If you've been injured by a pharmaceutical drug, you might have a valid legal claim against the manufacturer, or against another link in the "chain of distribution." In this article, we'll cover:
Most lawsuits over harm caused by a prescription medication or other pharmaceutical drug are governed by an area of law known as "product liability." Drug-related product liability claims usually come in three basic varieties:
These parallel the three categories of defective product claims in general (learn more about the different types of defective product claims). Let's take a closer look at each of them.
This category of claims involves injuries caused by pharmaceutical drugs that have been improperly manufactured or have somehow become tainted. This may be the result of:
This category of claims involves pharmaceutical drugs that, although properly manufactured, have side effects that result in injury. These cases sometimes involve drugs that have been on the market for a long time before it's discovered that they increase the risk of a certain type of injury, such as heart attack, stroke, or cancer.
The "marketing" of a pharmaceutical drug refers to the warnings, instructions, or recommendations concerning the use of that drug.
This category often involves injuries caused by:
The "failures" listed above may have come from the manufacturer, a doctor, a pharmacist, or some other medical provider. We'll talk more later about who might be sued in these kinds of cases.
A defective product lawsuit may include a combination of claims. For example, a claim based on a drug with a dangerous side effect may be coupled with a claim based on the failure to warn of that side effect. Each different type of claim may also net a different subset of defendants (for instance, the manufacturer and the pharmacist; more on this below).
Learn more about the different theories of liability in cases involving dangerous or defective products.
There's no easy answer to this question, as it's a personal one. In general though, it's good to assess whether going to the trouble of filing a lawsuit over a pharmaceutical product is really going to be worth it. Specifically, it might make sense to ask:
If your answer to all of these question is "yes," it might make sense to at least discuss your situation with an experienced legal professional.
Once you've decided to file a lawsuit over harm caused by a pharmaceutical drug, actually getting the lawsuit started is fairly straightforward. While suing a pharmaceutical drug company or health care provider is obviously different from suing over car accident injuries, the court-based procedure is quite similar for any injury-related lawsuit. Get the basics on filing a personal injury lawsuit.
Two of the biggest issues at the outset are:
To make sure you include all the potential defendants in your lawsuits, consider everyone in the "chain of distribution" of a drug—that is, the path the drug takes from the manufacturer to the consumer.
Manufacturer. Pharmaceutical manufacturers are typically large companies, due to the huge market for pharmaceutical drugs and the technical challenges involved in developing new drugs. This is generally good news if you're seeking compensation for your injuries, although it is also true that these companies inevitably retain teams of high-priced lawyers to defend such cases.
Testing laboratory. The drug that injured you may have worked its way through an elaborate series of tests on its way to the market, and you should include any of these testing laboratories as defendants in your complaint, especially if they are independent of the manufacturer.
Pharmaceutical sales representative. Drug companies often make use of pharmaceutical "sales reps" who meet with doctors and other members of the medical community to tout the latest drug and make recommendations regarding its uses. Such representatives may be liable if they recommended the drug that injured you.
Doctor. The doctors who prescribed the drug that injured you may also be liable for your injuries because they are part of the chain of distribution of the drug. The doctors may also be liable based on their failure to warn you about potential side effects or to provide adequate instructions regarding the proper use of the drug.
Hospital or clinic. Any company, including a hospital or a clinic, that was part of the chain of distribution between the manufacturer of the drug and you may be liable for your injuries.
Pharmacy. Your pharmacy is often the final point in the chain of distribution of a drug from the manufacturer to you. The pharmacist's counseling regarding use of the drug that injured you may constitute an additional basis for the pharmacy's liability.
Learn more about who to sue in a defective product liability case.
Any time you're thinking about filing a lawsuit over harm caused by a pharmaceutical drug (or any kind of product), it's crucial to understand the statute of limitations that will apply to your case.
A statute of limitations is a law that sets a strictly-enforced time limit on the right to file a lawsuit. For lawsuits over harm caused by pharmaceutical drugs, the statute-of-limitations deadline is often the same as the one that applies to most personal injury lawsuits. But some states have a separate statute of limitations for product liability cases.
Whichever deadline applies, you'll need to comply with it and get your lawsuit filed in time, otherwise the court is almost certain to toss your case out. If that happens, you'll have lost your right to get fair compensation for your harm. Learn more about the statute of limitations in product liability cases.
Unlike certain kinds of injury cases—like those stemming from a minor car accident, for example —when you decide to take on a big drug company or any other link in the "chain of distribution" of a pharmaceutical drug, you need an experienced legal professional on your side.
Putting together your best product liability case, and coming away with a fair result, often requires:
There's simply no substitute for a lawyer's experience in building the best product liability case, and their willingness to battle it out. Along those same lines, if you discuss your potential drug liability case with a number of different lawyers and they all turn down the chance to represent you, now may be a good time to rethink your strategy.
If you're experiencing health problems that could be linked to your use of a prescription medication or other pharmaceutical drug, it's important to understand your options, and the best path forward. Your best first step is discussing your situation with an experienced legal professional. Learn more about finding and working with an injury attorney. You can also use the tools on this page to connect with a lawyer in your area.