Suffering an injury or any other type of damage due to a defective product could mean that you have a product liability claim to be made. When you start to consider whether or not you actually have grounds to stand on, knowing a little bit about the law can be very important. Indeed, it can also be useful in terms of preparing your case so that you have the biggest chance of winning.
Each state will have different requirements in terms of what has to be proven in order to have a valid product liability case, while there is a clearly defined history of product liability law. Additionally, almost all states have a number of elements that will always be the same. These are:
- You have suffered an injury or some sort of loss.
- The product actually is defective.
- The fact that the product was defective led to your injury or loss.
- You were using the product in the proper way, as intended.
1. You Have Suffered an Injury of Some Sort of Loss
A defective product could have nearly caused you to be injured, or it may have nearly caused some damage. However, unless that injury or damage actually did occur, you will not be able to make a claim.
For instance: you have purchased a steam iron and it explodes the very first time you plug it in due to a hairline crack on the water container. As it does so, you are able to jump out of the way, narrowly avoiding the hot steam and hot plate of the iron. The iron falls and makes a vase, a priceless family heirloom, wobble until it actually falls on the floor. As if by chance, the dog’s bed is just underneath that point and the vase is saved and not damaged in any way.
Even though you almost got burned and your vase almost got broken and your dog could have been hurt, the reality is that nothing happened. This means that you have no claim to make at all. At best, you could claim back the money that the iron cost you, or request a new one to be provided to you.
2. The Product Actually Is Defective
Next, you must be able to demonstrate that you were injured by a product that is actually defective. This can be incredibly difficult to prove. There are a number of different product liability cases that you are able to make, and each of these have different rules and regulations. As a guideline:
- Manufacturing errors are products that had some sort of problem when they were made. Sticking with the earlier example, if you can prove that a hairline crack existed on the iron and that it has not been used before, it may be quite easy to prove a manufacturing error.
- Design defects, which means that there is a potential danger in how the product has actually been designed. This is much more difficult to prove. In most cases, you will need to adequately prove that the danger that the design actually creates is an unreasonable danger. For instance, if you purchase modeling clay and find out it is actually made of some sort of C4 explosive, you will have a very clear case of design defect. Nevertheless, while a lot of products could be deemed dangerous, the manufacturer may still not be liable for any type of injury or damage. For instance, if you fall asleep while holding a pencil and this happens to pierce through your eye, you will not be able to say that the design of the pencil is unreasonably dangerous. These two examples are incredibly black and white, of course. In reality, however, many cases are covered by much grayer areas. For instance, an airbag will, in many cases, injure a passenger of a vehicle, but it can also save a life. Furthermore, it is the most cost effective manner to provide enhanced safety, at the cost of a slight risk of injury.
- Failure to warn, which means a hazard is known to be present, but you were not given any warning about that. This is usually slightly easier to prove than design defects, as you only have to prove that the design’s dangers are not clearly defined to an ordinary customer. This doesn’t mean it is necessarily easy to prove that the instructions and warnings were not reasonably sufficient. Returning to the iron, for instance, if there is a steam valve on it that is hidden in something ornamental and not where it would usually be, then you may have a case to be made. If, however, there is a user manual that clearly warns of this ornamental detail, or the ornament has bright red warning stickers on it, then you can’t claim failure to warn.
Essentially, you must be able to prove some sort of defect, which is usually a design defect, a manufacturing defect or a marketing defect.
3. The Fact that the Product Was Defective Led to Your Injury or Loss
Once you have been able to argue you were injured when you used the defective product, you also have to prove that this defect actually caused your injury. This can be quite straightforward. For instance, if you received a burn due to the steam escaping from your defective iron, it is clear that the injury was caused by this. However, if you were driving a vehicle that is prone to tipping, such as the Baby Benz, and you actually did tip, but you were actually speeding, then it may be argued that your injury was caused (at least in part) due to your recklessness and not due to the defect of the vehicle.
4. You Were Using the Product in the Proper Way, as Intended
Naturally, you must actually have been using the product and the way you used it should conform to what it was designed for. For instance, if you were using the steam iron to straighten your hair and the steam burned you, it is unlikely that you will have a claim, even if the steam escaped from a hairline crack. You must use the product in a way that it was designed for, in other words. However, this is another slightly gray area. Essentially, you must prove that the way you used it was reasonably close to the requirements set by the manufacturer. For instance, if you were using rose clippers in your garden, but you used them on a plant other than a rose, and a product defect caused you to be injured, such as the blade coming off and cutting you, you will still be likely to be able to make a claim.
Seeking Legal Advice
If you believe you may have a defective product liability claim to be made, it is absolutely vital that you seek legal advice. This is because it can be incredibly tricky to prove the above four elements of a case. A good lawyer will be able to look at all the aspects of your case and determine whether or not you can file a claim for personal injury or not. Additionally, product liability laws seem to change very regularly, and a good lawyer will be fully up to date with that.