legal liability

Does anyone have any experiences with liability issues and industrial design? Like products you designed that lead to injury… For example, if I design a toy water pistol and a child gets shot for pointing it at a cop. Or I design a pepper spray product and someone loses an eye… etc.

As a consultant (or freelancer) working with clients directly, I have established an LLC, but I don’t have ‘hold harmless’ contracts, etc. Should I instead just avoid especially risky products? Or can you effectively contract your way out of liability?

…when i do freelance gigs, i do concept sketches and renderings only…i get my green and what the client does with them i do not care and i do not ask…sounds cold, but i am a one man show and you do not have to be found guilty of anything to loose everthing you got or ever will get.

Thanks for your feedback…
A large part of What I Sell is the whole process, from concepts thru production documents, so I can’t just drop 3/4 of my services to avoid liability. Besides, if you do concept sketches of the water pistol that gets a 10-year-old shot, won’t you be sued along with everyone else? …in this case it’s “what the product is” that makes you liable, and not product failure that can be blamed on a manufacturer (or engineer).

I’m very interested in this topic as well. I am offering full services, from conceptuals, to 3D modeling, to 2D prints, to rendering, to prototypes, etc. Does anyone know of any reputable Liability Insurance Policies, geared towards a ‘one-man show’ type of firm? Thanks!

…you can contract anything with your client the two of you can agree on, but you get sued by the victim not the client…even if you contract for anonymity a shyster is going to subpoena your client’s records and you are in the soup…i do not know anyway to avoid liability totally and it isn’t ethical to do so…all you can do is manage the risk to your personal comfort level…my clients do not need, nor do they want anything more from me than i provide them and i am good with that…haven’t paid a cent to lawyer in thirty plus years, except for incorporation fees.

IDSA can help you in terms of “professional Liability” insurance.
They offer access to it through membership.
Even if you are not American you can still access membership priveledges.
Some friends here in Canada couldn’t find professional liability insurance for his ID consultancy (unlike Architecture of engineering) and had to take the IDSA route to cover his ass.

good luck!

Good points…

The ethical issue is one I’ve considered as well. In my particular case I’m not interested in removing my liability for my negligence, rather that which arises from the nature of the product (i.e. designing handguns). The insurance you can get for ‘negligence’ is called ‘Errors and Omissions’ insurance. It’s expensive (around $9000 premium) and therefor probably not appropriate for a one man show. There’s a company the IDSA recommended to me called CRB Insurance ( that carries E&O and other liability insurance. The gentleman I spoke to over there, John Rowland, was extremely helpful in terms of free advice, which they give as part of their IDSA affiliation.

It sounds like a carefully crafted “indemnify and hold harmless” contract is your best hope, but if you get dragged into a lawsuit you will still have to pay for a lawyer to defend your contract in court.

Fortunately it sounds like this happens very infrequently to designers.

Always use a contract when you do work. Include a indemnity clause and possibly try to use arbitration instead since that will be less drawn out than court battles since that is a quicker judgement.

I would have laywers fees paid by the client and hold them responsible for liability and to protect you should you get sued by theird parties.

Also I would limit your liability in the contract stating under no circumstances shall the liability exceed the work already paid for by the client.