In 2010, more than 38.5 million Americans sought medical attention for injuries related to product defects. Although any consumer product can malfunction, certain items have been responsible for a disproportionately high number of product defect injuries. Here are a few examples of those products:
- Medical devices;
- Motor vehicles;
- Baby and children’s toys;
- Over-the-counter and prescription medication;
- Construction chemicals and other workplace materials; and
- Expired foods.
Who Can Be Held Liable for a Product Defect?
Just about any party who played a role in the design, development, or distribution of a product may be liable for a defect. Ultimately, determining liability requires an investigation into the specific cause of the defect. In most successful product liability claims, one or more of the following parties is found liable:
- The product designer;
- The product manufacturer; or
- The product vender or distributor.
Depending on the circumstances of your particular situation, there could be dozens of other parties who might be liable for the defect. For instance, if a person or company was hired to evaluate the safety of a particular product but did not use reasonable and accepted processes for performing the tests, that party may be liable for your damages.
Do I Have Grounds for a Product Liability Claim?
If you were hurt or lost a loved one due to a product defect, you might have grounds for a product liability claim. For your case to be successful, you must be able to prove that:
- You (or your loved one) was using the product as a reasonable person would use it;
- The product was defective; and
- You (or your loved one) sustained an injury as a result of the defect.
Just because a product did not perform as advertised does not meant that you have grounds for a product liability claim. You must be able to demonstrate that you sustained an injury or loss as a result of the defect. Further, you will need evidence to prove that the defendant was in fact responsible for the defect, and you will need to prove the value of any damages you incurred.
Even if liability is relatively easy to prove, you might still run into a dispute when proving your damages. “Damages” refers to the specific losses you incurred as a result of your injury. Examples including medical bills, lost wages, reduced earning capacity, pain and suffering, and emotional distress. In some states, punitive damages are also recoverable in product liability claims. These are intended to punish the defendant for egregious or grossly negligent behavior.
To prove damages, you will need extensive evidence in the form of medical documentation, income tax returns, paystubs, and your journal about your injuries. You may also need expert witnesses to testify regarding the extent of your injuries.
As you can see, winning a product liability case is a complicated endeavor. It is a good idea to consult a personal injury attorney before you take legal action. A skilled lawyer can help you navigate the claims process, avoid mistakes, calculate your damages, and identify the parties who may be liable for your losses.