If you have suffered injuries or contracted an illness due to the use of a defective product, you might be eligible to receive compensation for losses related to your injuries or illness. The law permits you to seek damages by filing a defective product claim.
You shouldn’t suffer financially on top of the physical pain of your condition because a manufacturer was negligent. Additionally, taking action helps prevent manufacturers from bringing dangerous products to the market. It motivates them to recall products immediately when they learn consumers have suffered from using or consuming them.
If you want to file a defective product claim, consulting with an experienced product liability lawyer needs to be at the top of your list. Below, we provide more information about how a lawyer helps clients file defective product claims and aspects surrounding the process of filing a claim, so you have a better idea of what to expect until you get the chance to consult a product liability attorney.
Defective Product Claim Guide
- Hiring a Product Liability Attorney to File Your Defective Product Claim
- How Do You Prove a Defective Product Claim?
- Are There Time Limits in Defective Product Claims?
- Determining Liability in Defective Product Claims
- Damages in Defective Product Claims
Hiring a Product Liability Attorney to File Your Defective Product Claim
Product liability lawsuits are notoriously complex, especially involving large corporations or international conglomerates. Most large companies have intimidating in-house legal teams and massive insurance policies, so filing a claim often guarantees you need to deal with these parties.
A product liability attorney will advocate for you through every step of the legal process. However, handling communications with relevant parties is among the largest benefits of hiring a product liability attorney to represent you in your defective product claim.
First, product manufacturers, their legal teams, and their insurance companies often take claimants more seriously when they hire legal counsel to fight for them. Additionally, your lawyer can evaluate your case to ensure you have a viable claim and can potentially recover compensation for damages.
Finally, your lawyer will typically initiate a claim by drafting a demand letter and gathering relevant evidence and documents to support your claim as it progresses.
The Demand Letter
It’s in everyone’s best interest to avoid going to court. Litigation is costly and can take months or years to resolve a claim. To avoid the drawn-out legal process and quickly resolve your defective product claim, lawyers typically draft a demand letter to send to the manufacturer.
The demand letter includes the following elements:
- Statement of facts. A description of how the defective product injured someone.
- Liability. An explanation of why the manufacturer is financially liable for damages.
- Injury or Illness. A description of the injuries or illness resulting from the defective product and how they have impacted a person’s life.
- Damages. An itemized list of economic loss includes costs for all damages, such as medical bills and lost wages.
The manufacturer might pay so you can immediately resolve your claim, but this is highly unlikely. It’s more likely that they will respond with a counteroffer, deny liability, or not respond at all. This forces your lawyer to take additional steps and file a lawsuit with the court.
Even when manufacturers refuse to come to the table with an offer after a demand letter, filing a formal claim with the court often brings them to the table to negotiate. Large companies want to avoid bad press and large payouts that could come with litigation. They prefer to proceed quietly and try to pay as little as possible. Sometimes filing a formal claim is the only way to begin the negotiation process.
How Do You Prove a Defective Product Claim?
In most personal injury claims, lawyers must prove the defendant was negligent to win a case for their clients. This is not always the case in product liability claims, which typically fall under strict liability. Strict liability refers to the idea that manufacturers are strictly liable when defective products cause harm to users or consumers, regardless of whether the defect resulted from negligence. However, a claimant still needs to provide evidence and prove certain elements of their claim.
Product liability claims consist of four main elements. Even if you do not go to trial, your lawyer needs to gather evidence and build a strong case so they have leverage for negotiating with the insurance company. The four elements of a product liability claim are:
The Claimant Must Have Suffered Harm
If you file a claim against a product manufacturer, you must prove that you have suffered harm. This might be one or more specific injuries, but it can also include contracting an illness or disease, which is especially common with exposure to hazardous substances. Defective product accident victims could have a claim after suffering various injuries, including but not limited to deep cuts that leave scars, burns, amputation, brain injuries, neck injuries, back injuries, and contracting an illness or disease.
The Product Must Contain a Defect.
Many people suffer injuries when using or consuming products. However, not all situations warrant a defective product claim. Claimants must prove the product is defective and unreasonably dangerous for use or consumption.
From a legal standpoint, a product can have one or more of three different types of product defects:
- Design defects refer to flaws that emerge during the design of a new product. As companies think up new product ideas, defective designs have elements that make the product dangerous for consumers. Manufacturers sometimes notice design defects before production or bringing the product to market. Injured people often have valid claims when a product with a design defect makes it to the public.
- Manufacturing defects refer to flaws that occur during a product’s production, construction, or assembly. Manufacturing defects typically only impact specific lots instead of the whole product line. These defects often occur because of human error, but equipment failures can also cause manufacturing defects. Inadequate packaging, cheap materials, and improper materials for a particular product can also lead to manufacturing defects.
