What Are the Elements of a Product Liability Claim?

Personal Injury On Sunday, October 30, 2022

A product liability claim is a civil lawsuit filed against the manufacturer or distributor of a defective product that has injured a consumer. It is a plaintiff’s pursuit of financial compensation for injuries, medical bills, property damage and other losses caused by the defective or dangerous item. To qualify for compensation through a product liability lawsuit, the injured party must prove four main elements.

The Product Contained a Defect

First, a product defect must exist. A defect is something wrong with the product that makes it unreasonably dangerous for consumer use. Every year, thousands of defective and dangerous products are recalled, meaning they are pulled from the shelves with warnings of potential consumer injuries. There are three main types of product defects:

  1. Design flaw – the item is dangerous on an inherent level due to an issue in how the product was designed. An example is a knife handle that breaks when the knife is used, causing the blade of the knife to slice the user’s hand.
  2. Manufacturing error – a mistake was made while the product was being manufactured, produced or assembled. An example is a bicycle that receives a faulty chain at the factory, causing the bike to break and cause an accident.
  3. Marketing defect – a product that does not have the proper labels, packaging, instructions or warnings to protect consumers from potential hazards. An example is a child’s toy that is missing an “Ages 3+” warning when it is a choking hazard for infants.

Product defects can occur due to manufacturing mishaps, oversights made by the manufacturing company, negligent product planning and design, equipment breakdowns at the manufacturing facility, poor worker training at the factory, product contamination, a lack of product safety testing, and numerous other issues. Whether or not the manufacturer was negligent, however, it can be held responsible if a product contains one of these defects.

The Product Caused the Plaintiff’s Injury

The next element is causation. This requires evidence that the product more likely than not caused the injury or damage being claimed. Proving causation often involves the “but for” test: if the plaintiff’s injuries would not have happened but for the defective product, causation is established. There is proximate cause (legal cause) and actual cause. Both are grounds to hold a manufacturing company responsible for an injury caused by a defective product.

The Plaintiff Used the Product as Intended

If the manufacturing company tries to allege that the plaintiff was not using the product as intended at the time of injury, the plaintiff may need to prove otherwise. A consumer may not be eligible for financial compensation if he or she was misusing the product or behaving recklessly at the time of the incident. The consumer must have been using the item the way that the manufacturer intended at the time of the injury.

The Plaintiff Suffered Damages

Finally, the plaintiff must prove that he or she suffered compensable damages, or losses, because of the defective or dangerous product. Specific losses that may be involved in a claim are medical bills, physical injuries, pain and suffering, emotional distress, property damage, lost wages, lost future capacity to earn, disability costs, legal fees, and loss of consortium. Without compensable losses suffered, the victim will have no reason to file a claim, even if there is proof of a product defect.

Contact a Product Liability Lawyer for Help

The burden of proof in a product liability claim rests with the plaintiff. The requirement is enough clear and convincing evidence to show that the defendant is more likely than not responsible for the plaintiff’s injuries. While a strict product liability claim may not require proof of the manufacturer’s negligence, it can still be a difficult type of case to win. It is hard to go up against a major corporation or insurance company in pursuit of fair results. A product liability lawyer in New Haven can help.

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