Why You Need an Experienced Lawyer to Negotiate Your Product Liability Claim
By David Carnes, Staff Writer
Personal injury claims come in many different shapes and sizes. One of the most common is the product liability claim, which is usually the appropriate claim to file when you are injured by a defective product (product liability lawsuits can also be filed for property damage). Product liability law is complex, and it is distinctively different than other types of personal injury claims.
Who You Can Sue
You can assert a product liability claim against any party in the product’s chain of distribution, including:
- The manufacturer,
- The wholesaler,
- The retailer.
If you sue all of them and win, you can collect all of your damages from any one of the defendants based on a theory of joint and several liability.
What You Have to Prove
To prevail in a product liability lawsuit, whether at trial or at the settlement table, you must prove that:
- You suffered a tangible injury (shock or alarm is not enough unless it is accompanied by physical symptoms).
- The product was defective and unreasonably dangerous. This can be difficult to prove because “unreasonably dangerous” is an inherently subjective standard.
- The product defect actually caused your injury. A defective traffic light, for example, could not have caused a traffic accident injury if the defendant was driving so fast that he could not have stopped even if the traffic light had been working properly.
- You were using the product as the manufacturer intended it to be used. You might have trouble winning your case, for example, if you were injured by taking a prescription drug that was prescribed to someone else for another medical condition.
Once you have proven that the product was defective, you won’t necessarily have to prove that the manufacturer or distributor of the product was negligent (careless) – the mere fact that the product was defective can substitute for proof of negligence.
- Design defects: The defect lies in the design of the product itself – for example, an automobile cruise control mechanism that fails to automatically shut off when you tap the breaks might be considered defective.
- Manufacturing defects: The defect was caused by the failure of the manufacturer to manufacture the product in accordance with its design.
- Warning defects: The product included no conspicuous warning of its known dangers. A medication, for example, might fail to warn users that it should not be taken by pregnant women.
Establishing the existence of a design or manufacturing defect is highly likely to require the assistance of an expert (who can also serve as a witness in court if necessary). You are also likely to have to interview witnesses and collect extensive documentation.
Asserting a product liability claim either in court or at the settlement table is a complex undertaking that, generally speaking, should be undertaken only by experienced professionals. Our attorney search function can help you find an experienced product liability lawyer in your jurisdiction.