When a product malfunctions and causes an injury, the manufacturer may be liable for the damages caused. This is known as product liability. Product liability law is a subchapter of tort law and applies to both defective products and products that have inadequate warnings or instructions.
You’re about to learn about product liability, which is an area of law that holds manufacturers, distributors, suppliers, retailers, and others involved in the chain of commerce liable for injuries or damages caused by defective or dangerous products.
You will discover the two central theories of product liability insurance claims: strict liability and negligence, as well as the three main types of product liability claims: design defect, manufacturing defect, and failure to warn.
Additionally, you will understand how to establish liability and prove negligence in a product liability case, as well as the defenses, damages recoverable, and the statute of limitations for filing a product liability claim. Finally, you will learn how to file a product liability claim and how an experienced attorney can help with your product liability claim.
What is Product Liability?
Product liability is an area of law that holds manufacturers, distributors, suppliers, retailers, and others involved in the chain of commerce liable for injuries or damages caused by defective or dangerous products. Those responsible for a product, from the manufacturer to the retailer, may be held accountable for any damages, losses, or injuries that result from a defective product, even when there is no negligence.
The two central theories of product liability claims are strict liability and negligence. In strict liability cases, the plaintiff does not need to prove that the manufacturer was negligent or that it knew or should have known about the defect. Instead, it must only be established that the product was defective and caused an injury or other damages.
Product liability claims can be brought against any party in the chain of commerce, including the manufacturer, distributor, supplier, and retailer. In some cases, multiple parties may be held liable for the same product defect. Additionally, product liability claims can be brought against a company even if the product was not made by that company, as long as the company was involved in the chain of commerce.
Types of Product Liability Claims
There are three main types of product liability claims: design defect, manufacturing defect, and failure to warn. A design defect refers to the overall safety of a product. A manufacturing defect claim would involve a flaw in one particular part or unit of the product that renders it dangerous or defective. Failure to warn claims refer to inadequate labeling or failure to include proper instruction manuals.
Product liability claims can be brought against any party involved in the design, manufacture, or sale of a product. This includes the manufacturer, wholesaler, retailer, and even the designer of the product. It is important to note that the burden of proof is on the plaintiff to prove that the product was defective and that the defect caused the injury or damage.
Establishing Liability in a Product Liability Case
The burden of proof is on the plaintiff to establish that the product was defective and that it caused their injury or damages. Plaintiffs must demonstrate that the product was either designed or manufactured wrongly, that there were inadequate warnings or instructions, or that the product did not perform according to its intended purpose.
In some cases, an expert witness may be necessary to establish liability. An expert witness is someone who has considerable knowledge about the product, such as an engineer or a scientist. Expert witnesses can testify about how the product should have worked, what could have gone wrong, and how a warning could have prevented the injury or damage.
The expert witness must be able to provide evidence that the product was defective and that it caused the injury or damage. The expert witness must also be able to explain why the product was defective and how it caused the injury or damage. This evidence is essential to prove that the product was defective and that it caused the injury or damage.
Proving Negligence in a Product Liability Case
In cases involving negligence, plaintiffs must demonstrate that the manufacturer knew or should have known about the issue and that it failed to take reasonable steps to address it. This may include demonstrating a pattern of similar complaints, doing research on the product, or notifying authorities of potential hazards.
In some cases, plaintiffs may attempt to prove negligent design. This occurs when the manufacturer of the product either fails to use reasonable care in its design or lacks sufficient skill in engineering and product development. To successfully prove this, plaintiffs must demonstrate that an alternative design would have been safer and less likely to cause the injury or damage.
In addition, plaintiffs must also prove that the manufacturer had a duty of care to the consumer. This means that the manufacturer had a responsibility to ensure that the product was safe for use and that any potential risks were adequately communicated to the consumer. Furthermore, the plaintiff must also prove that the manufacturer breached this duty of care, resulting in the injury or damage.
Defenses to Product Liability Claims
The most common defense for product liability claims is that the plaintiff used the product in an abnormal manner. This does not necessarily mean that the plaintiff acted intentionally; rather, they may have used it in an unintended way (such as dropping a toaster oven) or in a manner beyond what is specified in the instructions. Defendants may also claim that they did not have sufficient warnings or instructions or that they are not responsible due to contributory negligence by the plaintiff.
Damages Recoverable in a Product Liability Case
The type of damages recoverable in a product liability case depends on the particular facts and circumstances of each case. Generally speaking, recoverable damages may include medical bills, lost wages, and pain and suffering.
Comparative Negligence and Shared Responsibility in a Product Liability Case
In some circumstances, the plaintiff’s negligence may be considered when determining whether they can recover damages from a manufacturer. This is known as comparative negligence. In cases involving shared responsibility, both the plaintiff and defendant may bear some portion of responsibility as determined by a court of law.
Statute of Limitations for Filing a Product Liability Claim
The statute of limitations is the amount of time in which an injured party must file a claim. Statutes of limitation vary by state, but generally plaintiffs have between two and six years from the date of injury to file a claim. In some instances, the filing must take place prior to any settlement with the manufacturer.
Pre-Suit Requirements for Filing a Product Liability Claim
Most states impose pre-suit requirements for filing certain types of product liability claims. These requirements often involve providing written notice to the defendant of an injury or damages sustained from using their product. Some states also require an injured party to participate in mediation or other alternative dispute resolution practices before taking legal action.
How to File a Product Liability Claim
Once plaintiffs are aware of their options for pursuing a claim for damages caused by a defective product, the next step is to contact an experienced product liability attorney. An experienced lawyer will be able to provide advice and guidance on how best to pursue a claim and will be able to negotiate settlements with product manufacturers or other parties involved in the case.
How an Attorney Can Help With Your Product Liability Claim
An experienced attorney can help plaintiffs navigate the legal system and ensure that their rights are protected. An attorney can help by filing the necessary paperwork, negotiating with defendants on behalf of their clients, and presenting arguments in court on their behalf. In some instances, an attorney can also help plaintiffs recover compensation through settlements or awards.
Products are everywhere in our society, and although most are safe to use, sometimes dangerous products can cause serious injuries and extensive damages. If you or someone you know has been harmed due to a defective product, speaking with an experienced product liability attorney can help you understand your legal rights and options for pursuing compensation.