Most of us use dozens of products every day without giving much thought to their safety. We assume that the manufacturer has made them safe for us to use.

But sometimes, products malfunction and cause injuries. Or they injure people because there are no warnings about potential dangers.

When that happens, the injured may have a products liability claim. Products liability cases seek to hold the people who created and sold a product responsible for the harm it caused.

There are three basic types of products liability claims. One, two, or all three of them may be involved in a single lawsuit.

Design Defects

A design defect occurs when a product has design flaw that causes it to injure people. In a design defect case, the entire product line is defective, even if nothing went wrong in the manufacturing process.

Perhaps the most famous design defect was the 1970s Ford Pinto. The Pinto had a defective fuel line that would explode if a car was rear-ended. More recent cases have involved SUVs that tend to roll over in an accident and drugs that have been rushed to market without proper testing.

To recover damages in a design defect case, the plaintiff must show not only that the design was defective, but also that he or she was injured as a result of that defect. A plaintiff couldn't recover damages based on the defective fuel line in the rear of the Pinto if her injuries occurred because she was driving drunk and the front of her car hit a tree.

Manufacturing Defects

As the name implies, a manufacturing defect occurs when something goes wrong in the production process. Remember the lady who sued McDonalds because her coffee was too hot? That was a manufacturing defect: McDonalds made the coffee so hot that it caused burns when spilled.

Other manufacturing defect cases have involved tainted food or medicine and defective automobile tires.

As with design defects, the injury must have been caused by the manufacturing defect, not by errors or actions on the part of the user.

Failure to Provide Warnings or Instructions

When a product presents hazards that are not readily apparent, the manufacturer may be held liable for failing to warn of those dangers.

Examples of this type of claim include cases where drug companies failed to include proper warnings of possible side effects. Other cases involve failure to warn of maximum weight limits or the dangers of household chemicals, power tools and electric appliances.

Often, all three types of claims are alleged in a single products liability case. The lawyers who file the case don't usually know why the product injured their client. They need time to investigate the manufacturer's records and have the product tested by an expert. Only then is it clear whether there is evidence of a design or manufacturing defect, or whether the manufacturer knew about a hazard and should have placed warnings on the product.