As a consumer, you trust that the products you buy and use at home are safe. After all, why would a retailer knowingly put something that is hazardous to your safety or health on their shelves?
Sadly, defective products are sold every day in the United States. While some result in no injuries, other times these faulty products can lead to devastating injuries or deaths.
Product liability is a complex area of injury law. In these cases, you are dealing with different requirements, statutes, and often going up against larger companies. Do not let these factors deter you, though. If a defective product injured you, you do have the right to hold the manufacturer accountable for your injuries. However, it is best if you speak with an injury attorney to explore those options and ensure you have a case.
Not all product liability claims succeed – and sometimes an injury from a product is not a product liability issue. Never assume you do not have a case or that you will not win. However, it is important you understand why some cases fail too. The only way to tell if you have a legitimate accident case is to speak with a product liability attorney.
While you wait for your consultation, here are some reasons product liability claims fail or never reach the lawsuit phase.
Like most injury claims, product liability cases have a statute of limitations. The statute of limitations reduces the time you have to file your complaint after an injury. This ensures that lawsuits are not brought against a defendant years after the fact, and makes it more likely that all parties have access to witnesses and evidence.
In Connecticut, the statute of limitations for a product defect case is three years. Therefore, you cannot file a lawsuit if you were injured more than three years ago. The state also has a discovery rule, which may extend the deadline from the date you discovered that the product was the cause of your injury. Statutes of limitations can be complex to properly interpret. Therefore, it is best that you speak with an attorney immediately after the injury and make sure that you file within the acceptable time frame.
When you use a product for several years, you know how it operates, how to use it safely, and the risks of using it. Also, a product may naturally degrade over time, and if the product has an expiration date on it and you continue using past that expiration date, it may no longer be a matter of liability for the manufacturer.
Some products are inherently dangerous, but that doesn’t mean the manufacturer of that product is liable. For example, a chainsaw has a risk of catastrophic injury, but a chainsaw could not do its job without the dangerous components necessary to cut objects. Therefore, you accept the risk of those products when using them, and cannot hold the company responsible if you are injured as a result.
Negligence, even with defective products, is not an all-or-none situation. In some cases, numerous parties may be negligent. In some product claims, the victim could be the primary cause of the accident. If the courts determine that your recklessness was the main contributor to your injuries, you may be barred from collecting compensation.
It is crucial that you have a plausible link between the product’s defect and your injuries. If you cannot show how the deficiency of the product lead to your accident or injury, you may not be eligible for compensation.
For example, say that a product has a defective battery that may explode with improper use. The victim’s house catches fire, but not because of the faulty battery. Instead, it was an electrical short caused by the outlet. In this case, the product had a faulty battery, but that defective battery played no role in the incident that caused injuries and damages. In such a case, the manufacturer of the product would not be liable.
A defective product without damages is not a case. To have a valid product liability case, you must show that you suffered damages. Damages are your economic (financial) and non-economic losses. These can include everything from medical costs to lost wages, loss of earning capacity, permanent disability, pain, and suffering.
Damages vary depending on the severity of the product defect and accident. However, if you have no losses to claim, you cannot file a lawsuit against the manufacturer.
You are the victim, but even the victim of an injury lawsuit carries a responsibility.
In injury cases, the victim is required to mitigate the damages. That means doing everything they can to lessen their injuries, and consequently – how much compensation they need to make them whole.
For example, you sought medical treatment right away for your injuries, and the treating physician recommends that after surgery you attend physical therapy. Physical therapy will help you reach 100 percent recovery, which means you could go back to work after the treatment is over.
Instead of following through with your physical therapy, you stop going. As a result, you never fully recover, and you need additional surgeries to remove the scar tissue. The lost wages, loss of earning capacity, and further medical costs you incur after you fail to follow your doctor’s orders are not something you can receive compensation for because you did not try to mitigate damages – instead, you extended the damages.
A defective product means a manufacturer could be held liable for any injuries the defect causes. Whether that defect happens during the design phase or manufacturing, the manufacturer is still responsible. If, however, there is no defect, but you failed to use the product as intended or instructed by the manufacturer and suffered an injury, you do not have a case.
One of the worst things an accident victim can do is wait to seek medical treatment. Most of the time it is innocent, and victims are just pushing through the pain hoping that it will eventually subside. It may be days or week later before they realize that they need medical attention. Unfortunately, the more time that passes between the accident and medical treatment the easier it is for the manufacturer to argue that their product did not cause the injury.
The best thing you can do any time you are injured is seek medical treatment immediately after the accident.
As a consumer, you are protected from defective products. Unfortunately, this only applies to situations where the product is purchased from a retailer, online, or third-party distributor. If you buy a used product from a private party, such as at a yard sale, the manufacturer may no longer be liable for injuries that product causes, because they are out of control of the conditions where it was stored, how it was used, and it may have been modified.
Manufacturers are only liable if they have produced a defective product or did not provide adequate warning to consumers. They are not responsible for injuries caused by products that have been modified. Once the product is altered considerably from the manufacturer’s original condition, they no longer can guarantee the safety of that product; thus, the courts would not find them liable for injuries you sustain.
Unfortunately, some cases have little to no evidence of a product defect. For example, you were injured by a defective product, and at the time the injury seemed minor. Therefore, you discarded the product. Later, the injury becomes worse. You cannot work, you are in constant pain, and now you have compounding medical costs. The product was discarded days ago, and you have no evidence that the product was defective let alone caused your injury.
Without evidence, it is challenging to prove an injury case – even if the product was defective and genuinely caused your injuries.
If a defective product injured you or a loved one, you have the right to seek compensation from the manufacturer. The best thing you can do in these situations is to contact a product liability attorney in your area.
An attorney can help you with the financial aspect of paying for your injuries while you wait for compensation, negotiate with the insurance companies, and advocate for maximum compensation.
A product liability claim holds the business responsible for their defective product, and an attorney can help determine who is accountable, including the manufacturer, distributor, or retailer.