- Information defects, sometimes called marketing defects, refer to various issues related to the company’s information about its product to the public. Manufacturers must inform consumers about hazardous features or side effects of their products. They must also include instructions for use or assembly when applicable. Failure to provide this information or providing false information constitutes a product defect.
The Defective Product Had to Cause Injury or Illness
Although it might seem obvious, proving your defective product claim means you must prove the defective product caused your injury, illness, condition, or disease. Sometimes proving causation is a simple task. In other cases, lawyers must work hard to establish the link between a defective product and a claimant’s injuries. A skilled product liability knows how to apply the law to a claim and identify necessary links to fight for their client’s right to compensation.
The Claimant Must Have Used the Product for Its Intended Use
Intended use is the last element of a defective product claim. Proving your claim means you must prove you were using the product as the manufacturer intended. If an injury happens when someone uses a product outside of its intended use, the manufacturer has no way of foreseeing an injury. In these cases, someone may lack a viable defective product claim. However, if you suffered harm while using a product as intended, you have a good chance of proving your claim.
Are There Time Limits in Defective Product Claims?
The statute of limitations for product liability claims can impact your ability to file a claim. The statute of limitations is the legal deadline you have to take action against the manufacturer for its defective product causing you harm. Each state has deadlines for product liability cases ranging from one to six years.
However, the time limit is two years in most states, meaning you have two years from the date of injury to bring a lawsuit against the manufacturer. Courts must adhere to these statutes, so you need to take action as soon as possible. Failure to file before the time limit typically ends with a dismissal by the court, regardless of the strength of a case.
Some defective product injury scenarios impact when the statute of limitations time clock begins. Acute injuries like fractures and burns are easy to identify, so the statute of limitations countdown begins immediately. Defective products that cause illness, disease, or degenerative conditions are more difficult to identify because they often come with long-term exposure to toxic substances. Additionally, these conditions do not present symptoms immediately, so the statute of limitations begins when a defective product victim discovers their injury or illness.
You should also be aware of questionable tactics manufacturers use to start the statute of limitations countdown without you knowing about it. If a company learns about a defect that causes consumers harm, they often try to indirectly notify consumers. For example, they might send a notification that consumers can return the product and replace it without stating the exact reason. It’s important to contact a lawyer as soon as possible after suffering injuries from a defective product to ensure you do not miss the opportunity to recover compensation for damages.
Determining Liability in Defective Product Claims
If a lawyer files a defective product claim on your behalf, they will rely on one or more legal theories to build a case against the manufacturer or other parties who might share liability. Any party in a product’s distribution chain could be liable for damages if a defective product harms someone. This includes manufacturers, wholesalers, distributors, shippers, and retailers. Here is a broad overview of each of the potential legal grounds for a product liability claim:
Most personal injury cases rely on negligence to take action against another party. Lawsuits based on negligence center around the idea that the defendant had a duty of care towards the plaintiff and breached their duty. In product liability cases, lawyers often rely on negligence in claims involving design and manufacturing defects.
Examples of negligence that could cause you to file a defective product claim include:
- Failure to carry out safety tests or lab tests on a product
- Failure to foresee potentially dangerous product uses
- Failure to warn consumers about known dangerous features of a product
- Failure to comply with regulations that govern production practices
Breach of Warranty
A warranty is an agreement between a consumer and the retailer about the quality of a product and what happens if the quality does not meet the standards in the warranty. Sometimes manufacturers and retailers express a warranty, like when a checkout person at a big box retailer asks you if you want to buy an extended warranty.
Manufacturers also print limited warranties and package them with a product. Expressed warranties include explicit statements about a product. Warranties are also implied to the extent that companies have a legal obligation to meet reasonable consumer expectations about quality and safety. Sometimes lawyers approach defective product cases by suing a manufacturer or retailer for a breach of warranty.
Some states have laws that dictate courts use strict liability standards in certain product liability cases. Strict liability means a court finds the manufacturer, retailer, or other relevant parties liable for damages without regard to intent or negligence. Strict liability cases only require proving a claim, as discussed above.
Damages in Defective Product Claims
If you prevail in your defective product claim—whether that includes reaching a settlement or a jury ruling in your favor—you could receive compensation for various damages related to your injuries. Common damages include compensation for current and future medical expenses, current and future lost wages, rehabilitation costs, assistive device costs, pain and suffering, reduced quality of life, and loss of consortium.
Punitive damages, meant to punish the defendant, are rare in personal injury cases but are more common in product liability claims. If a company conceals information about a known defect or misrepresents the safety of its product, the court might find they were fraudulent. Fraud and misrepresentation are two primary reasons courts award punitive damages to claimants in product liability lawsuits.
Contact a product liability attorney who can review the facts of your case and advise you on which damages apply to your defective product claim.