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Preparing a Product Liablity Case

People get injured using a defective or dangerous product every day. In fact, nearly 12,000 people hurt themselves using consumer products every year in the U.S. 

There are different types of product liability claims. Some of these products have a design defect. Others are not made properly and suffer from manufacturing defects.

There are also people who hurt themselves because the manufacturer, distributor, or wholesaler didn't warn them that the product could be dangerous. This is a marketing defect.

If you injure yourself while using a consumer product, you should consult an experienced product liability attorney. It takes time for your personal injury attorney to prepare your product liability case.

These cases are more involved than typical personal injury cases. Your personal injury lawyer may need to hire experts to prove that the product was dangerous or defective.

You may also need your doctor to testify to your injuries. It is critically important that you have sufficient evidence to prove your case. Otherwise, you will not receive the compensation you deserve.

This article will explain how to prepare for your product liability lawsuit. It will also briefly explain the difference between those products damaged during the manufacturing process and those consumer goods that are dangerous due to the product's design.

Lawsuits Involving Dangerous Products Are Strict Liability Cases

Usually, when you sue someone for damages, you must demonstrate that they were negligent. This isn't the case with product liability cases. Manufacturers, product designers, distributors, and retailers are held strictly liable for injuries caused by their products. In these cases, the injured party must only prove they were hurt while using the defendant's product.

When a company puts new products on the market, it must ensure they are safe. By selling a consumer good, a manufacturer is liable for an implied warranty of merchantability. This means the product will work the way the company promises it will.

This implied warranty also promises that the product is a safe product. The burden of proof is still on the plaintiff to demonstrate the defendant's product harmed them. However, if the defendant argues their product was safe, the burden of proof may shift to them.

Immediate Investigation

What you do in the hours and days following an accident can mean the difference between receiving compensation for your injuries or receiving nothing. You must preserve whatever evidence you have to ensure it is available to your product liability lawyer.

As long as you reach out to a personal injury attorney immediately after your accident, they can ensure that the evidence is preserved. They will secure the product that caused your injuries in a safe place. This will ensure that it is available for trial. It will also help ensure that its condition will not be changed.

If the product manufacturer or their insurance company can prove that the product is not in the condition it was in when you bought it, they may be able to defeat your product liability claim.

Do Not Destroy or Get Rid of the Defective Product

Ideally, the faulty product will be kept in a location only you and your attorney can access. Never throw the product away unless it presents a risk of immediate harm. If you must throw it away, make sure you take pictures or a video of the product. This will help you prove your case.

Do not sell the product or give it to an investigator before seeking legal advice. Major manufacturers are made aware of product recalls right away. They also check the news daily for new product liability law issues.

What if the Defective Product Is an Automobile?

Many product liability cases involve automobiles. If your car caused serious injuries to you or a loved one, you must be vigilant about people tampering with the vehicle.

If you cannot secure the car yourself, put all parties involved on notice. Make sure tow-truck operators, wrecking yards, and police impounds are aware that they must take every step to preserve the vehicle in its current condition.

Let them know that the car is evidence and that failure to preserve the vehicle will subject them to liability. If a third party is holding the vehicle, your attorney can file an action for a temporary restraining order or a preliminary injunction to avoid alterations to or destructive testing of the vehicle.

Other Protective Measures

It's not enough to preserve the condition of the product that hurt you. Your attorney will also want to obtain the complete history of the product. To prove the chain of custody and liability in your product liability case, your attorney will need the following information:

  • Date of the original sale
  • Identity of the dealer or retailer
  • Distributor information
  • Subsequent purchasers
  • Lessees and users

While your attorney prepares your case, you'll be gathering evidence. For example, look for any paperwork regarding the dangerous product. If your personal injury lawyer alleges a breach of warranty, you'll want to find the card or booklet containing the express warranty language.

You should also try to find the instruction booklet, assembly booklet, and all other written material accompanying the new product at the time of the original sale and distribution.

Your product liability attorney may also ask you to help determine whether the product was modified or otherwise changed after it left the possession of the manufacturer and distributor. If it was, you'll need to identify the persons or entities that made the modification and the dates involved.

You May Need an Expert Witnesses to Prove Your Case

Sometimes, product liability cases involve legal issues that you and your attorney cannot resolve independently. Many of these cases require expert testimony.

The types of experts retained in product liability cases usually include engineers, safety experts, and medical professionals. Finding a qualified expert early in the litigation process is often a significant factor in successfully proving a plaintiff's case.

An engineer may help prove that a design or manufacturing defect caused the plaintiff's injuries. Your attorney might also rely on the testimony of psychologists or experts specializing in the field of human factors.

A strict engineering approach doesn't always consider that products must be designed to work properly and safely. For example, a biomechanical analysis can reveal a hidden danger for the unwary user. Helping the jury understand human tendencies and behaviors may help win your case.

Product Testing

Sometimes, your personal injury attorney may need help with destructive and nondestructive testing. This sort of testing can help prove whether there is evidence that the product failed or could fail in the manner alleged by the plaintiff.

There are two main types of product testing in product liability cases: 

  • Destructive product testing
  • Nondestructive product testing

Destructive Product Testing

Destructive product testing is the first type of testing. In this type of test, an engineer will purposely destroy the product to see the points of failure.

Nondestructive Product Testing

The second type of inspection is nondestructive testing. Here, the engineer or expert tests for things like durability, choking hazards, and other flaws without destroying the product.

Getting Help With Your Case

Preparing a product liability case is complex, usually requiring expert witnesses, medical evidence, and a deep understanding of strict liability law. While you may not have to prove negligence, you must still show causation. That's why doing the legwork before moving forward with a claim is important.

To learn about the strength of your claim and whether you have a cause of action, a good first step is to contact a product liability attorney. Not only will they help prove your claim, but they will also ensure your claim is filed before the statute of limitations expires.

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