You may not have heard of “product liability” before, but you’ve likely heard of defective products. They’re often in the news: remember the faulty Toyota accelerators that caused car crashes, the baby sleepers that harmed infants, or the Samsung phone batteries that caught fire?
There are many, many defective products on the market, and the harm they cause costs the U.S. economy $1 trillion every year! As you can see, it’s a serious problem.
This is where product liability law comes in.
Product Liability Law
Product liability law makes the manufacturer (and all parties involved in the manufacturing and sale) legally liable for damage caused by their product. The parties that can be held liable are:
- Manufacturer of component parts
- Manufacturer who assembles the end product
- Retail store owner selling the product
Under product liability law, an injured person can hold these parties financially responsible for manufacturing and/or selling a defective product. Consumers can receive what’s known as “compensatory damages”—money to compensate them for injury-related health care costs, lost wages, etc. Also, if a manufacturer’s behavior was particularly bad, the consumer might also receive “punitive damages”—a fine designed to punish the business and deter other businesses from acting badly in the future.
Thanks to this area of law, consumers are empowered to get justice for the negligence of businesses, and businesses are encouraged to invest in safety to avoid lawsuits and fines.
Types of Product Liability Claims
Three types of product defects can result in liability claims:
- Design defects
- Manufacturing defects
- Marketing defects
A product has a design defect if the defect is built in to the design itself—if the product, even when manufactured perfectly, is defective. An example of this would be a toy that is designed for small children, but is a choking hazard.
On the other hand, a product has a manufacturing defect if the product design was fine, but the manufacturers made an error during production or failed to catch an error during quality control. An example of this would be contaminated medicine. Another example, which we mentioned above, would be the faulty accelerators in Toyota vehicles.
Finally, the last type of defect is related to marketing—specifically, warning labels. A product can be defective, even if it works as intended, if the manufacturer doesn’t warn consumers of any reasonable dangers or instruct them on how to use the product safely. Manufacturers can also be held responsible if their warnings were not clear or easily understood. We’re sure you’ve seen an example of this type: it’s the reason why hair dryers have large, obvious labels stating the risk of electric shock if you get them wet. (It seems silly now because we all now the risk, but there were hundreds of accidental electrocutions when hair dryers were first introduced.)
When You Can Bring a Product Liability Claim
Under product liability law, you can bring a claim on behalf of yourself, your spouse, or your children.
Several things must be true of a case in order to bring a product liability claim against a manufacturer (or wholesaler, retailer, etc.):
- A reasonable person would find the product defective when using it in a reasonable
- The defective product caused the person’s injuries.
What do we mean by the product being used in a “reasonable manner”? Basically, the person bringing the claim must have been using the product as the manufacturer intended (or should have expected the product would be used). If a person was deliberately misusing the product (and was warned of the dangers beforehand), this would not be considered using it in a “reasonable” manner.
In addition, the reasonable use of the product must have caused the person’s injuries. Some cases are harder to prove than others. For example, car part defects often take a while to come to light, as it’s not always immediately clear whether driver error or a defect caused a crash.
What to Do If You’re Injured by a Defective Product
If you suspect that a defective product caused your injuries, it’s important to keep thorough records. These documents can help you prove your case if you decide to file a product liability claim later.
It’s a good idea to do the following:
- Save the product (or any pieces of it).
- Write down the product name, serial number, and manufacturer.
- Keep any product packaging you have, and any receipts showing where and when you purchased the product.
- Don’t clean or disturb the area where the accident/injuries happened. Take pictures of the area and of the injuries.
- Write down what happened to cause your injuries.
- Keep your medical records, including doctor’s visits, procedures needed, and prescriptions taken.
Questions? Contact Us Today
We’re here to answer your questions and help you determine if you have a product liability case. Call us today to make an appointment at one of our conveniently located offices.