How a Product Liability Case Works

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A product liability claim arises when a person is injured or killed by a defective or dangerous product.  Examples of products which have been the subject of product liability lawsuits include:

  • Tobacco;
  • Asbestos;
  • Chinese Drywall;
  • Breast Implants;
  • Denture Cream; and
  • Prescription and Over the Counter Medications.

Each year, millions of dollars are paid out to plaintiff's in product liability tort cases by manufacturers, wholesalers, and retailers.  However, tort reform laws in many states now limit the amount plaintiffs all types of personal injury cases may recover.  Many large companies carry product liability insurance to protect themselves in the event of a claim.

Is There a Statute of Limitations on Product Liability Claims?

State law governs the statute of limitations for product liability cases.  In most states, the statute of limitations begins running on the date of the injury.  However, in states which have a “delayed discovery” rule, the statute of limitations does not begin to run until the injury is discovered.

What Information Will I Need to Provide to My Product Liability Attorney?

You improve your chances of obtaining a good outcome to your case by helping your attorney prepare.  The best way to assist your attorney is to provide him with accurate and complete documentation about the product which caused your injury and about the details of your injury.  Following is a list of information that your attorney will need:

  • The product which caused your injury (if you still have it);
  • The date and store where you purchased the product that caused your injury;
  • Any manuals, product instructions, or other materials which came with the product;
  • Pictures of your injury;
  • Pictures of where you were when the injury occurred;
  • Pictures of the product after you were injured by it;
  • Copies of your medical records;
  • The names, addresses, and phone numbers of all witnesses who were present when your injury occurred;
  • Documentation of lost wages; and
  • Receipts for repairs to any property damaged as a result of the defective product

You should also begin keeping a journal as soon as possible after your injury.  Be sure to describe in detail the circumstances surrounding the injury, including the date and time of the injury, how you were using the product at the time of the injury,  and the weather conditions at the time of the injury.  Document how your injuries have impacted your life (both physically and emotionally) and  how they have impacted your family.  Include information about your doctor's appointments (including travel time to and from these appointments), lost time from work, and time spent speaking with your attorney and insurance company.  Keeping a journal is important because in most jurisdictions, the court will allow you to refer to your personal notes to refresh your memory about the details of your case.

Product Liability Defense

Defendants in product liability cases usually raise one or more of the following defenses:

  • Failure to use the product as directed;
  • Alteration of the product after it left the control of the defendant; and
  • Use of the product as intended while under the influence of drugs or alcohol.

Your attorney will be prepared to address any defenses that may be raised by the defendant.

Getting Legal Help

product liability law is a sub-specialty of personal injury law.  Products liability litigation is very complex and requires specialized knowledge that the average personal injury attorney may not possess.  Therefore, it's imperative to interview any attorney before hiring him in order to determine whether he has experience representing clients in product liability cases.