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Injuries and Product Liability: Do You Have a Case?

By Brett Snider, Esq. | Last updated on

When you've been injured by a product, you may be wondering if you have a legal case that's worth pursuing.

Defective products can hurt consumers in a variety of ways, but victims often worry that something they did with the product will prevent them from recovering. Perhaps they voided the warranty by trying to repair it, or even used it in a non-traditional way.

Consider the following general product liability principles to decide whether you have a good injury case:

Warranties (Implied and Explicit)

Almost all consumer products sold will come with two kinds of warranties: implied and explicit. Explicit or express warranties are the kind that a manufacturer states in words, either on the package or other forms of marketing. An express warranty may promise that a product will last "10,000 hours" or "100,000 miles," and if it does not, the manufacturer promises to repair or replace the item for free.

Implied warranties are the kind that aren't stated but are assumed about any consumer product. These include the promise that the product will work for its stated purpose, that it is uniform in quality and quantity, and that it meets the specifications on the packaging. When a product injuries someone, it likely violated one or both of these warranties, which can be another way to recover.

However, if a warranty is voided or expired, it does not affect your ability to sue for injuries from a defective product.

Altering or Improperly Using a Defective Product

Manufacturers are typically held strictly liable for the injuries caused by defects in their products, but alterations or improper use can change that. For example, a defect in warnings about a product can cause a consumer to use a product in a way that causes injury, but the manufacturer may only be responsible for "reasonable use." Products that are used in ways not anticipated by the manufacturer (e.g., using fishing line to hang a heavy portrait) may release that company from liability if injuries occur.

The same goes for making alterations to a product. A manufacturer of a defective product may not be held strictly liable for consumer injuries if the product was "substantially" changed or altered from its condition at sale.

Not being held strictly liable doesn't mean a product's maker is off the hook; it may just be harder to prove it is at fault for your injuries from a defective product. You'll likely need an attorney's help to evaluate if you really have a case.

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