Proving Fault for Product Liability Cases
Liability laws concerning products are somewhat unique in that they are typically easier to receive compensation for than many other types of damages. Despite this, most people are still unaware of what product liability law is or how it might apply to them. If you or someone you know has been injured as a result of a product, then you should seriously consider contacting Charleston product liability lawyers to review your case and determine your next steps. For those who aren’t sure what this type of liability is or how it might apply to them, this guide should help.
What is Product Liability
Liability laws for products are designed to protect customers from fault products, regardless of the reason that they might be faulty. In fact, a victim needs to only prove one of the following in order to have a liability case: that the manufacturer was negligent, that there was a breach of warranty, or a specific set of circumstances that have come to fall under the term “strict liability.”
What is Strict Liability
Strict liability is the term used to describe the level of proof that must be placed on manufacturers of a faulty product. Unlike other types of liability laws, it is virtually impossible for a single consumer to prove that a manufacturer was acting negligent in the design or selling of its product. Given the limited scope of a single person’s capabilities, courts have adapted the notion of liability to fit their means.
Instead of proving that a manufacturer was specifically negligent, or that the defect occurred as the result of a single person’s error at the company, an injured party only needs to prove all of the following: that the product had a dangerous defect, the defect caused an injury while the product was being used in a way that was appropriate for the product, and that the product had not been altered in any significant way since it was sold to the victim.
Proving the Product had an Unreasonably Dangerous Defect
As one of the main components of proving strict liability, it’s important for the victim to establish that a defect in the product is what caused their injury. Of course, it can’t just be a minor defect, but rather one that is legally described as “unreasonably dangerous.” In addition to proving that the product was unreasonably dangerous, the victim must also prove that the defect was the direct result of either the design of the product, the manufacturing process, or as a result of the shipping methods used by the manufacturer.
Proving the Product Caused an Injury While Being Appropriately Used
Once the victim has sufficiently established that the product had a defect that was unreasonably dangerous, the next step is to prove that the product was being used appropriately. It’s not enough to simply show that a product could be dangerous, since most products have the potential to be dangerous if they’re mishandled or otherwise used inappropriately. For this reason, the victim must also prove that the defect exists when the product is being used exactly as it was intended to be. The idea is to show that the product was the sole reason for the injury and that the victim was acting in a reasonable manner up until the injury was caused.
Proving the Product Wasn’t Changed Substantially
Even if a product is proven to have a defect, and is proven to have been used correctly when an injury occurred, there is still a final step in proving strict liability. The victim must prove that the product wasn’t altered in any substantial way before the injury occurred. This is an important component of the law, as it protects the manufacturer from unsanctioned alterations that a consumer might make to a product, which in turn would make it unreasonably dangerous. Legally, the term “substantially” is used to mean any alterations that otherwise change how the product performs. For comparisons, the product is judged based on its performance compared to how it performed at the time of the original sale.
The Manufacturer’s Defense
Although strict liability is one of the most reliable ways in which a consumer can pursue a liability claim against a manufacturer, there are some defenses that a seller can use to protect themselves. If a manufacturer can prove that a person was aware of the defect and continued to use the product in spite of it, then they can potentially be removed from any strict liability claims. As a result, manufacturers will oftentimes try to prove that a victim either already was aware of the defect before they handled the product, or continued to handle the product in spite of warnings about a potential defect.
There are a number of tactics which manufacturers may employ in order to support their defense. In addition to questioning the victim, the manufacturer may check the product itself for evidence of mishandling or continued use after a potential injury occurred. It is for this reason that it pays to have an experienced Charleston personal injury lawyers team at your side who can help you navigate tricky questions and keep you well informed of your rights throughout the case.
Other Factors to Consider
Aside from strict liability and the manufacturer’s defense, it’s also worth noting that other restrictions can apply to a liability case. For instance, if a defective product is sold by a business that regularly sells that specific product, then they could potentially fall under the same strict liability claim that typically targets manufacturers. Conversely, if a business does not regularly sell or rent out a product, then they may not be held liable for any damages after a product turns out to be defective.
Another important distinction involves secondary sellers, such as flea markets and garage sales. In these situations, strict liability will typically not apply, since the sellers do not have any one specific focus. Instead, flea markets and garage sales focus on offering a large variety of products, and thus cannot be expected to reasonably protect consumers from any defects lying around.
Building a Case
Given all of the information involved in building a liability case, it can sometimes feel overwhelming. The good news is that liability cases of this nature are typically much easier to prove than others, and that means victims have a much easier time of receiving compensation for damages. Since liability cases usually target manufacturers, it can understandably worry some people to go up against what they perceive to be a powerful target. In reality though, companies understand the risks that liability claims pose, not only to their assets, but to their reputation as well. It’s for this reason that you shouldn’t be hesitant to pursue a case if you truly believe you have been the victim of a defective product. Whether the product was defective as a result of the design process, the manufacturing process, or the shipping route, a liability claim is still worth pursuing. If you’re still not sure if you have a proper case or not, then be sure to contact Charleston product liability lawyers like Freeman & Chiartas for more information.