Does your Maine business deal with products instead of services? You need to make sure to factor in the potential liability for defective product claims.

From state to state, laws regarding defective products vary, but in general, a product is considered defective if it causes injury or damage to a person as the result of:

Manufacturing defects. Let’s say you are a bicycle-frame maker and one leaves your factory with a small crack in the frame. If that frame breaks during use and the rider is injured, you are liable.

Design flaws. Or if your company makes industrial machinery and there are inadequate safety devices, workers may be injured when using the machine and you could be sued.

Inadequate labeling. A drug company can be at risk for lawsuits if their drugs are not labeled accurately. If your company produces a sleep aid but the packaging fails to warn the user not to take the drug while driving or operating heavy machinery, you are at risk.

Legal exposure is not limited to manufacturers either. Others in the “chain of commerce” can be liable for defective product injuries as well. So this would include wholesalers, distributors, and businesses that sell products or repair them.

And liability does not stop with the original purchaser of the product. Suit can be filed by anyone injured while using it as long as they were using the product in a “foreseeable” manner.

If the injuries were caused by a defect, people hurt as the result of someone else using a defective product may also be able to recover damages. For example, if you own a supermarket and carry an herbal sleep-aid, but don’t confirm that it’s adequately labeled. If someone takes the product before driving, and then has an accident that involves a pedestrian, that victim could name your store in a lawsuit.

Liability law can affect you even if your company isn’t in the chain of commerce. If you’re thinking about buying a business or merging with one, your lawyer should carefully examine the company’s history. They need to make sure you aren’t acquiring any product-related liability claims along with the assets and protect you accordingly.

There is good news despite all of these risks. With the proper insurance and good legal advice, your business can continue to create products the world needs while protecting your own interests.