Product Liability

Product Liability

Personal Injury Guidebook

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* This general summary of the law and your rights is not intended to be a substitute for personal legal advice from a lawyer about the facts and circumstances of your case. Please see a lawyer for answers to your specific questions.

If an unsafe product has hurt you, you may have the right to compensation from the manufacturer for injuries sustained from the defective product.

When a consumer gets hurt by a product, he or she can bring a products liability suit against that product’s seller, manufacturer or designer, depending on what caused the injury.

Who is responsible will depend on the kind of product defect.

There is a legal responsibility for manufacturers of consumer products to ensure that their products are free of defects and not dangerous to those who buy and use them.

In the United States, defective or dangerous products cause thousands of injuries every year.

Products liability law covers all the following products (and then some):

  • Medications
  • Medical devices
  • Automobiles
  • Food
  • Furniture
  • Home appliances
  • Toys
  • Guns

There are three main types of product defectsDesign, manufacturing and marketing.

The legal basis of an injured party’s claims for compensation will be one or more of the following: Negligence, breach of warranty or misrepresentation.

Settling Product Liability Cases

Before discussing settlement, you need to identify all possible parties responsible for the injury. What happens if these companies are no longer in business? In the case of mergers, sales or spin offs, determine who the corporate successors are. If dissolved or bankrupt, you will need to decide if you can still sue them.

Many states have “joint and several liability” laws. This means that under these laws, all defendants are responsible for the damage in whole. For example, if there are four potential defendants and one of them no longer exists or went bankrupt, the other three must pay for the that defendant’s share of damages. These laws are very complex and vary from case to case.

When you determine your damages, it isn’t as simple as adding up your medical bills and time lost from work. Most states have clearly identified damages that are allowed in product liability cases. These damages can include: 

  • past and future medical and nursing bills
  • past and future wage loss
  • past and future pain and suffering
  • past and future emotional distress
  • past and future loss of consortium (losses a spouse experiences when a partner is injured)
  • and past and future expenses associated with the injury for things you can’t do anymore

A settlement is considered a full, final and complete settlement of all aspects of your claim. If your injury is extensive or the full extent of injury isn’t yet definite, you may consider a structured settlement or a partial settlement with a reservation of rights.

Settling a products liability claim is more complicated than it appears. The companies you will be seeking compensation from will have experienced attorneys helping them during the negotiations.

Hiring an experienced lawyer can help guide you through the negotiation and settlement process. An attorney experienced in products liability law can help you secure evidence of your losses and identify the companies responsible for manufacturing, distributing and selling the product or product components that injured you. If companies have changed identities because they sold, merged or spun off, your attorney will be able to identify the successor that would be responsible.