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Products Liability Lawyer in South Carolina: Understanding Design Defects

Though we typically trust that the products that we buy are what they say they are and will perform the way they promise, flawed or imperfect products are sometimes released to the public. One of the ways in which a product can be flawed is due to a design defect. A design defect means that a given product was manufactured correctly according to the specifications, but there was something wrong with the design itself that makes the product dangerous to consumers.

If you believe you or a loved one was hurt due to a design defect, our product liability attorney in Charleston, Dorchester, and Berkeley County can help. We at Miller Law, LLC understand the complexities that go into proving a design defect. We will fight to get you the compensation you deserve. Call my office at 843-822-1311 or simply fill out the contact form to schedule a Free Consultation today.

What Constitutes a Design Defect in Charleston, Dorchester, and Berkeley County?

Design defects are one of three types of defects in product liability cases: (1) design defects, manufacturing defects, and marketing defects. Design defects are inherent, meaning the defect exists before the product was ever made, and once made, is present in each line as opposed to a particular batch or unit like what could happen in manufacturing defects. The product may function as designed but may be unreasonably dangerous to the user or consumer. 

When a product contains a defect in the design, it can cause significant injury and harm. In some cases, a design defect could signal that the manufacturer either (1) did not properly test their product before sale; or (2) ignored the design defect and had the product made anyway.

Examples of design defects in past or current products include:

  • Products that are unusually dangerous but intended for children, like some toys that include choking hazards
  • Products like a helmet that cracks or breaks from a small impact
  • Unstable structures, such as tables or chairs that collapse
  • Mechanical defects on cars and trucks
  • An improperly designed safety guard on a power tool that does not prevent injuries
  • Structurally unstable products, such as a chest of drawers or table that can topple over
  • A piece of clothing or furniture that is unduly flammable
  • Products prone to melting, like an electric appliance that melts when turned on the high setting
  • Products that do not adequately protect against toxic or dangerous liquids, like the placement of improper lids on poisonous substances
  • Mechanical defects in the design of cars and other vehicles, like top-heavy cars that flip over during sharp turns

The remedy for many of these defects could be or could have been simple. Warning labels are a way to highlight the dangers of product usage. In many instances, however, the product could have been made with a safer design.  

Who Can Be Held Liable for a Design Defect Claim?

In product liability cases, any person or entity along the supply chain involved in the manufacture, assembly, and distribution of goods can be held accountable. Typically, in design defect cases, it is only the company that designed the product who is held liable for any defect and subsequent damages caused by the defect.

Liability is typically based on three theories: negligence, strict liability, or breach of warranty of fitness.

Negligence. This theory states that a person or entity failed to behave with the care that someone of ordinary prudence would have behaved in the same circumstances. It also includes omissions to act when there is a duty to act––for example, to ensure user safety. Under negligence, the company either knew or should have known the consumer was at risk when using the product.

Strict Liability. Under this theory, the manufacturer is held liable regardless of any effort to make the product safe. Negligence or fault does not need to be proven, but you would have to show that the product's risks outweigh the benefits. Under this theory, the focus is on the product and not the actions of the company.

Breach of Warranty of Fitness. This claim is brought against a seller of the product who expressed or implied that a product can be used in a particular way but when used in that way, it injures the consumer. 

Proving a Design Defect in South Carolina

Design defect cases can quickly become very complicated because they often involve a high-level technical analysis of a given product and the processes used to create it. At the core, though, most victims of a product's design defect will need to prove that an alternative design for that product exists and that it is economically feasible.

There are two standards that courts often consider when proving a claim:

  1. Consumer expectations' standard, which determines whether a reasonable consumer would expect the danger posed by the product; and
  2. Risk-utility standard, which determines whether the risks of using the current product are higher than the costs of an alternative design.  

Proving a product liability claim based on design defect will boil down to showing the following via evidence like photos, video, expert testimony, layperson testimony, and the like:

  • The product's design is dangerous for its intended use.
  • The product was manufactured as designed.
  • An alternative design would make the product much safer.
  • The alternative design or design modification would enable the product to perform just as well or in the same manner for which it was intended.
  • The cost of making the safer design was not cost-prohibitive.
  • You used the product as intended.
  • You suffered an injury when using the product as intended.

What Defenses Are There to Design Defect Claims inCharleston, Dorchester, and Berkeley County?

Opposing attorneys in a design defect may have several types of defenses, like modification, misuse, and assumption of risk.


Product manufacturers are liable for the products that they create, but an accident victim might break the chain of liability if they modify the product after purchasing it. For example, someone who was injured by a lawnmower can likely not hold the lawnmower manufacturer liable if they outfitted it with an after-market engine and blade.


Obviously, every product is designed with a specific purpose in mind. Some products may be perfectly safe when used in this designated way but pose an extreme risk of injury when used incorrectly. If someone is injured while using a product in a way that it is clearly not intended to be used, then there might not be any compensation available through a design defect claim.

Assumption of Risk

Sometimes, using certain products, even in the way that they are intended to be used, can be risky. In these cases, an attorney for a product manufacturer may argue that the user of that product assumed the risk when they picked up the product.

Why Should I Hire a Product Liability and Personal Injury Attorney in Charleston, Dorchester, and Berkeley County?

Given the many defenses that are available to product manufacturers and their attorneys, it is important to have an experienced attorney on your side to make sure that your case is handled expertly and efficiently. 

Hiring the right attorney is the best way to give yourself and your family the best possible shot at receiving maximum compensation for your injuries.

Contact a Design Defect Lawyer in South Carolina Today

This is where the expertise of Miller Law, LLC comes in to help you. We know what to look for and how to prove a design defect was the root cause of your pain and suffering. Call Miller Law, LLC today at 843-822-1311 or fill out my online contact form to schedule a Free Consultation.

Contact Me Today

Miller Law, LLC is committed to answering your questions about Personal Injury, Wrongful Death, Catastrophic Injury, Criminal Defense, and Bad Faith Insurance Disputes issues in South Carolina. We offer a free consultation and will gladly discuss your case with you at your convenience. Contact me today to schedule an appointment.