Evidence in Product Defect Cases
When you’ve been injured because of a defect in a product, you’ll need evidence to show what happened, how you were hurt, and the effects that your injuries have had on your life. Solid evidence is the foundation of any successful claim for compensation.
For most people, the process of going through a claim or a lawsuit is foreign. You may feel overwhelmed and unsure where to begin documenting your injuries and how they’re connected to the defective product. That’s where an experienced product liability lawyer can help. A Chicago product liability lawyer can help you through the process in a number of ways. When it comes to handling evidence to support your claim, a lawyer can help with:
- Investigation — As soon as you hire your lawyer, he or she should start the process of investigating your injuries. Investigation involves collecting documents such as medical records, taking pictures or video of your injuries, interviewing witnesses who saw what happened to you, getting copies of insurance policies, obtaining design or manufacturing schematics for the product, and finding experts to evaluate the design or manufacturing schematics. Your lawyer can help you with every facet of documenting your injuries and how they were caused by the defective product.
- Discovery — After a lawsuit is filed, the parties go through a formal process of gathering and exchanging evidence known as discovery. Discovery involves the lawyers for each side trading written questions and requests for documents or other evidence. A lawyer will handle making requests of the parties responsible for your injuries, and for responding to their requests to you.
- Settlement Demand and/or Trial Exhibits — The purpose of obtaining evidence is to use it to support your claim. Your lawyer can do that on your behalf before a lawsuit is filed by compiling the evidence and incorporating it into a settlement demand package designed to start negotiations. The stronger the evidence in your favor, the better the outcome of settlement talks is likely to be. If you proceed with a lawsuit and it goes to trial, your lawyer will prepare and present the evidence in a way designed to get you the best possible jury award.
Types of Evidence You’ll Need
Product liability cases can be a little different than other kinds of personal injury cases. They can be very complex, and to prove a product was defective may require evidence that is technical in nature. You’ll need not only evidence of your injuries and the chain of events that resulted in your being harmed, but also specific information about the product itself and how it works or should work. Some forms of evidence that can help support a product liability claim include:
- Medical Records — Medical records are crucial to showing that you were harmed by the product in question. Your medical records will show how you were hurt, what functions you’ve lost either temporarily or permanently, and what treatments you’ve had or will have in the future. Medical records help tell the story of your injuries in a demonstrable way that can be compensated.
- Bills — Your medical and other bills are another crucial piece of your story. Your medical bills help show what your injuries have cost you financially, and can help an insurance company or a jury assign a value for which you can be compensated.
- Pay Stubs and Tax Returns — Pay stubs and tax returns tell another part of the story of your economic losses. If your injuries prevent you from working either short-term or long-term, your pay stubs and tax returns can document what you’ve lost or will lose in the future because you were harmed by the defective product.
- Photos and Videos — Photos and videos can demonstrate the reality of your injuries and how your injuries affect your life in a way that’s understandable for a jury. When they see your bruises, broken bones, cuts, burns, or other injuries, they’ll have a clearer idea of how the defective product affected you.
- Accident Reports — If you made some kind of report about your accident, a copy of that report can help demonstrate the sequence of events that led to your injury. For example, if you were hurt in a crash because of a defect in your car or someone else’s car, the accident report filed by police can help an insurance company or a jury understand how the defect contributed to your injuries.
- Schematics and Blueprints — To establish that a product was defective in design or manufacture, you need to know how the product was designed or made. Schematics, blueprints, or other engineering or technical documents can show if there was a flaw in the design, what materials went into or were supposed to go into the product, how the manufacturing process was set up, or how a product was supposed to work if it came off the assembly line with a defect.
- Insurance Policies — It’s a good idea to obtain copies of any insurance policies that might offer coverage for your injuries to make sure all of your options for compensation are pursued and that your medical and other bills get paid.
- Other Documents — Depending on the nature of your product liability case, you may need other documents to support your claim. For example, if you’re claiming that the defect was one of misrepresentation in advertising or a failure to warn, you might need copies of advertisements or instruction manuals. Your personal injury lawyer can determine what additional types of documents you might need in your case and how to get them.
- Witness Testimony — You’ll want statements from any witnesses who saw what happened to you, as well as people who can testify about how your injuries have affected your life. That might include your medical providers, your spouse, your co-workers, or your friends. You also may need witnesses from the factory where the product was manufactured and from the company that makes or sells the product.
- Expert Witnesses — Expert witnesses can be especially useful in product liability claims to provide analysis of technical documents or talk about the physics of a product and how it works, or how it might harm someone. Medical experts can support that you were indeed injured in the way that you said, and that your injuries were caused by the defective product.