Proving a Product Liability Claim
As the person making a product liability claim, it’s up to you to prove why you should be compensated. This is known as the burden of proof. In a civil lawsuit such as a product liability case, the standard you have to meet is known as preponderance of the evidence, which means you have to demonstrate to a jury that the greater weight of the evidence is on your side.
Any lawsuit claim breaks down into particular elements, each of which must be proven to be successful in your case. In a product liability case, those elements generally include demonstrating that:
- You used the product for its intended use — For example, you used a hair dryer to dry your hair and not for some other purpose
- The product has a defect — The hair dryer had an electrical short and caught fire
- You suffered some harm — You suffered serious burns and had to have skin graft surgery, which meant time spent in the hospital and loss of income because you couldn’t work while you were recovering
- The defect caused your harm — Your burns were caused by the fire that resulted from the electrical short
In the case of the hypothetical faulty hair dryer, there are a few different ways that the defect might have happened.
- Design Defect — When a product has a design defect, that means it was made correctly according to the design, but the design itself makes the product unreasonably dangerous. For example, when someone designed the hair dryer, they made errors in designing the wiring or shielding that resulted in an unreasonable risk of fire.
- Manufacturing Defect — A manufacturing defect involves an error somewhere in the process of building or making the product. With the hair dryer, maybe the wiring wasn’t properly connected and that allowed for the short that caused the fire.
- Failure to Warn — Some products come with inherent risks even when they’re made correctly and used as intended. However, those risks may not always be readily apparent to the consumer, or it may not be apparent to a reasonable consumer how the product should be used or operated in order to remain safe. The product should come with reasonably sufficient instructions and/or warnings so that the user can avoid the dangers. If the hair dryer didn’t come with a warning that it could cause fire, there may be a product liability claim.
Many personal injury cases are based on the idea that your injuries were the result of someone else’s negligence. While negligence can be at work in a product liability case, there many cases are based on the legal principle of strict liability.
Strict liability is a standard under which the person or company becomes liable for injuries caused by their products regardless of any presence of fault or intent. Under strict liability, there is no requirement that the manufacturer, designer, or other person or company involved in the production or sale of the product be negligent. When your claim is based on strict liability, you must prove one of the following:
- There was a defect in the product’s design or manufacture
- The product was defective or unreasonably dangerous at the time it left the manufacturer’s control
- The manufacturer, distributor, or seller failed to warn you about the product’s dangers
Even though it may sound that way, strict liability doesn’t make a manufacturer responsible every single time someone is injured by a product. For example, a manufacturer may only have a responsibility for injuries to users of the product, but not to people who might be injured collaterally.
Manufacturers can defend themselves against strict liability claims by claiming that:
- You assumed the risk — If you knew the product was potentially dangerous and used it anyway, you may not be successful in your claim.
- You misused the product — If you use the product in a way that the manufacturer, designer, or seller could not foresee, then they may have no liability to you for your injuries.
How a Chicago Personal Injury Attorney Can Help
Proving a product liability claim can be a tricky proposition, and if strong arguments aren’t made for each necessary element, you risk losing your case and walking away with nothing. Further, product liability claims typically involve significant amounts of documents and evidence that contain complicated and technical information that most lay people would find mystifying.
It’s usually in your best interest to hire an experienced Chicago product liability lawyer to represent you — and you shouldn’t wait until you think you’re ready to file a lawsuit. A lawyer can step in as soon as you’re injured to conduct an investigation into your injuries, identify the liable party or parties, and protect the rights of you and your family. A lawyer can negotiate with insurance companies to try to achieve a fair settlement before filing a lawsuit, saving you money and time in court. If a settlement can’t be reached, your lawyer can proceed with a lawsuit and present your case to a jury.