Frequently Asked Questions about Products Liability

Q: Who is responsible when a product causes an injury?

A: Manufacturers, wholesalers and sellers may all be responsible when a product injures someone. If the product is defective or it presents an unreasonable danger, and the defect or danger causes the injury, the injured party may have a case. The defendants can be found liable under theories of negligence, strict liability or breach of warranty.

Q: What kind of compensation or damages can be awarded in products liability cases?

A: Depending on the strength and the facts of the case, the plaintiff may recover compensation for medical bills, lost wages and pain and suffering. Punitive damages may be available if the defendant acted in a malicious or grossly negligent manner. The level of the award and its application depends on the state in which the litigation takes place.

Q: If I was seriously hurt by a tool I was using, can I recover from the manufacturer?

A: It depends. If the product was defective, either because of a design flaw or a manufacturing defect, then you may have a case. In addition, if the manufacturer failed to provide proper warning or instructions, you may have a case.

Q: If the product that harmed me had a written warranty, how does that affect my case?

A: If the product's warranty made representations about the performance or safety of the product, the product should have met these standards. If the manufacturer failed to meet its own standards for the product, that may help you show that the product had a design defect or manufacturing defect.

Q: What if I threw away the product that injured me before I called a lawyer?

A: Although it is better for your case if you keep the product (so that your lawyer or an expert can explore what kind of defects the product has), it may be possible to move your case forward. An experienced products liability attorney will be able to evaluate how strong your case remains without this type of evidence.

Q: What if I didn't read the instructions for a product, and then I got hurt?

A: If the instructions were clear and appropriate, and you were hurt because you did not look at them, then the manufacturer probably has a defense against a legal action. But if you were hurt because of a design defect or manufacturing defect, then you may have a viable products liability case.

Q: If a recalled product injures me, do I still have a case?

A: The product recall should not negatively affect your case. Whether you can use the recall as evidence of the harmfulness of the product or as evidence of what the manufacturer knew depends on the state in which the litigation takes place; if the recall was issued after your injury, you probably cannot use it as evidence of negligence. Sometimes evidence of a recall is inadmissible in court. Sometimes the evidence can be used to establish that there was a defect.

Q: What if I modified a product and it injured me after that?

A: Alteration of a product by the user or another party can change the outcome of a personal injury case. If you modified the product enough so that the alteration contributed to the injury, it could reduce or eliminate your recovery. If the modification had no effect on the injury, then it may not harm your case. The specifics can vary from state to state.

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