How to Know if You Have Grounds for a Products Liability CaseNovember 19, 2020
You’ve been injured or otherwise sustained damage due to a defective product. Now you’re wondering if you have grounds for a products liability case.
If this is the case, you could be entitled to compensation from the manufacturer or seller of the product.
Every year in the US, defective or dangerous products cause thousands of injuries. Product liability law is a set of legal rules tasked with determining who’s responsible for harmful products, and it can help you recover damages.
We’ll review everything you need to know in this article to see whether you have a products liability case or not.
What Is a Products Liability Case?
When a customer sustains an injury due to a defective product, he or she may file a lawsuit citing product liability.
Product liability consists of rules that establish responsibility for an injury and whether a complainant has a valid claim or not.
Legally speaking, any manufacturer as well as any seller that’s part of the distribution chain – including distributors, wholesalers, and retailers – can be held responsible for a harmful product that has caused damage.
According to the law, there are two types of products liability claims:
- Defective design claims
- Defective manufacture claims
If a claim is deemed valid, a plaintiff can recover damages.
What Do You Need for a Products Liability Claim?
A few elements are necessary to prove a products liability case:
- The customer bought a product in the marketplace
- The seller or manufacturer was legally required to craft or sell the product to meet the reasonable expectation of consumers
- The product has either a manufacturing defect or a design defect
- Due to this defect, the product presents an excessive risk
- It is within reason to expect that the product could injure a consumer
- The consumer sustained damages due to the injury
Definition of Manufacturing Defect
A manufacturing defect occurs during the assembly process of the product. When the manufacturer puts the product together, the product becomes defective, either due to incorrect assembly or a mistake, which makes it unsafe.
Definition of Design Defect
There is a design defect when the design of a product renders it inherently unsafe. A design defect occurs before the manufacturing stage of the product.
It appears when the engineers create the design for the item and make a mistake that compromises the safety of the product.
How to File a Lawsuit for Products Liability?
To file a lawsuit, a person can use a “theory of recovery”. It shows a customer’s reason for filing a lawsuit.
There are two theories of recovery for products liability:
- The negligence theory of recovery
- The strict liability theory of recovery
Definition of the Negligence Theory of Recovery
For the negligence theory of recovery, there must be proof that the manufacturer, distributor, or seller of the defective product was under obligation to sell the injured plaintiff a product free from defect.
The complainant must then establish that the defendant breached that duty and that he or she sustained an injury as a result of that breach, and that damages can remedy this injury.
When Is a Negligence Claim Invalid?
The defendant may argue that it isn’t negligence that caused the personal injury. The defendant must then prove that the manner of injury couldn’t have been predicted, and therefore prevented.
For instance, a skydiver sustained an injury because his parachute didn’t open quickly enough. The parachute manufacturer proves that they took all the necessary precautions and that they followed the industry standards.
However, they couldn’t have foreseen that the skydiver would use the parachute at too low an altitude.
Definition of Strict Liability Theory of Recovery
In some cases, it is practically impossible for a consumer to prove how a product manufacturer has been negligent in product design. That’s why the law allows lawsuits under the strict theory of liability.
Under the strict theory of liability, the plaintiff doesn’t need to establish negligence. No matter how carefully the defendant made the product, they are still liable.
The plaintiff must establish several things:
- He or she bought the product from the manufacturer
- He or she used it in the way it was intended
- The product didn’t undergo significant changes compared to when it was first sold
- He or she sustained an injury due to a defect in the product
If the plaintiff is suing a seller rather than a manufacturer, he or she doesn’t have to show that the seller was negligent in selling the product in a defective condition.
The plaintiff can prevail by proving he or she purchased the product, and that an injury occurred because of a defect in the product.
However, the plaintiff can only obtain damages from sellers who routinely sell the defective product. For instance, the complainant can sue a seller that owns a car lot but will have more difficulty suing a seller who is trying to sell one car.
When Is a Strict Liability Claim Invalid?
A seller or manufacturer can invalidate a strict liability claim by proving that the plaintiff knew of the defect before the injury but still used the product.
Alternatively, a seller can prevail against a strict liability claim by proving that:
- The general public is aware of the dangers of the product, such as a firearm
- The dangers are inherent to the product, such that the product can’t be rendered safe
- The seller put clear warnings of the danger
Is a Lawyer Necessary for a Products Liability Case?
If you have sustained an injury caused by a product, you should search for a lawyer in your area.
An experienced defective products lawyer will help you determine whether your claim is valid or not and show you your rights and options. The lawyer will also represent you in court.
Get a Lawyer for Your Case
You now have a better idea of whether you have grounds for a products liability case or not.
You should be sure that the product you used had a defect or that it presented an excessive risk that the seller didn’t warn you about.
If you think you might have a valid case, get in touch with a professional as soon as you can to get your due compensation. Review our Facts section for more useful tips and trivia.