A business could face a wrongful death lawsuit if a product that it made or sold resulted in someone's death. Product liability insurance can protect your business from legal expenses, reputational damage, and other fallout.
Who could be affected by a wrongful death lawsuit?
A wrongful death lawsuit occurs when someone dies because of something a business did or failed to do. That could include:
- A product failed to work properly
- Inadequate safety warnings led someone to misuse a product
- An accident you couldn't have foreseen led to a tragedy
Whatever the cause, ultimately, a wrongful death means that product liability could fall on any number of involved parties, including:
In short, anyone in the supply chain could potentially be sued. Say a tainted vitamin supplement leads to wrongful death. The maker of the vitamin can be sued, but so can the supplement store, the dietitian who recommended it, and any supplier who may have given the manufacturer tainted vitamins.
How a wrongful death lawsuit could impact your small business
A wrongful death lawsuit could have a huge impact on your business in direct and indirect ways:
- You may have substantial legal costs.
- You may face negative publicity.
- You may need to recall the product that led to the wrongful death.
What types of damages are involved in a wrongful death claim?
Say you're a manufacturer that makes bicycle seats. Unbeknownst, your supplier switches materials and you end up using a lower-quality metal that snaps more easily. You're sued in a wrongful death lawsuit when a cyclist dies after a seat post snaps and the cyclist is thrown into traffic.
In a wrongful death lawsuit, there are three types of damage you can be sued for:
Economic damages. If family members of the deceased stand to lose a portion of their financial security, they can sue for that loss. For example, if a parent dies, his children could sue for the loss of their parent's income.
Non-economic damages. In a wrongful death lawsuit, survivors can sue for pain and suffering, emotional distress, and missed future enjoyments. Spouses could sue for grief as well as loss of the life they had planned with their significant other.
Punitive damages. If a court feels the manufacturer (or other party) was especially reckless, it can levy punitive damages, which punish the party at fault by making it pay more.
Your product liability insurance may cover each of these. However, it's worth noting that some product liability policies don't cover punitive / statutory damages. Some policies may also cap the amount of punitive damages they'll cover.
Check with your insurance agent if punitive damages are covered in your policy. Even if they’re not, remember that these damages are typically only imposed in the most reckless of wrongful death cases.
Does product liability insurance cover wrongful death suits?
Product liability insurance (included with general liability insurance) may cover wrongful death lawsuits. When a flaw in your product leads to customer injury or wrongful death, product liability insurance can help pay for:
- Attorney's fees
- Economic and non-economic damages
- Punitive damages
- Settlement costs
- Expert witness fees
- Miscellaneous court costs
No matter where you are on the supply chain, product liability insurance can offer key protection for small business owners.
How to get product liability insurance
Product liability insurance is typically included with general liability insurance. This policy provides basic lawsuit protection for small businesses over third-party lawsuits concerning:
- Bodily injuries
- Property damage
- Advertising injuries
In addition to wrongful death and product liability issues, small business owners get basic coverage for common business liabilities.
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