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Product Liability Law

In the U.S., when a consumer buys a product and uses it for its intended purpose, it should be safe. Injured consumers can hold product manufacturers accountable if their products cause serious injuries.

Product liability refers to holding a responsible party liable for placing a defective product into the hands of a consumer. Responsibility for a product defect that causes injury can lie with any number of parties. Potentially liable parties can include any party in the product's chain of distribution, such as:

  • The product manufacturer
  • A manufacturer of component parts
  • A party that assembles or installs the product
  • The wholesaler
  • The retail store that sold the product to the consumer

Product liability law encompasses a broad range of products and legal theories.

Product Liability Terms to Know

  • Warranty: The inherent promise that comes with a product that ensures that the product is fit for its intended use.
  • Negligence: The legal doctrine providing that a manufacturer may be liable for a defective product if they could have foreseen that a product defect would cause injury but did not act reasonably to prevent it.
  • Strict Liability: The legal doctrine providing that a manufacturer may be liable for a defective product when that product injures a consumer, whether that defect was the manufacturer's fault.
  • Design Defect: A claim that the product design is defective. There is a foreseeable risk of injury when the product was manufactured as intended and used for its intended purposes but contained a design defect.
  • Manufacturing Defect: A product defect where the product is improperly manufactured and departs from its intended design.

Types of Product Defects

Given the sheer number of products on the market in the U.S., there are many types of product liability cases. Defective product injuries result from a range of products. Examples of products covered by product liability law include:

Product liability lawsuits can be complicated, so you will want to contact an experienced product liability lawyer if you, a family member, or another loved one sustained a personal injury due to a defective product.

Product Liability Lawsuits

Some personal injury lawyers choose to become product liability lawyers. They can specialize in filing lawsuits involving a particular type of product. Like other accident and injury attorneys, product liability attorneys generally fall into two types: plaintiffs' attorneys and defense attorneys.

Plaintiffs' attorneys usually practice in small law firms and get paid through contingency fees. With a contingency agreement, the injured victim does not pay anything upfront, and the lawyer takes a percentage of any damages award or settlement.

Many product liability attorneys may work for larger firms with the resources to find multiple injured consumers who were injured by the same product. These attorneys can also bring class-action lawsuits for all the injured consumers.

Plaintiffs' attorneys face challenges due to the rise of state-specific tort reform laws, which seek to limit the number and type of lawsuits brought against companies furnishing defective products.

Defense attorneys often get paid an hourly fee and typically work as employees for the companies involved in designing, manufacturing, and selling products in the U.S.

Types of Product Liability Lawsuits

A person injured by a defective or dangerous product may be able to bring an action for product liability and recover damages under one of the following theories:

Specific rules govern a manufacturer's disclaimer of any warranties implied under state law. Specific, conspicuous language is required. If the manufacturer successfully disclaimed all implied warranties, you cannot recover for a breach of such warranties. However, an attorney can review the information and evaluate the implications of the language used.

Time Limits for Filing Product Liability Lawsuits

A plaintiff must file a product liability lawsuit within the time designated by each state. These time limits are called the statute of limitations. In most states, the statute of limitations begins when the injured plaintiff discovered or should have discovered their injury. This is known as the discovery rule.

Damages Available in Product Liability Lawsuits

Cases involving product defects can result in verdicts or settlements favoring injured parties. If you or a loved one sustains an injury due to a defective product, you may be entitled to receive fair compensation for damages caused by the product.

The term damages in personal injury law refers to a plaintiff's compensation. The damages awarded either compensate for losses stemming from damages or punish the defendant for wrongdoing.

No amount of money can compensate an injured party for what they have been through. However, different types of damage are available from a lawsuit or a settlement. A product liability lawsuit puts a dollar value on losses to compensate an injured party. There are two categories of compensatory damages: economic and noneconomic losses.

Economic Losses

Economic losses refer to the money or property the plaintiff lost due to the injury or illness. These damages can include:

  • Medical expenses
  • Cost of disability
  • Loss of wages
  • Property damage

Economic losses usually represent out-of-pocket expenses caused by the defective product.

Noneconomic Losses

Noneconomic losses for personal injury cases are more difficult to quantify. They are sometimes called "general damages" or "nonmonetary losses." Common noneconomic damages include:

  • Pain and suffering
  • Loss of consortium
  • Disfigurement
  • Emotional distress

Punitive Damages

Compensatory damages seek to make a plaintiff whole. But punitive damages punish a wrongdoer for particularly egregious or outrageous conduct. Punitive damages are unusual. A court reserves a punitive damage award for only the most serious cases. Cases warranting punitive damages are often high-profile cases.

A personal injury attorney can explain the particular compensation available in your case. Your legal team can assist with any injury or a loved one's wrongful death resulting from a defective product.

Related Practice Areas

  • Accidents and Injuries: Product liability is a subset of accidents and injuries law.
  • Litigation: Many product liability claims end up in the courtroom.
  • Consumer Protection: Products so defective that they cause injuries often violate consumer protection laws.
  • Medical Malpractice: If a doctor prescribes unsafe medications or uses a defective medical device, the injured party may sue the medical provider in a medical malpractice suit.
  • Trademark Law: Many dangerous consumer products are sold as knockoffs and violate trademark law and consumer protection laws.

Get Help From a Product Defect Injury Lawyer

You may have a product liability claim if a defective product injures you. You may be able to hold a manufacturer, distributor, or vendor accountable for your injuries. A personal injury lawsuit can help you recover damages for medical bills, lost wages, and pain and suffering.

There is a lot at stake in product liability cases. Defendants will fight these cases with a wealth of resources. You should get the best representation for your case. An experienced product liability attorney can provide a free case evaluation during a case review. A product liability attorney can provide legal advice and explain your legal options regarding your personal injury claim due to a defective product. Find an experienced dangerous product lawyer for help with your claim.

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