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Defective, dangerous or both? Know your rights when products malfunction

From Hatchimals to hoverboards, some popular holiday gifts are becoming the subject of lawsuits.

A Minnesota family just announced they are suing the manufacturer of a hoverboard that caught fire and led to the death of four family dogs last summer. Meanwhile, amid widespread complaints of Hatchimals that don't hatch, at least one parent has threatened to sue the manufacturers of the popular new toy, according to Business Insider.

But there's a big difference between a toy animal that doesn't hatch out of its egg properly and a product that can destroy property and harm lives. While many issues with defective products can be solved with a replacement or a refund - a likely solution to many Hatchimal problems - it's important to know your rights when it comes to defective products that actually cause harm.

You've probably seen companies issuing recalls of certain defective products, from car airbags to cell phones. But it often takes a harmful incident for manufacturers to become aware of the defects in the first place. Once they're aware their product can cause harm, they are responsible for recalling it and issuing warnings.

Dangerous defects can occur at any stage in the making of a product, from the initial design to the end instructions. Some product liability cases stem from design flaws, some from errors in the manufacture of a product, and some from a failure to communicate known dangers.

Some products, of course, are inherently unsafe (think kitchen knives) but plenty of dangers aren't apparent without warnings, which product manufacturers must provide. If you have young children in the house, you've probably started paying more attention to warnings about choking hazards on toys with small parts, for example. You wouldn't, however, expect to see a warning that your kid's new hoverboard could spontaneously burst into flames while charging its battery.

If you or a family member has been injured by a product, it's a good idea to consult with an attorney about your options.

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