Yes, it is possible for a cell phone to cause injuries to the user. As cell phones become more widely used, reports of injuries related to cell phone use are becoming more common. Although many phone related injuries are a result of texting while driving, other cell phone personal injuries arise when:
- A severe burn is caused by overheating;
- A battery explodes;
- A fire is caused by overheating;
- Similar issues to the above issues related to cell phone charging devices; or
- Other types of incidents.
A cell phone battery explosion occurs when a battery or battery pack combusts, causing injuries, property damage, and other issues. In many cases, a batter explosion occurs because of overheating. This can also cause severe burns if the user is holding the phone at the time of combustion.
Explosions, however, can have other causes such as chemical combustion, or combustion of a nearby electrical component. Overheating or explosion of any component may cause a fire and injure the user or damage property.
Texting while driving is extremely dangerous because a driver’s eyes and focus are diverted from the road for a substantial amount of time. Many accidents occur due to distracted driving, usually including texting and driving. Even a short diversion of attention from the road may be a hazard for drivers and passengers in any setting. Common texting and driving accidents include:
- A rear-end collision, where a driver accidentally hits the rear of the car in front of them while texting;
- Whiplash injuries, often the result of a rear-end collision;
- Accidents wherein a driver did not see another vehicle in time, including pedestrian-vehicle accidents, and accidents involving motorcycles or bicycles;
- Head-on collisions where one driver has drifted into oncoming traffic while texting.
Another common occurrence is when a driver is texting at a stop light. In these cases, the traffic light may have turned green while the driver is still stopped because they were looking down at their phone and texting instead of up at the traffic light. This can lead to a rear-end collision if the car is stopped in traffic when it should be proceeding forward.
What Legal Issues Arise from Cell Phone Injuries?
Depending on the type of injury that occurs, there may be a variety of causes of action available to an individual who is injured by a cell phone. These include:
- Product liability;
- Negligence; or
If an individual has been burned, shocked, or otherwise severely injured as a result of a cell phone or part of a cell phone exploding or catching fire, they may be able to sue the manufacturer of the cell phone or the defective part of the phone under a product liability theory. There are generally three different product defect categories:
- Design defects;
- Manufacturing defects; and
- Warning defects.
A design defect occurs when a portion of the cell phone’s design makes the product unsafe. For example, if the battery is too close to a circuit, making the battery hotter than usual, and the phone catches on fire as a result of that design, there is a design defect.
A manufacturing defect occurs when a cell phone was designed in a safe manner but the manufacturing process was faulty. For example, if a wire is not soldered properly within the cell phone, it may cause the phone to fail, which is likely a manufacturing defect.
A warning defect occurs when there is an issue with the warning information or labeling accompanying a cell phone product. If the cell phone does not have the proper warning labels regarding health and safety risks, or if the warning labels used are difficult to read or understand, the manufacturer may be held liable for resulting injuries.
A second cause of action that may be available to an individual injured by a cell phone is negligence. For example, an individual who is injured by texting and driving may have a claim for damages to compensate for their injuries under the legal theory of negligence.
Negligence requires the individual who is injured to show three main elements:
- The defendant’s breach of duty caused their injury or injuries;
- The breach of duty was the direct cause of their injuries; and
- The injuries resulted in measurable damages.
An example of negligence is when an individual disregards their duty to drive safely by driving while intoxicated, causing an accident which results in severe injuries.
A third possible cause of action that may be available to an individual injured by a cell phone is recklessness. In some states, texting and driving is considered reckless because of its inherent danger. A charge of recklessness may increase the damages awarded as well as include possible punitive damages. Punitive damages are generally awarded as a deterrent for future similar behavior from the defendant.
What are the Legal Remedies Available in a Cell Phone Injury Lawsuit?
Some cell phone injuries may be severe and require legal action to fully compensate the injured individual’s losses. Generally, the legal remedy will be an award of damages, known as compensatory damages.
Damages are a monetary amount awarded to the injured individual to compensate them for their losses or costs. Costs or losses may include:
- Medical bills;
- Hospital bills;
- Lost wages during recovery;
- Loss of future income;
- Pain and suffering; or
- Compensation for other costs.
Cases that involve extremely negligent, reckless, or intentional conduct may result in punitive damages. As noted above, these types of damages are above and beyond compensatory damages and are awarded to deter similar behavior in the future.
If a cell phone or cell phone product is determined to be dangerous to the public, the manufacturer may issue a product recall. If a merchant distributes or sells recalled cell phone products, they may face liability if injuries result from the use of those recalled products.
Are There any Defenses Available in a Cell Phone Injury Lawsuit?
Yes, as with any injury lawsuit, there may be defenses available in a cell phone injury lawsuit. The defenses available will vary depending on the circumstances.
Contributory negligence is a common defense to product liability claims. Under this legal theory, the defense argues that the injured individual’s own negligence contributed in some manner to their injury or injuries. For example, if an individual is aware a product has been recalled and is dangerous, yet continues to use it, their ability to collect damages may be affected because their own conduct was a contributing factor to their injury or injuries.
Depending on the jurisdiction, the individual’s damages may be lessened, or they may be completely prevented from collecting damages altogether. Other available defenses, including consent or other legal defense theories may apply, depending on the facts of the case.
Should I Seek Legal Advice?
Yes, if you or someone you know has been injured by a cell phone, it is important to seek the assistance of a class action lawyer as soon as possible. Product liability and negligence lawsuits can be extremely complicated. An attorney in your area can help review your case, determine if you have a claim, and file a lawsuit to compensate you for your injuries. A lawyer will also represent you during any court proceedings, if necessary.
They can also assist if you have been injured by someone texting and driving. A driver who was texting may face civil liability as well as criminal charges.