If your small business manufactures products, you need to think about product liability insurance. No matter how good your designs are, or how polished your quality assurance strategy is, there’s a chance one of your products could come to harm a customer. And if that happens, your customer could contact a personal injury attorney and bring a case against you. Personal injury cases are somewhat common, and could cost you hundreds of thousands, if not millions of dollars if you’re not protected.
Product liability insurance coverage could protect you in the event of such a case. But what exactly is it, how does it work, and how are you supposed to get it?
The Basics of Product Liability Coverage
Let’s start with a high-level overview of product liability insurance. While different carriers and different policies will afford you different types and levels of protection, most product liability coverage is designed to shield your business from the fallout of a company-produced product that causes injury or harm to third parties.
Product liability insurance typically covers the legal fees associated with any product liability lawsuit, as well as medical costs, compensatory damages, and business damages that arise from the incident.
How Products Can Fail
How does a business become liable for a harmful product?
There are four main ways consumers can be harmed:
• Design flaws. If your product is designed in some flawed way, and the consumer gets hurt because of it, they could have a case against you. For example, if you create a deep fryer product with a locking mechanism to prevent burns, but that locking mechanism is weak or easily overridden, a customer could get burned as a result of using the product.
• Manufacturing flaws. There could also be manufacturing flaws. The design itself might be practically perfect, but if a batch of products are made with an incorrect material, or aren’t made to specifications, they could still fail in a way that harms a consumer; for example, a skateboard with a loose wheel might cause someone to fall.
• Marketing flaws. Your product could also be marketed or advertised in a way that eventually leads to consumer harm. If you falsely advertise the capabilities of your product, and a consumer follows them and hurts themselves in the process, they could hypothetically sue you. The same is true if you claim there are no downsides to a product that has downsides.
• Misuse. Even if a consumer misuses your product, your company may still be held at fault. For example, if you don’t specifically warn a customer that misuse could lead to harm, and caution them against specific forms of misuse, they could ultimately bring a case against you.
As you can see, there are many ways your products could lead to a customer getting hurt—and some of them are hard to see coming. While you can implement safeguards at every stage of the process, there’s always going to be a chance that one of your products fails in some unseen, unpredictable way.
The Extent of Damages
You may wonder if you truly need product liability insurance. After all, in the unlikely event that a product fails, you may be able to cover the costs yourself. However, this is extremely risky. The costs of a single product liability case can be devastating, and if you face a class-action lawsuit, or multiple lawsuits, there may be no chance of recovery. Remember, you could be responsible not only for compensating the customer for their injury and their pain and suffering, but also for covering the legal fees of both sides.
Some cases can cost millions, or even tens of millions of dollars.
Product Liability Insurance Rates
Most product liability insurance policies require you to pay a monthly, or other type of regular premium for your coverage. These rates will vary based on a number of factors, including the size of your business, the type of product you’re manufacturing, the extent of your distribution, and how much coverage you desire. Some insurance companies may also want to conduct inspections, reviewing the design and manufacturing of your product firsthand so they have a better sense of your safety standards.
Still, product liability insurance rates are typically reasonable. Shop around for the right insurance provider, and consider bundling your product liability insurance policy with other policies to lower your rates even further.
If your business designs or manufacturers products, product liability insurance is a practical must. It’s easy to get a policy, and most policies are relatively inexpensive, but this safety net could save you from shelling out millions as a result of an unforeseen product flaw. No matter how safe your operations are, or how many supervisory checks you conduct, there’s always going to be a chance that someone is injured while using your product—and that’s when your policy will kick in.