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Product Liability

Definition - What does Product Liability mean?

Product liability law requires companies and manufactures that distribute or sell products to sell goods which do not contain dangerous manufacturing or design defects and are safe for consumers when they are used as intended by the seller or manufacturer.

Consumers who are injured from dangerous or defective products may have the legal right to receive financial compensation for their personal injury. In some cases the manufacturer of the product may be sued or held liable if the product has a manufacturing defect, a design defect, or a defective warning.

Winning a product liability claim

Product liability law varies by state, but to win a product liability claim the plaintiff must generally prove they have suffered injury or loss due to a defective product, the defect caused the injury, and the product was being used as intended.

Product liability claims can be strict liability cases where the injured party must only prove the product was defective, unreasonably dangerous, and the defect caused the plaintiff's injury, or they can be negligence claims where the plaintiff must prove the seller was negligent due to inadequate warnings, misrepresentation, a breach of warranty, or a design or manufacturing defect.

No loss or injury – No product liability claim

Another critical component of a product injury case is proving loss or injury. Whether you have a strict liability claim or a claim of negligence against a product seller or manufacturer, if you have not suffered loss or injury, you do not have a product liability claim.

You also must have been using the product as intended. If you are utilizing a product in a completely unexpected way which could not have been expected or anticipated by the manufacturer and you have been injured, it is unlikely you will recover compensation for your injuries.

Statute of Limitations for Product Liability Claims

All personal injury claims must be filed within a specific time from the date of injury, including product liability claims. Product liability claims cannot be filed after the state's statute of limitations. States have implemented statute of limitations for all injury claims to prevent fraudulent claims from arising after all evidence has been lost or witnesses are no longer available.

Consider, however, states have different deadlines depending on the personal injury and cause of action. For example, in the state of New York, personal injury due to fraud must be filed within six years from the action, but claims for libel and slander must be filed within one year. New York product liability claims must be filed within one year from the date of injury.

Not only can the statute of limitations for product liability claims vary between states, states also have different means to determine when the "clock" begins. For example, some states start the time when the accident occurs while other states do not start the clock until the injury is discovered or when it should have been discovered.

How much can I win in a product liability case?

Most product liability claims are settled out of court.

To determine financial loss and potential compensation you will first need to calculate the cost of your injuries, including economic and non-economic damages. For instance, how much will you have to pay for lost earnings and lost earning capacity, medical bills, and other financial losses? How much should you receive for pain and suffering or emotional distress?

After determining this amount you will also need to consider other factors:

  • How strong is the case?
  • How much evidence do you have to prove your product liability claim?
  • How credible are the witnesses?
  • How much has been awarded for similar product liability cases?
  • How much does your injury lawyer believe your case is worth?

Next, you need to determine your own liability for your own injuries. Certain states bar recovery by the plaintiff if they are partially responsible for their own injuries. 

After you have calculated your losses you are ready to begin negotiations. Your initial demand may be high, allowing room for negotiating. For example, your initial demand may be two times more than what you are willing to accept.

Expect the insurance adjuster to make a counter offer. The negotiation process is a back and forth and may continue until both parties reach a settlement they are willing to accept.

Unfortunately, every product liability claim is different, and it may be necessary to discuss your case with a lawyer who understands the delicate process of effective negotiations.

Consider, if you request too much or are not flexible in your negotiations the adjuster may decide not to work with you and you may end up in court whether you want to or not.

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