Product liability law states that product manufacturers, designers, and others in the chain of distribution have a moral and legal responsibility to ensure the safety of their customers. Unfortunately, some companies fail to uphold the mandated safety standards, leaving their consumers with defective products, which may result in serious injuries or death.
Regardless of their intentions, manufacturers, designers, and other parties can be held liable for the injuries caused by their defective products. In other words, you can file a product liability claim against the responsible parties if a defective product caused you injuries or the death of your loved one.
However, product liability law is complex. It is, therefore, essential to understand the various aspects of the law and the legal processes. This post highlights a few of the most important facts about product liability cases that you need to know.
1. Marketing Defects Are Liable for Legal Action
Most people are under the impression that only manufacturing and design defects are liable for legal action. They are wrong. The three common types of product liability claims include manufacturing defect, design defect, and marketing defect. Marketing defects may include failure to provide clear safety instructions and warning signs of potential risks, and improper labeling, among others.
2. You May Not Have to Provide Proof of Manufacturer's Negligence
Unlike most types of personal injury claims, you may not have to prove defendant's negligence in a product liability lawsuit. Your state's product liability law, however, needs to be based on the strict liability doctrine. It is almost impossible for a consumer to prove the carelessness of the manufacturer of a product. According to the strict liability statute, manufacturers can be held liable for a product liability claim irrespective of the steps they took to make their products safe.
However, the strict liability rule is not as simple as it sounds. In fact, there are several exceptions, conditions, and eligibility criteria that can make it complicated to build a case based on this doctrine. You need to consult with an experienced product liability attorney who is thoroughly familiar with your state's law.
3. You May Be Able to Recover Punitive Damages
The amount of non-punitive compensation is usually directly proportional to the seriousness of your injuries. Unfortunately, there are several different types of injuries caused by products – including burns, wounds, and fractures, among others. The defendants can be held liable for all direct and indirect medical expenses, lost wages, and pain and suffering caused by the injuries.
The punitive damages, on the other hand, are awarded to punish the defendants for their negligent or careless conduct. They are often awarded to deter future misconduct by potential wrongdoers. Punitive damages, also known as exemplary damages, are often awarded in addition to compensatory damages. The damages, however, can't be awarded in all product liability lawsuits. More often than not, such damages are awarded if the defendant is found guilty of intentional misconduct and gross negligence.
Plus, several states have placed a limit on the amount of punitive damages that can be awarded. Nonetheless, you should include all types of damages in your complaint, as they can increase the potential value of your case.
4. More Than One Party Can Be Named as Defendants
More than one party can be held liable for the damages caused by a defective product. Apart from the manufacturer, the designer, the wholesaler, the retailer, and the other parties in the chain of distribution can be held liable for a product liability claim. You must, however, prove that all supplementary parties were responsible for your injuries, and how they contributed to them. Though this sounds simple in theory, determining the role of each party in your claim can sometimes be highly difficult. Make sure to consult with your attorney before making the list of defendants.
5. The 'Statute of Limitations' Applies for a Product Liability Claim
The 'statute of limitations' is a state-mandated law that determines the time limit for filing a lawsuit. Just like most types of personal injury lawsuits, time limits apply to product liability claims as well. This limit may vary from state to state. Most states, however, have a two-year limit. Some states have a three-year limit, with a few states having a time limit of more than four years. Click here for a detailed summary of the statutes of limitations by state.
Usually, the time limit starts on the date when the plaintiff was injured. For example, consider the time limit in your state is two years. If you suffered skin burns when using a defective electric hair dryer, you must file the claim within two years from the day you were injured.
In a few states, however, the statute of limitations begins to run when the plaintiff discovers his/her injuries. For example, you used a defective water purifier which released harmful chemicals in your drinking water, causing a stomach ulcer. But, you discovered the ulcer a few months later. In such a case, the time limit of your claim begins to run on the date of diagnosis of your ulcer.
6. Hiring a Qualified Attorney Can Increase the Chances of Securing Maximum Compensation
Product liability is a complicated area of the law, and often requires the knowledge and resources of a qualified tort attorney. If you want to receive maximum compensation for your injuries, hiring an experienced product liability lawyer is your best bet. As there are specific time limits to file a product liability claim, make sure to seek legal help as soon as possible.
Don't settle for the first lawyer whom you come across. Shop around for a competent attorney with a track record of winning cases similar to yours. Most litigation lawyers offer free initial consultations, making it easier to shop around. Plus, they work on contingency basis, which means a fixed part (usually one-third) of your winnings will go to your lawyer as his/her fees. So, don't let your finances dictate your legal options.
Defective products often endanger the lives of consumers. The manufacturers, designers, or other parties in the distribution chain of a product may make a mistake that can cause severe injuries to a person handling the product. When this happens, the injured person can file a product liability lawsuit against the responsible parties. Understanding how product liability law works can increase your chances of receiving maximum compensation. The above six facts can help you file a successful claim.