We are all consumers of manufactured products. From our cars to our clothing to the tools we use on the job. These products play essential roles in our everyday lives, and we expect a certain level of safety while using these items, or at the very least, warnings about the consequences of unsafe use. Unfortunately, there are still thousands of incidents each year where dangerous or defective products harm individuals. Product liability refers to holding the companies or individuals in the defective product’s supply chain legally responsible for the injuries their product caused. Products can be tangible items, but the law has expanded to include other items that are less easy to categorize, such as navigational instructions, pets, and real estate.
Who Could Be Held Responsible in a Product Liability Claim?
At one time, the injured party had to have a contractual relationship with the supplier of the product to recover damages in a product liability case. In other words, they had to be able to prove that they were the person who purchased the product. This is no longer a necessity in most jurisdictions, and anyone injured by a dangerous or defective product has the right to pursue a liability case as long as the product was sold to someone at some point. Any entity within the distribution chain can be held responsible in a product liability claim. This may include:
- Any manufacturers of components within the product
- Product assemblers
- Retail sellers
Typically, liability is restricted to sales that occur within the usual supply chain. For example, a person who resold their used item at a rummage sale generally wouldn’t be held liable for a defective product.
What Kinds of Defects Can Occur in Products?
For a product liability case to be successful, the plaintiff must prove that the product had a defect that was an actual or proximate cause of their injury. This defect had to be present when the plaintiff purchased the item. Whether the defendant was unaware of the defect or if they had put reasonable measures in place to try to catch defective products is irrelevant in a product liability case. If the product has a defect and it caused harm, regardless of the manufacturer or seller’s intent, they can be held liable. Product defects can fall into three different categories:
- Design defects: The product was inherently unsafe, even before it was made because there was an issue with how it was designed. This means that every product made with this design is dangerous.
- Manufacturing defects: Something happened while the product was being made or assembled, which introduced a defect. This would only impact some, or even just one, of the manufactured products.
- Marketing defects: There was an issue with how the product was presented to the consumer. This can include incorrect instructions for use, insufficient warnings, or improper labeling.
How Can a Personal Injury Lawyer Help if an Unsafe Product Has Harmed You?
If you have been hurt while using a product in a reasonably safe and expected manner, you may be able to recover damages from the liable parties. However, proving fault in product liability cases can be complicated and often requires an expert’s testimony to pinpoint where the defect occurred. Manufacturers and sellers will often try to accuse the plaintiff of altering the product or misusing it in an attempt to shift the responsibility for the harm onto the injured party. A personal injury lawyer will help protect you from these accusations while fighting to get you the compensation you deserve for the injuries you suffered from the defective product.