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A Beginner’s Guide to Product Liability Lawsuits



A Beginner’s Guide to Product Liability Lawsuits

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When you purchase a product, the least you expect is for it to operate or function as intended. Unfortunately, each year thousands of people are injured by defective products. An individual who suffers injury or loss due to a defective product may be eligible to file a product liability lawsuit.

What is a Product Liability Lawsuit?

When you suffer an injury or illness caused by a dangerous or defective product, medical device, or drug, the lawsuit you file against responsible parties will likely fall under the doctrine of “product liability.” These types of claims are different from those related to car accidents or other regular personal injury cases, as the victim usually isn’t required to show that the manufacturer acted negligently. You must search for a local product liability attorney to help with your legal claim process.

Product liability lawsuits allow an injured person to take legal action to recover medical costs, lost wages, pain and suffering, loss of quality of life, and more.

Types of Product Defects Leading to Liability

Under the theory of liability, a plaintiff must prove that the product was defective and unreasonably dangerous. Three types of defects often bring on product liability:

Design Defect

This type of defect is present in a product from the beginning. Something in the product’s design is inherently dangerous, regardless of the fact that the product was made according to the manufacturer’s specifications. As such, an entire line of products is considered unsafe. An example of a design defect is a line of electric blankets that melt when turned on in the high setting.

Manufacturer Defect

Manufacturing defects refer to flaws that occur during the construction, production, or assembly phase of a product. This type of defect only affects a specific lot instead of the entire product line. Manufacturing defects can be caused by human error, equipment failure, improper or cheap materials, or inadequate packaging.

This defect can be proven if the injury-causing product differs from the manufacturer’s intended design or is somehow different from other units from the same production line. An example of this defect is a batch of painkillers tainted with a poisonous substance.

Marketing Defects

Also referred to as “failure to warn,” marketing defects happen when a company promotes a product but fails to provide adequate warnings regarding potential harm or instructions about the product’s proper use. A good example of a failure-to-warn claim is a kidney drug that could cause eye damage.

Product Liability Claims: Responsible Parties

If a defective product has injured you and you want compensation for your losses, you need to identify liable parties and name them as defendants. This involves figuring out the chain of distribution and understanding how “joint and several” liability works. The chain of distribution is basically the path a product takes from design to manufacture to consumer purchase.

The level of liability increases if the business is aware of the risk created by the product defect when the product is used as directed but chooses to release it anyway. An example of this would be product liability cases involving drug manufacturers, where patients are harmed by the drug’s adverse effects that they weren’t adequately warned about, even though the manufacturer was already aware.

Identifying every potential defendant in a product liability claim increases the plaintiff’s chances of receiving fair compensation. Under joint and several liabilities, the plaintiff can collect the damage award from each defendant jointly (together) or separately. If one defendant cannot pay, the others pick up the tab. Also, it’s up to the defendants to determine how much each should pay.

The Elements of a Product Liability Claim

Product liability lawsuits require proof of different elements for a plaintiff to successfully move forward with their case. This requirement varies from state to state.


Negligence refers to the reckless or careless action of a defendant(s) that causes harm. To prevail on a claim for product liability, a plaintiff must prove that:

  • The defendant created, manufactured, or sold a defective product
  • The product had the alleged defect when it left the defendant’s possession
  • There was reasonably foreseeable use of the product by the plaintiff
  • The plaintiff was injured as a result of the defect

Strict Liability

Under this legal doctrine, the plaintiff doesn’t have to prove that the defendant(s) was negligent but only that the product harmed them. It doesn’t matter whether the defendant acted negligently or intentionally.

Filing a Product Liability Lawsuit

If you were injured or suffered a loss due to a defective product, there are steps you should take to recover damages from responsible parties.

  • See a doctor and explain to your physician what happened.
  • Preserve the evidence; discontinue the use of the product, and don’t try to fix or alter it in any way.
  • Take photos of the damage/injury.
  • Search for a local product liability attorney for legal advice and representation.
  • Check the statute of limitations; for instance, you have up to 2 years from the date of injury to file a claim in California.

Final Thoughts

Product liability cases are quite complex. You’ll need an attorney with skill and experience to handle product liability lawsuits and who will work to recover the damages you deserve. They can determine the type of product defect, establish fault, and identify all potential defendants.

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