As a result of defects in the product design of 3M dual-ended combat arms earplugs—which the U.S. government contracted to purchase for use by military personnel—many military contractors, U.S. government civilian employees, and active-duty uniform military personnel have suffered serious hearing damage and, in some cases, even complete hearing loss.
It was revealed in a recent lawsuit against the manufacturer of these earplugs, 3M, that the company and its predecessor knew that the product was defectively designed, being too short to provide adequate hearing protection, yet they sold the defective earplugs for use by military personnel in training and combat missions anyway.
At Allan Berger & Associates, we are committed to pursuing justice and compensation for the brave individuals who risk their lives to protect our nation and were injured by 3M’s careless and harmful actions.
When clients come to our office with a potential claim against 3M for hearing damage caused by these defective earplugs, they often want to know what to expect in a case like this. Let’s take a look at some of the common questions our clients have about their earplug claim.
What evidence will I need to show to win my case?
The first important point to note about an injury claim based on defective 3M earplugs is that the evidence required in your case is different from some other types of personal injury claims—like being hurt in a car accident by a negligent driver—because your case is based on a theory of product liability.
While claims based on negligence require you to show proof that the defendant’s conduct departed from that of a reasonably prudent person under the circumstances, a product liability claim is subject to strict liability, which means that if you can prove that the product was defective—even if no one was negligent—the manufacturer will be liable.
In your injury claim against the earplug manufacturer, you will need to prove by a preponderance of the evidence—a standard lower than the “beyond a reasonable doubt” standard applied in a criminal case—that:
- The earplugs were defective;
- You were using the earplugs in the manner in which they were intended to be used;
- You were injured; and
- Your injury was caused by the defect in the earplugs.
The settlement reached by the U.S. Department of Justice and 3M concerned allegations of violations of the False Claims Act and did not provide compensation to injured plaintiffs. If you were injured by these earplugs, you must bring a civil lawsuit against the manufacturer and prove the elements outlined above.
How much is my claim worth?
The value of your claim will be based on the extent of your injury and the medical bills you incurred as a result of the injury, as well as other damages like lost wages due to time off work.
Generally, in a product liability case, your lawyer will send the manufacturer a “demand” letter. In this letter, your lawyer will likely describe the basis of your claim, the nature and extent of your injuries, the total amount of money you are requesting in order to settle the claim, and an itemized list of the costs that make up your settlement demand.
In short, the value of your claim is very fact-specific and will depend on your actual damages and the strength of the evidence supporting your claim.
Do I need to be examined by a doctor?
In order to support your claim of injury based on product liability against the earplug manufacturer, you will need to show that you have suffered a physical injury and present evidence of your injury. This evidence will include medical records documenting your symptoms, diagnosis, loss of hearing, and treatment, if any.
Usually, these medical records will include notes of one or more physical examinations by a doctor, which will be used in support of your claim to prove the nature and extent of your injury. If you have not been examined by a physician, your physician’s notes do not provide sufficient detail to support your claim, or the doctor’s notes do not indicate any medical opinion as to the cause of your injury, then you may need to undergo an independent medical examination (IME)—an examination in which a physician reviews your medical records, conducts a physical examination, and issues a written report outlining the history of your injury and an opinion as to the nature, extent, and cause of your injury, within a reasonable degree of medical certainty.
Do I need to have a medical expert witness for my case?
If there is a disagreement in your case between you and the manufacture as to the nature, extent, and/or cause of your injuries, you may need to obtain an expert medical opinion in support of your claim. This may be in the form of an IME, as described above, and may require that the doctor be deposed by your attorney or counsel for the defendant and possibly testify at trial.
The legal defense team for the manufacture will likely produce expert witnesses against your claim, so if your case goes to trial, it is important that you also have a medical expert on your side.
While these cases can be fairly complicated, the legal team at Allan Berger & Associates is highly experienced and skilled at handling product liability cases against manufacturers and adept at preparing the evidence you need to win your case.
If you or a loved one experienced hearing loss or another injury caused by defective 3M earplugs, you do not need to face this large manufacturer alone. Contact our team today and we would be happy to assess your case and help you to pursue the compensation you are entitled to.