Products Liability Law FAQs
Products liability is one of the most complex and technical areas of personal injury law. If you are considering pursuing this type of claim, you should make sure to understand the scope of your rights and options. You should consult an attorney for guidance specific to your situation. Meanwhile, these are some general answers to questions that consumers tend to raise in the aftermath of being injured by a defective product.
What is a products liability claim?
Whom do I sue if I am injured by a defective product?
What are the different types of defects?
How do I establish liability for a defective product?
How soon do I need to file my claim?
What is my products liability case worth?
Do I need to hire a products liability lawyer?
A victim can bring a products liability claim when they have been injured because a consumer item failed to function in a reasonably safe manner. This may involve a car or car part, a child product, a household appliance, a tool, equipment used in the workplace, a medical device, a pharmaceutical, or virtually anything else that is released to the market for public consumption.
You can sue anyone in the chain of distribution, which means any person or entity that bore some responsibility for making, distributing, or selling the product. Some defendants may bear greater responsibility than others, but it makes sense to sue all of the manufacturers, suppliers, distributors, and retailers that were involved with the product. If joint and several liability rules apply in your state, you may be able to recover all of your damages from a single defendant if other defendants cannot pay for their share.
There are three main types of defects: design defects, manufacturing defects, and marketing defects. Design defects involve products that are unreasonably unsafe even when they are made as intended. A case based on a design defect challenges the safety of the product line in general, rather than the specific product that injured the plaintiff. Manufacturing defects involve a problem that is unique to the specific item. It must have arisen before the item reached the consumer, most often during the process of making it. Marketing defects, which are also known as failures to warn, involve a lack of information about the risks posed by a product when it is used in an intended or foreseeable way. In some situations, consumers also can bring claims based on a breach of an express or implied warranty.
You must show that the product had a defect (see above) and that the defect caused your injuries and related costs. In other words, just the fact that you were using the product when you were injured is not enough evidence to prevail. You must show that you would not have been injured if the product had not suffered from the defect. Also, you must have been using the product in an intended or reasonably foreseeable way at the time. A victim must have sustained actual injuries and quantifiable damages.
This will depend on the statute of limitations in your state. The statute of limitations may be the same as for other personal injury claims, or it may be specific to products liability cases. It often lasts about two years, but it may be as short as one year or as long as four years. In some states, a discovery rule may extend the statute of limitations until the victim discovers or reasonably should discover that the defect caused their injury. Filing a claim after the statute of limitations has expired will result in the dismissal of a victim’s case in most situations. Moreover, you should file your case as soon as possible while tangible evidence is still available, and the memories of witnesses remain fresh.
You can ask an attorney to help you calculate the extent of your damages. One group of damages, known as economic damages, is meant to compensate a victim for the financial costs related to their injuries. These are relatively objective, such as lost income and medical bills. The other main group of damages, known as non-economic damages, involves forms of harm that are less easy to calculate, such as pain and suffering. A defendant that has engaged in intentional misconduct, or that otherwise deserves to be punished, may be ordered to pay punitive damages. These are also meant to deter parties like the defendant from engaging in similar behavior.
While you do not absolutely need to hire an attorney, it may be more helpful than in a standard personal injury case. An attorney will have access to experts who can testify on your behalf, and an attorney will be better able than an individual victim to counter the tactics of defense attorneys. If the defendant makes a settlement offer, your attorney can realistically evaluate whether it is a good deal. Since these cases usually involve huge amounts of money, defendants tend to take them seriously. Hiring your own attorney can send a message that you are taking your case seriously as well.
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