When someone is injured while using a product that left the manufacturer or seller's hands in a defective or dangerous condition, he or she may be able to recover the resulting damages from the responsible party in a products-liability-based personal injury suit. Products liability law is based on the responsibility of a manufacturer or other provider of goods to compensate users of the goods for injuries caused by defective or dangerous products that it placed into the stream of commerce. The basic idea underlying products liability law is that the companies providing the products are usually in the best position to prevent defective products from entering the marketplace, so if they fail to do so, they should be held accountable. An experienced and knowledgeable personal injury lawyer can advise injured persons on whether they may have a claim against a product manufacturer or seller and can help them recover the damages to which they are legally entitled.
Although products liability law has evolved from the days of "caveat emptor" (let the buyer beware) to the imposition in appropriate cases of "strict liability," under which manufacturers are responsible for injuries caused by their defective or unreasonably dangerous products even if they were not negligent, the personal injury plaintiff still has a job to do. In a products liability action, the injured person, or plaintiff, must prove, for instance, that there was a design or manufacturing defect in the product, or that the manufacturer did not adequately warn consumers about the product's possible dangers. In addition, he or she must establish, through relevant and credible evidence, that the product caused the injuries, and that he or she was using the product in the way it was intended to be used, or that the manufacturer should have anticipated that the product would be "misused" in the way that it was.
Manufacturing defects are usually easier to prove than design defects. If a particular consumer's gas fireplace explodes when first lit, for example, it is evident that that fireplace was not manufactured as the designer intended it to be. A design-defect case, on the other hand, could arise if many or all fireplaces of a manufacturer's particular model posed a threat of explosion. Proving a design defect involves passing judgment on technical choices and usually requires expert testimony. In a design-defect case, the product may have been manufactured as it was intended to be, but the design was inadequately planned in such a way as to pose unreasonable hazards to consumers.
Proving causation in a products liability case can be tricky. The plaintiff must establish that the product was defective when it left the hands of the defendant manufacturer, distributor, or seller, and that the defect was the cause of the accident that led to the plaintiff's injuries. If the injuries could have arisen from several potential causes, the plaintiff usually must establish that the product defect had a substantial role in bringing about the injuries.
Possible legal theories that can be argued in a products liability case include negligence (lack of reasonable care in the manufacture or sale of the product or in warning about the product), breach of warranty (failure to fulfill the terms of a promise regarding the product's performance), misrepresentation (giving consumers a false sense of security about a product's safety), and strict liability (under which the product's defect, although not the fault of the defendant, rendered the product unreasonably dangerous and the defendant is therefore responsible).
Although there is no limit to the list of products that could form the basis of a products liability suit, some of the more common product categories include apparel, asbestos, chemicals, cosmetics, firearms, food (most recently fast food, which has been contended to be at least partly responsible for American's obesity epidemic), machinery and tools, medical products and devices, motor vehicles, pharmaceutical products, recreational products, and tobacco.
Persons injured by dangerous or defective products need the counsel of skilled veterans of personal injury and products liability law in order to advise them on the complexities of their case and guide them through the legal system toward the most favorable outcome. If you or someone you know has suffered personal injuries as a result of using a dangerous or defective product, an experienced and knowledgeable personal injury lawyer can advise you on whether you may have a claim against the product manufacturer or seller and can help you receive the maximum damages recoverable under the applicable law.
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