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Proving Fault in a Product Liability Case

If you injured yourself while using a defective or dangerous product, you may have an easier time proving your case than people injured in other ways. This is because special rules have developed in the area of law known as product liability.

There are three legal theories you can base your product liability lawsuit on. These include:

  • Strict liability
  • Negligence
  • Breach of warranty

Most product injury claims fall under the legal doctrine of strict liability.

This article explains how strict liability works. It will also discuss how to prove fault in your product liability case.

What Is Strict Liability?

Ordinarily, to hold someone liable for your injuries, you must show that they were careless. Your personal injury lawyer must prove that the defendant was negligent. However, with cases involving products sold to the general public, it would be challenging and prohibitively expensive for each plaintiff to prove that a manufacturer wasn't careful in making a particular product.

The courts cannot expect consumers to prove whether the seller of a product had a proper system in place to check for manufacturer defects. Furthermore, the courts shouldn't expect plaintiffs to ascertain whether the wholesaler or retailer caused the defect after receiving the product from the manufacturer. Finally, judges should not expect consumers to check each product before using it to see if it's defective or dangerous.

For these reasons, the law has developed a doctrine known as strict liability. Strict liability allows a person who sustains an injury while using a defective or unexpectedly dangerous product to recover compensation. They can recover from the product manufacturer, distributor, seller, or anyone in the chain of commerce without showing that they were negligent.

Proving Fault and the Rules of Strict Liability

Proving fault in a product liability case doesn't require a showing of carelessness on the part of the manufacturer or seller if all of the following conditions exist:

  • The consumer product had an unreasonably dangerous defect that injured you as an end user. There are two types of product defects. Some cases involve an inherently dangerous product design. Other cases involve a defect in the manufacturing process.
  • The defect injured the plaintiff while using the product in a way the manufacturer intended the plaintiff to use it.
  • The plaintiff did not make any substantial changes to the product.

If your product liability attorney can prove the three elements of strict liability, you will likely recover damages.

Expert Witnesses Can Help Resolve Legal Issues in Product Liability Cases

The plaintiff's product liability lawyer often relies on expert witnesses to help prove liability. The expert will review the plaintiff's injuries and help determine if the dangerous product was the proximate cause of these injuries.

Product liability law can be very complex. Even if the injured party can prove a defect, they may still have to prove that the defendant didn't use reasonable care. It depends on which theory of liability your attorney uses.

Manufacturers' and Sellers' Defense: Awareness of the Defect

If you take legal action in a defective product case, the manufacturers and sellers will not admit fault. They may argue that you were aware of the defect and continued to use the product anyway.

The judge may dismiss your strict liability lawsuit if they can prove you knew of the defect. At a minimum, the judge will reduce your damages.

The Defendant May Argue That You Made Substantial Changes to the Product

If the defendant can prove that you materially changed the product, they may defeat your personal injury case. It depends on the nature of the change as well as the significance of the change.

For example, imagine that you buy a lawnmower. The mower comes equipped with a safety lock to prevent users from dangerous injuries. You remove the lock because it is inconvenient to switch it on and off while mowing. You end up suffering serious injuries.

The defendant can argue that you wouldn't have gotten hurt had you left the safety lock in place. It would be tough to recover damages in a situation like this because the injury isn't due to a design defect or some other issue with the product.

Can the Manufacturer Protect Itself Using a Disclaimer?

Sometimes, a manufacturer attempts to limit liability by including a disclaimer in their products' packaging. Generally, a disclaimer will not relieve the manufacturer from civil liability. A disclaimer will not be sufficient unless there is an express, written contract between you and the seller.

When consumers buy a product, they should expect it to work the way the manufacturer says it will. They should also expect the product to be safe. You may have a valid claim if there is a breach of an implied warranty or inadequate warnings on the product's label.

Get an Attorney for Your Product Liability Claim

If you or a loved one suffered severe injuries while using a dangerous or defective product, time may not be on your side. Depending on several factors, you may need to take immediate action. One way to ensure you file your case on time is to contact an experienced product liability lawyer immediately.

An attorney can help you preserve evidence and prove fault in your product liability claim. They can also help establish your damages. Depending on the facts of your case, you may be entitled to significant compensation, including medical bills, property damage, and pain and suffering,

Consult Findlaw's attorney directory to find an experienced attorney near you.

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