Product liability works differently then most other personal injury cases. The law has laid things out so that in almost all cases the manufacturer is liable for injuries caused by their product - known as "strict liability." This is standard across all states as a means of protecting the consumer.
Why do the consumers need protecting? Because without the protection of strict liability, consumers would have to face an expensive product liability lawsuit whenever an injury happens. This is simply not fair. How can a consumer prove that that particular product was defective as a result of the manufacturer's carelessness? Secondly, how can the consumer be shown as being careless themselves unless they are obligated to closely inspect ever single product ever purchased?
So what does strict liability actually mean? With product liability the law has taken the negligence factor out of the equation. Unlike other situations, the only thing that matters is causation. In simple terms, if a product caused the damages then the manufacturer is negligent.
There are four factors you need to solidify your case:
- The product had to be unreasonably dangerous.
- The product had to have been used in its intended fashion.
- The product couldn't have been greatly altered from its original condition.
- The user could not have been previously aware of the defect.
Unreasonably dangerous means that it is okay for a product to have dangers as long as they are understood and necessary. If you burn yourself on a toaster's element the manufacturer will naturally claim that it is reasonable for the toaster to get that hot. If, however, the toaster had an electrical problem and caught fire then your burns were sustained due to an unreasonable danger; in this case it is a product defect.
Strict liability won't apply if you were using the product in a way the manufacture didn't intend. If someone used a screwdriver to pry open a bottle cap and cut themselves as a result, the manufacturer of the screwdriver couldn't be held responsible. If the screwdriver injured someone because it broke while they were tightening a screw then strict liability would apply.
Things can often be subjective when it comes to a product being altered. Product liability law says that you can't adjust a product significantly. If your alteration was something unforeseeable by the manufacturer or something that changed the way the product worked, you wouldn't be able to win your case.
In a product liability lawsuit the manufacturer will often try to show that you knew there was a defect before using the product. Auto manufacturers will go to great lengths to let their customers know when a defect is discovered. Often someone will see that their appliance is sparking but will continue to use it anyway. In either case, if the manufacture can show that that knowledge was there then the manufacturer's defense will be greatly strengthened.
Product liability applies to anyone using the product. They do not have to be the original purchaser. If the product was purchased from a store that regularly deals with that type of item then that store can also be held liable."
Arthur Gueli works with his brother Charles (a licensed personal injury attorney) teaching injured people how to protect their rights and obtain fair compensation for their damages. Learn more about product liability (and how to use it to increase your personal injury settlement) at their educational website
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