What Is A Product Liability?
When you purchase a product, you expect it to be safe. Unfortunately, this is not always the case. Malfunctioning products cause thousands of personal injuries each year.
The Nuts and Bolts of Product Liability Cases
● Design Defects: A design defect occurs when a product’s design causes the product to be unsafe. As a result, the designer of the product may be held liable for injuries that occur.
● Manufacturing Defects: When a product becomes dangerous through the manufacturing process, it is a manufacturing defect. Products can become hazardous by a change in design, using faulty materials, or food products becoming contaminated during packaging.
● Improper Warnings or Instructions: A manufacturer or retailer is required to warn of any dangers arising from the product’s use. Proper instructions regarding the use of the product are necessary as well. If the product you purchased doesn’t have appropriate warnings or instructions, you may have a product liability case.
The Path To a Product Liability Lawsuit
Step 1 - Record injuries and medical treatment
With this in mind, it is helpful to record any medical treatment you have had and any other consequences from your injury. Make sure to keep track of all your doctor visits, days missed from work, and lost wages. Tracking this information is much easier than backtracking to figure out this information later on.
Step 2 - Find a Lawyer
The next step in the product liability process is finding a lawyer. When looking for a lawyer, don’t just type into Google “personal injury lawyer.” It’s just too broad. You want expertise specifically within the product liability space. Ideally, it would be great to find a lawyer who’s already tried a case with this specific product.
Step 3 - File the lawsuit
Once you’ve found the right lawyer, filing the lawsuit will be their responsibility. As the lawsuit moves along, your involvement will be minimal. Your attorney will likely reach out to you regarding any information needed or ask if you have certain documents. It is okay if you don’t have this information.
You will not be required to be present for a majority of the court or legal proceedings. The only times your presence is needed are for depositions and potentially for a settlement conference. During the deposition, the defendant’s attorney will ask you questions, and you have to answer them.
Step 4 - Resolution: Settlement or trial
Next, the two sides will begin negotiating with hopes of a settlement, but patience is required as this can take time. Your attorney is required to bring you any settlement proposal the defendant offers. If the parties cannot settle, they may choose to go to mediation or arbitration for a third party to help resolve the case. A trial is held if all else fails.
Who Can Sue for Product Liability?
Each state has its own product liability laws. The laws may differ on who is permitted to sue in a product liability lawsuit and the amount of time one has to file the claim. Generally, anybody who has purchased the product and was injured by it is permitted to sue. If someone who didn’t buy the product is injured by it, but their use was foreseeable, they may also sue.
For example: If a person buys a chair that causes an injury because of a product defect, they may sue. Additionally, if a purchaser’s guest comes over and is injured because of the chair’s defect, they too may sue.
Who Is Liable For Product Liability?
Any party in the product’s chain of manufacturing and distribution may be liable for product liability. These entities include:
● The product manufacturer
● A manufacturer of parts
● A party that assembles or installs the product
● The wholesaler
● The retail store that sold the product to the consumer
Proving a Product Liability Case
To prove a product liability case, you must show:
● You were injured or suffered losses: A person must suffer an actual injury or monetary loss, such as property damage, to establish a product liability case.
● The product is defective: The product must have a design defect, manufacturing defect, or inadequate warnings or instructions.
● The defect caused your injury: You must establish that the defect caused your injury.
● You were using the product as intended: Your use of the product must have been in a manner a manufacturer could have anticipated.
Breach of Warranty and Product Liability
A consumer warranty is a guarantee made by the seller of a product. The warranty is an assurance that the product contains a certain level of quality and reliability. If the product fails to meet these standards, the consumer may be entitled to hold the seller accountable and receive a replacement product. If the breach of warranty caused the injury, you might be able to sue under this as well.
Warranties can be either express or implied. Sellers make an express warranty with a verbal or written statement, guaranteeing a product’s quality or function. If the warranty is in writing, it must use plain language so everyday consumers can understand it. An implied warranty is not communicated to the consumer, but rather only guarantees the product works as claimed.
Which Damages Are Recoverable Under Product Liability?
The most basic recoverable damages are the ones personally suffered. These damages include any property damage and personal injuries sustained due to product liability. You can also expect to recover the product’s cost and any other costs related to fixing or replacing it. Unfortunately, the law does not allow for any sentimental damages. For example, if the product causes a fire that destroys your favorite book, you can recover for the book’s cost, but not for any emotional harm from losing that specific book.
Finding The Right Attorney
Product liability cases can be technical and challenging to navigate, making picking the right attorney essential. Many attorneys may handle product liability cases, but few specialize in them. Due to its technical nature, you should find an attorney specializing in product liability to help deal with the difficulties involved. Most importantly, you should pick an attorney with whom you’re comfortable. Attorneys are often needed to take their clients through the emotional side of the lawsuit when things get challenging. A lawsuit is typically one of the most challenging times of people’s lives, and having the right attorney can make a huge difference.