7 Things to Know About Product Liability Claims

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There are a lot of types of personal injury claims. The most common causes of personal injury lawsuits are car and motorcycle accidents, slip and fall accidents, and medical malpractice. 

In personal injury, a claim covers injuries that someone suffers instead of property damage. These injuries can be physical and mental. The majority of personal injury claims are brought because of the negligence of a defendant that causes the plaintiff’s injuries. In these situations, a plaintiff argues the defendant didn’t behave with the same reasonable care that others in a similar situation would have. 

If you’re able to prove negligence in a personal injury claim, you’ll recover damages, which is compensation to pay for your injuries and the other costs associated with the accident. 

Damages might include medical expenses, coverage for lost wages, and money for things like emotional distress and also pain and suffering. 

While we do associate personal injury with car accidents and the like, sometimes, we also talk about product liability claims under the same umbrella. There are similarities but also some distinctions between personal injury and product liability. 

The objectives of both types of cases are to help people get protection when they’re injured, with the idea that injured people are entitled to compensation. 

If you are injured by a product that has a defect, you could be entitled to some compensation if there’s a strict liability that applies and you’re able to prove negligence. 

The following are some of the important things to know about product liability claims. 

1. The Basics

A product liability claim is one that’s based on injuries a defective item caused. These claims are usually brought under what’s called a theory of strict liability. Sometimes, a theory of negligence may be used, depending on the state where the claim is brought. 

With strict liability, there isn’t a requirement to show carelessness on the part of the defendant, but negligence does require this. 

Regardless of the theory used to form the basis of a claim, the consumer is usually going to have to prove that one or more of three categories of defect occurred. 

The consumer also has to show that the defect did cause their injury, meaning had the product defect not existed, they wouldn’t have been injured. 

2. Manufacturing Defects

The simplest type of defect in a product liability situation is a manufacturing defect. 

A manufacturing defect occurs when a problem exists with how an item was made. 

There could have been an error in manufacturing, for example, which made a product different from the others in the same line. If there’s a car accident that occurs because of brakes that malfunction, there could have been a manufacturing error when that specific set was made. 

3. Design Defects

There are times when a whole product line has a problem that makes them dangerous. 

Nobody in these cases deviated from the design as it was intended or made a mistake in manufacturing. The people or organizations that made the specifications or product plans may be responsible. 

There could be a medical device that breaks inside patients’ bodies, leading to injuries. 

There are legal tests required to establish design defects, and these vary from state to state. If you’re a victim of what you believe is a design defect that led to your injury, then you’ll probably have to work with an expert. The expert might work to show a safer alternative could have been made to the defective product. 

4. Marketing Failures

Also known as failures to warn, if a manufacturer of a product doesn’t give adequate instructions on how to use it or doesn’t warn consumers about risks, there could be a product liability claim brought forward based on a marketing defect. 

If a manufacturer doesn’t warn about an obvious risk, like the fact you can fall from a ladder, for example, they aren’t liable. 

The pharmaceutical industry tends to be the one that most often sees these types of claims. Manufacturers might not list all of the possible side effects of a medicine, for example. 

5. Bringing a Claim

Product liability is a very complex part of personal injury law. 

A lot of times, consumers will come together in multidistrict litigation or class actions if they’ve all experienced similar harm from the same product and their claims are being brought based on parallel legal theories. 

A defendant in a product liability case can be anyone in the chain of distribution. 

If there’s a defect related to a product component, the consumer could have the opportunity to sue the manufacturer of the particular component and also the manufacturer that makes the final product. 

An attorney is going to understand how to identify the right defendants and then bring them into action. 

6. Proving Liability

The legal theory that underlies product liability cases is unique. 

The plaintiff, as mentioned, in many cases doesn’t have to prove negligence as they would ordinarily in other types of personal injury cases. 

If the theory of strict liability is used, the liability comes from the product having a defect causing injuries and damages. 

It doesn’t matter if the misconduct or careless behavior of the defendant caused the defect, so strict liability is easier to prove than negligence. 

The consumer will have to show they were using the product in the way it was intended. 

7. Damages

As is true with other personal injury situations, if you win a product liability case, you may be able to recover compensatory damages from any liable defendant. 

Compensatory damages are intended to address your injuries and the costs you had to deal with as a result, like lost income and medical expenses. 

These compensatory damages can also cover the victim’s pain and suffering. 

If a manufacturer was found to have acted in a particularly egregious way, they might be able to recover punitive damages. Punitive damages aren’t to compensate the victim—they’re to punish the manufacturer of the product and discourage similar future actions. 

As a final note, there is a statute of limitations, and you have to file within this deadline to maintain your right to damages. It varies by state but usually is within two to four years. 

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