You are injured by a product. Who is responsible for your harm?
If your injury was caused by a design defect, improper instruction as to use, or a defect that occurred during manufacture, you have the right to take legal action against any person, company, or entity that is responsible — including private citizens, stores, manufacturers, insurance companies, large corporations, and government agencies.
Who Is Liable in a Product Liability Case
Depending on the type of defect, a number of different parties may be held liable for any injuries that result from the use of a defective product. Responsibility for a product defect that causes injury lies with all sellers of the product who are in the distribution chain. Potentially liable parties include: the product manufacturer, a manufacturer of component parts, the wholesaler, and the retail store that sold the product to the consumer.
How is Liability Determined
Under any theory of liability, a plaintiff in a product liability case must prove that the product that caused injury was defective, and that the defect made the product unreasonably dangerous.
There are three types of defects that might cause injury and give rise to manufacturer or supplier liability:
- Design defects
- Manufacturing defects
- Marketing defects
Design defect claims often require a showing of negligence; however, strict liability may be imposed for an unreasonably dangerous design if the plaintiff can present evidence that there was a cost-effective alternative design that would have prevented the risk of injury.
A product has a manufacturing defect when the product does not conform to the designer’s or manufacturer’s own specifications. Manufacturing defect cases are often the easiest to prove, because the manufacturer’s own design or marketing standards can be used to show that the product was defective.
Marketing defects, intentional or negligent, include improper labeling of products, insufficient instructions, or the failure to warn consumers of a product’s hidden dangers.
How is Liability Proved
Proving how or why the flaw or defect occurred can be difficult, so the law applies two special doctrines in product liability cases to help plaintiffs recover even if they cannot prove a manufacturer was negligent:
- The plaintiff is not required to prove how the defendant was negligent; rather, the defendant is required to prove that it was not negligent.
- The plaintiff does not need to prove that a manufacturer was negligent, but only that the product was defective, thus eliminating the issue of manufacturer fault, which allows plaintiffs to recover where they otherwise might not.
What Is the Time Limit for Filing Product Liability Cases
A plaintiff in each state must bring an action within a certain period of time prescribed in the state’s statute of limitations. In most states, the time period begins when the plaintiff discovered or should have discovered his or her injury, under what is known as the discovery rule. A few states begin this time period when the injury actually occurred.
How to Get Help for An Accident Due to a Defective Product
After any situation involving a dangerous or defective product, you should speak with an experienced attorney who will evaluate your case with you, to ensure that your legal rights are fully assessed and protected. An attorney can explain what you can expect at every step of your personal injury case, and will take action on your behalf — researching the law, interviewing witnesses, collecting records, conferring with expert consultants, planning legal strategy, and negotiating with insurers and opposing counsel — to strengthen your position and ensure your fair recovery.