In the past decade, smartphones have become an essential feature of our lives. We use these phones to stay in contact via text message, find out-of-the-way locations or stores via GPS, have face-to-face conversations with friends or family members and even check sports scores regularly to see how our favorite baseball or football team is doing.
The average American checks their phone 80 times a day. That equals once every 12 minutes. Over 30 percent of those surveyed feel regular anxiety when separated from their phones for even a few minutes, and over 60 percent reported occasional stress when separated from their phones. Four in 10 Americans would prefer to lose their voice for a day rather than not be able to use their phone for 24 hours.
When a device becomes such an essential part of our lives, their failures to perform properly can have a dramatic effect.
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Who Has Responsibility for a Faulty Smartphone?
Smartphones make the news when they cause serious injuries, such as burns, facial harm or other issues. When these incidents happen, phone manufacturers can be held accountable if:
1. Smartphones Are Poorly Designed
Poor design for smartphones can include parts or design elements that can overheat because of too much stress on computer chips or other parts. If this is the case and the design flaw leads directly to an injury, a smartphone manufacturer and other liable parties may be held responsible.+
2. Smartphones Are Incorrectly Manufactured
If due care is not taken during the manufacturing process and this results in incorrectly manufactured phones, smartphone product liability may fall on the manufacturer. For example, if a product is manufactured with loose casing or if an error on the production line leads to components which are not properly aligned, it could cause leaks, overheating or other problems. The cell phone manufacturer may be held liable if the product causes an injury.
3. Smartphones Are Sold Without Adequate Warnings, Labels or Instructions
If a smartphone is not correctly labeled and does not come with adequate warnings about electric shock, the dangers of removing the back or alerts about other dangers, consumers may have a claim against the smartphone manufacturer if the lack of warnings and proper instructions leads to direct injury.
Problems With Apple iPhones
Apple iPhones have had a long history of problems since their introduction in 2007. In 2010, unhappy Apple customers sued the company over the iPhone 4 and its tendency to drop calls.
Apple also had severe problems with the iPhone 6 and 6 Plus. Consumers complained that their phones became unresponsive to their touch, which was known as “touch disease” or “Bendgate.” With touch disease, if the phone was flexed or bent to any degree at all – as you would do if you were putting it in your pocket or a protective case – it caused a tiny soldered ball placed under the smartphone screen to crack. This made the phone’s touchscreens inoperable.
Apple at first refused to acknowledge the problem and often charged customers to replace their phones or gave them refurbished models that suffered from the same problem. The result was many unhappy customers who filed lawsuits in federal courts in both the United States and Canada.
While a federal judge refused to certify a lawsuit as class-action, the court did require Apple to present documents about internal testing which revealed that Apple was aware of this design problem before it launched the phones. The documents show that the iPhone 6 was 3.3 times more likely to bend as the iPhone 5 and the iPhone 6 Plus was 7.2 times more likely to bend. Apple eventually announced it would replace the phones for $149 instead of the $349 it had initially charged customers for fixing the problem. Apple has still officially refused to acknowledge the issue. The lawsuit is ongoing.
Meanwhile, Apple is facing a new round of lawsuits over the issue of battery life. Several dozen iPhone users have filed lawsuits against Apple accusing the company of slowing down the batteries in its phones as a way to encourage people to buy the latest models of iPhones. While legal experts say it is always more difficult for a plaintiff to win a lawsuit involving a manufacturing issue, it could force companies like Apple to be more transparent about how its software or hardware affects the performance of the phone.
This time the lawsuits were certified as class-action, and the case is currently underway in a Northern California court.
Problems With Samsung Galaxy Phones
While Samsung has also faced some complaints about throttling battery life on phones, it is perhaps best known for the 2016 controversial Galaxy Note 7 and the numerous phones that overheated and caught fire. Due to this problem, many airlines banned the phone from domestic and international flights. In this case, Samsung was forced to confront the problem head-on. It issued to voluntary recalls and almost 2 million phones needed to be collected and recycled.
Regardless of Samsung’s recalls, it was subject to several lawsuits based on injuries suffered by Galaxy Note 7 users who were hurt by exploding phones.
Smart Phones and Distracted Driving
While smartphones have contributed to our lives in many positive ways, they have also created new dangers with distracted driving. We have all probably seen another driver on the highway either checking their smartphone or texting while driving. In 2010, the National Safety Council said that drivers who were distracted because of cell phone use were responsible for more than 1.6 million crashes every year. Crashes that result in fatalities also have risen by about 10 percent as a result of distracted driving.
