get 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
Workers’ compensation medical benefits kick in right away, followed by wage benefits. There’s no waiting for an insurance company or jury to decide if you are eligible for benefits. Unfortunately, workers’ comp doesn’t cover pain and suffering.
You have the right to file a third-party lawsuit while you are collecting workers’ 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 pain and suffering.
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.
Case Example: 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.
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Power Tool Injury Questions
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