Product Liability laws allow you to claim compensation for injuries caused by a defective product. That sounds pretty straightforward, even simple; but once you get past the basics, things can get pretty complicated. Your attorney can initiate your case with a letter of representation to the manufacturer or a lawsuit filed in court. After the first notice, insurance companies, defense attorneys, investigators and many other involved parties will want answers to a lot of questions. Here are just a few.
What is the product?
If you allege an injury due to a product defect, your attorney or anyone else investigating your product liability case will want a solid product identification. You should be prepared to produce not only the product, but also any available original packaging materials, brochures, instruction manuals, sales literature, and a receipt of purchase.
What is the product defect?
You don’t have to have the product tested to allege a defect, although eventually someone will. It will be your responsibility, however, to explain what happened, either informally or in a deposition. For example: If you tripped over your lawn mower, that doesn’t mean it was defective. If a loose mower blade flew off and caused you to fall, your explanation backed up by physical evidence could be enough to confirm that a defect existed. A product can be defective if the package labeling or instructions misinform or misrepresent what’s inside. If a product is sold to do a job that it can’t perform safely, or the safety warnings are inadequate, that could also be deemed a defect.
Did the product defect cause injuries?
A product liability case may not be worth pursuing unless you sustain injuries as a direct result of the defective product. If your lawn mower blade flew off and caused you to fall, but you weren’t injured, your case may have merit but it probably has no value. If you cut your foot on the defective lawn mower blade, couldn’t walk, hired a landscaper to finish your yard work, and couldn’t go to work for a week, these financial losses would be directly connected to the lawn mower incident. They would be recoverable if you proved your product liability case.
Lots and lots of questions
At some point you will have to show that you acted reasonably, used the product the way you were supposed to, weren’t reckless or under the influence of alcohol or drugs, and didn’t injure yourself intentionally. You will also have to show that you maintained your product according to instructions. Your attorney may wish to interview any witnesses who saw what happened and will speak up on your behalf. If you intend to prove that your lawn mower– or other product– was defective, you’ll have to buy a new one as yours will be tested, held as evidence and probably out of commission until your case is settled.
You’ll need an experienced professional on your side
Moving your product liability case forward can be a long and tedious process. Some companies or their insurance carriers may investigate, decide your case has merits, and settle as soon as they have enough information. Unfortunately it’s not usually that easy. Your product liability allegation will put the manufacturer’s reputation on the line. Settling even a single case can give them a bad name and lead to a long line of copycat cases. That’s why some manufacturers choose to defend their products. You may have to fight them every step of the way. That doesn’t mean it’s impossible to win a product liability case. It just means you’ll need an experienced legal professional to protect your interests.