Sadly, texting while driving has resulted in the deaths of many people, and some question whether smartphone manufacturers are responsible for distracted driving. In other words, did they have a “duty of care” for people who were injured or killed by drivers who were using their smartphones while driving?
When someone files a negligence claim — which would be the kind of claim filed in a distracted driving lawsuit — there are four elements to that claim:
- Breach of duty
- Cause in fact
So even if a smartphone manufacturer owed a duty of care to someone injured or killed by a distracted driver using a smartphone, the injured party or their survivors they would need to show that the manufacturer breached that duty. It would also need to show that the manufacturer caused the accident.
So far, cases in Texas and Northern California have been dismissed because plaintiffs were unable to prove that using a smartphone caused the accidents that killed two people. There is an issue, however, that may change the likelihood of these kinds of lawsuits succeeding in the future. That issue concerns the ability of smartphone manufacturers to turn off phones while people are driving. Manufacturers currently have the technology to be able to do that but so far have not implemented it.
If smartphone manufacturers continue to delay the use of this technology that could prevent hundreds of distracted driving accidents across the United States, it is possible that lawsuits might succeed on these grounds.
Can You Still File a Lawsuit If Your Phone Is Out of Warranty?
You can likely file a lawsuit even if your phone is past its warranty date. Most manufacturers will include a warranty booklet, also known as an express warranty or a guarantee when you purchase a smartphone. But any comment made by a manufacturer or retailer in any form of media or elsewhere is also a form of express warranty. For instance, suppose a retailer or manufacturer makes certain statements about its products, but you only receive a one- or two-year express warranty. After the warranty has expired, your product fails in some way that the manufacturer said would not happen in print or some other form of media, you might be able to get a replacement, a repair or even have your money refunded.
Many states also offer an implied warranty. It is an unwritten guarantee for consumer products. It states that products will function without problems and be free of serious defects for a “reasonable period of time,” which is normally considered four years. Manufacturers can get around this sometimes by saying that there is no implied warranty. Therefore it is always important to read the warranty information that you receive with your smartphone
If your phone explodes after the warranty expires but the smartphone manufacturer has claimed in its advertising that its phones will not explode anymore or if it happens before an implied warranty has expired, you might have the right to launch a lawsuit. In this case, however, it is important to call a specialist in personal injury lawsuits who can advise you about the next steps.
Can You File a Lawsuit If Your Phone Is Leased?
Since smartphones can be quite expensive, many manufacturers are now offering consumers the options of leasing their phones. The consumer pays a set amount per month to use the phone which is technically still owned by the manufacturer. When the lease expires, depending upon the kind of lease signed by the customer, they will either own the phone outright, have the option of buying the phone or of leasing a newer model of phone. The idea is similar to the way you would lease a car.
The issues that surround a leased phone are different than when you own the phone. If your leased phone explodes and you are injured, your best option is to call an experienced personal injury attorney immediately. They can help determine if the facts of your case are strong enough for you to file a lawsuit.
What Do You Need for Your Lawsuit Against a Smart Phone Manufacturer to Be Legitimate?
We use smartphones so much these days that, if you are wary of using one after you have been injured by a malfunctioning smartphone, it could have an immediate impact on your personal or business affairs.
In any case involving a personal injury, you need to be able to show that your injury was caused by the negligence of the other party. This includes detailed medical evidence from medical experts who can talk about the extent of your injuries as well as statements from those close to you on how this injury has affected your day-to-day life. You may also consider the services of an accident reconstruction specialist who can talk about how and why your injury occurred.
Expert witness testimony can also play an important role. For instance, in a lawsuit over a faulty smartphone, it’s good to have someone who can serve as a “bridge” to a more technical expert who can speak in detail about problems with the phone. An expert witness might be a repair technician who is very familiar with the smartphone problems because they are fixing them constantly.
In almost every case where you have been injured by an exploding or malfunctioning smartphone, you should contact a lawyer immediately. A personal injury lawyer can advise you on whether you have a legitimate case, and if you do, they can help you prepare and gather the evidence needed.
If You Have Been Injured by a Smartphone Malfunction, Contact KGB Injury Law
While it is possible to file a claim against a cell phone manufacturer if a smartphone causes an injury, proving smartphone product liability can be challenging. In many cases, phone manufacturers outsource design and manufacturing or may blame the consumer for incorrectly using the smartphone.
If you have been injured by a smartphone, contact KGB Injury Law for a free consultation. Our attorneys can review your case to help you determine whether you have a claim. You can call us at 1-800-509-1011 or contact us online to leave us your contact information and tell us a bit about your situation. A member of our team will get back to you as soon as possible.