Chainsaws are power tools generally used for cutting wood and other similar tasks. Because of the unavoidably dangerous nature of chainsaws, the use of a chainsaw can sometimes result in accident and injury. Chainsaw injuries are generally severe, such as serious lacerations or loss of body parts.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (“CDC”), as of 2020 approximately 36,000 people per year are injured by chainsaws. The most common hazards that are associated with chainsaws are injuries caused by:
- Kickback: The most common and posing the greatest hazard, kickback occurs when the rotating chain is suddenly stopped by contact with a more solid area. This throws the saw rapidly backward, towards the chainsaw’s operator;
- Pushback: This occurs when the chain located on the top of the bar is suddenly stopped due to being pinched. Pushback also occurs when the chain is caught, or comes into contact with a foreign object in the wood it is cutting, such as a nail. This reaction can drive the chainsaw quickly towards the operator, causing them to lose control; and
- Pull-In: Pull-in refers to when the chain located on the bottom of the bar suddenly stops due to the aforementioned circumstances. In response, the chain pulls the saw forward, causing the operator to lose control of the tool.
In terms of specific chainsaw injuries, the operator’s hands and lower extremities are the most frequently injured. Less than 10% of the annual reported chainsaw accidents involve injuries to the head and neck area. Additionally, deaths resulting from using a chainsaw are considerably rare.
To put it more specifically, 70% of chainsaw injuries occur on the following bodily locations:
- Hands and fingers;
- Lower leg and ankle; and
- Upper leg.
The majority of these injuries were lacerations.
Can I Claim Negligence For a Chainsaw Injury?
Who can be held liable for chainsaw injuries depends largely on the nature of the injury. An example of this would be how the operator of a chainsaw can be held liable for injuries to others, if they operated the tool with negligence or in a reckless manner. Such circumstances can happen in a work situation in which the chainsaw’s operator disregards the safety rules and practices that are associated with their particular work industry.
Under other circumstances, a supervisor or other similar party may be held liable for injuries to a worker or other team member. An example of this would be if they give incorrect or erroneous instructions regarding the operation of the tool. Another instance would be if they are negligent in terms of the upkeep and maintenance of the tool.
A person is considered to be negligent if they acted carelessly given the circumstances, or if they failed to act as any ordinarily prudent person would have under the same circumstances. In order to recover any sort of damages under a negligence claim, the injured party must prove the following four elements:
- Duty: As applied to the legal theory of negligence, duty refers to the responsibility that one person owes to another. Generally speaking, people owe each other a duty of reasonable care; meaning, the amount of care that any ordinary and reasonably prudent person would utilize in the same situation;
- Breach Of Duty: In order to assert negligence, the plaintiff will need to prove that not only did the defendant owe them a duty of care, but also breached that duty in some way. A breach occurs when a person’s care falls below the level required by their duty. In terms of chainsaw injuries specifically, the defendant may be held liable for the plaintiff’s injuries if the defendant was aware of an issue with the tool but did not tell the plaintiff about it prior to lending them the tool;
- Causation: Very simply put, the defendant’s breach of their duty must be the actual cause of the plaintiff’s injuries. The legal test for causation essentially asserts that “but for” one party’s actions, the injury would not have occurred; and
- Damages: Finally, the plaintiff must prove that actual damages did in fact occur as a result of the defendant’s negligence. The type of harm that occurred can vary from property damage to lost wages.
What About a Defective Products Claim For Chainsaw Injury?
Alternatively, you may have a case under defective products legal theory. Product liability refers to when the manufacturer, retailer, or seller of a product is held liable for allowing a defective product to reach the consumer. This is regardless of the consumer’s own negligence. Laws governing product liability are intended to determine who is responsible for defective or dangerous products.
State laws regarding product liability claims vary. However, there is a set of commercial statutes in each state that are modeled after the Uniform Commercial Code. They contain warranty rules which affect product liability.
A defective product may be defined as any product that is unreasonably dangerous when being used for its intended purpose, without any alterations or interference. A defective product is a product that causes injury to a person either due to a design defect, a manufacturing defect, or a marketing defect.
In order to prove product liability, the plaintiff must prove the following elements:
- The product was defective when being manufactured;
- The product’s manufacturer, seller, or distributor intended for the product to reach the plaintiff, without any changes being made throughout the process; and
- The plaintiff and/or their property was injured in some way by the defective product.
In terms of chainsaw defects, the tool can cause injury if there is a defect with parts such as the:
- Chain and motor;
- Starting mechanism, especially for gas powered chainsaws; and/or
- Stopping and power shutoff mechanism.
Some product defect issues are associated with the product’s warning label. Federal law requires product suppliers and manufacturers to provide adequate warning of any dangers that the product may pose. This would be in the form of a label that describes these dangers. A consumer who is injured by a product that was not properly labeled may sue the product manufacturer or supplier for their injuries.
According to federal law, if a product poses a danger that is not apparent or obvious to an average consumer, the manufacturer of the product must place a warning label on the product. However, the law does not require warning labels for every hypothetical danger the product poses.
An example of this would be when the danger posed by a product is obvious, such as the obvious danger posed by using a chainsaw. The law does require a duty to provide warning against dangers that an ordinary user could not anticipate. Failing to warn when required to is considered to be a design defect, or flaw in how the product was designed.
Are There Any Remedies For Chainsaw Injuries?
Lawsuits for chainsaw injuries have similar remedies to other personal injury lawsuits. A successful claim generally results in the plaintiff being awarded monetary damages in order to compensate them for costs associated with their injuries. These damages cover costs such as:
- Medical bills;
- Property damage;
- Medication costs; and
- Missed income due to missing work in order to recover or pursue medical treatment.
A product recall may be necessary if the chainsaw itself is defective, and has caused the same injury to multiple parties. Additionally, similar circumstances may call for a class action lawsuit.
Do I Need An Attorney For a Chainsaw Injury Lawsuit?
If you have been injured by a chainsaw and wish to pursue a lawsuit, you should consult with an experienced and local personal injury lawyer. Because state laws governing negligence and personal injury can vary widely, an attorney will be best suited to helping you understand how you should proceed while adhering to your state’s specific laws.
An experienced personal injury attorney can help you file a lawsuit of your own, or join an existing class action lawsuit. Finally, an attorney will also be able to represent you in court, as needed.