PRODUCT LIABILITY AND PERSONAL INJURY KEEPING HARM AT ARMS LENGTH
May 5, 2018
Imagine you just purchased a new stationary bicycle, because you intend to make good your New Year’s resolution to lose weight and eat properly. Yet you find your plan rather abruptly put on hold, because when you used the bicycle for the first time, the seat broke off, causing you to fall off and break your wrist. This scenario offers an instructive illustration of how product liability and personal injury intersect: A product (such as the stationary bicycle in the present example) proves defective and causes injury to your person. Fortunately, you have legal recourse available to you. You can initiate legal action against the manufacturer of the defective product. But, before you do so, it is important that you understand the key components of product liability and personal injury.
PRODUCT LIABILITY: THE LAW IS ON YOUR SIDE
Product liability is the area of law where manufacturers, suppliers, distributors, retailers and others who make products available to the general public are held responsible for the injuries caused by their products. Four claims are commonly associated with product liability in the United States:
- Strict liability
- Breach of warranty
- Consumer protection claims
Each type of liability claim requires that particular elements be proven before the claim can be considered successful. Section Two of the Restatement (Third) of Torts: Product Liability outlines three major liability claims:
- Manufacturing defect: Those defects that occur during the manufacturing process. These defects may be attributable to inferior materials or workmanship.
- Design defect: The design of the product is inherently dangerous or useless, thereby rendering the product defective.
- Failure to warn or marketing defect: Lack of adequate warning about potentially dangerous, but non-obvious, components of a product.
Injury to person or your person meets the conditions for compensation under the legal doctrine of “strict liability.” Strict liability holds the manufacturer of the defective product liable without you having to prove any instance of negligence on the part of the manufacturer. In order to make a claim of strict liability, you must be able to prove that the following conditions exist:
- The product possesses an “unreasonably dangerous” defect that injured you.
- The defect caused injury during routine use of the product.
- The product had not been altered from the condition in which it was sold.
Most states have laws on their books that limit how long after the product has been sold to the public that the manufacturer or seller can be subject to liability laws. Usually this limit is from six to 12 years after the product has been initially sold by the manufacturer. It is important therefore that you keep all receipts, registration cards and credit card bills in order to provide proof of the product’s age to the manufacturer’s insurance company. It is also important that you demonstrate that you discontinued use of the product once you became aware of its defect. Otherwise, you risk losing your personal injury claim.
PERSONAL INJURY: MORE THAN JUST BODILY HARM
A claim of personal injury refers to a type of tort lawsuit. A tort lawsuit addresses civil wrongs. In a civil proceeding involving a tort, the plaintiff alleges that her injury has been caused by a particular type of negligence. “Personal injury” refers to any injury of the body, mind or emotions. If you are injured by a defective product, and strict liability applies to your case, then any of the following parties could be held responsible for your injuries:
- The business where you rented or purchased the product.
- The business where you were supplied with the product to use on the business’s premises.
- The manufacturer of the product.
It is also worth checking the cumulative index of Consumer Reports, a publication which regularly tests and reports on the safety and performance of consumer products. If you find evidence of personal injury claims for the product that injured you, then you can use those reports as strong support that the product was “unreasonably dangerous” and defective.
Upon suffering your personal injury from a defective product, make sure to seek medical attention. A report from an emergency room garners special credibility from insurance companies, because hospital reports are usually made before any firm idea about litigation has been formed. But made sure the emergency report accurately represents your injuries; many times busy doctors and nurses will neglect to note details that could prove important to your claim.
HAVE YOU SUFFERED PERSONAL INJURY FROM A DEFECTIVE PRODUCT? CONSULT A PERSONAL INJURY LAWYER
Perhaps the most important action you can take upon being injured by a defective product is seeking legal counsel from an attorney trained in personal injury and product liability. You will need the services of an experienced personal injury lawyer to negotiate with insurance companies, particularly since insurance companies frequently resist demands for adequate and fair compensation for injuries sustained from a defective product. Hiring the services of a personal injury lawyer is especially vital if the injuries you sustained as a result of a products defect prove serious. Serious injuries sustained from a defective product can mean a lifetime of expensive medical bills, not to mention lost wages.
Don’t let the work and attendant hassle of filing a personal injury and product liability claim overwhelm you. Hire a product liability and personal injury lawyer instead. Hiring an attorney trained in personal injury and product liability can ensure you receive adequate compensation for the physical and emotional suffering suffered from an accident attributable to a defective product. Only a personal injury lawyer can navigate the often complex process of filing a personal injury and product liability claim.
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