Common Defenses Against Product Liability Claims
Manufacturers and sellers have a variety of defenses against product liability at their disposal. Arguments in these cases can be very complex, requiring knowledge of engineering, science, and manufacturing techniques. As a result, you should take every possible precaution to protect your legal rights.
Plaintiffs in a personal injury case must act within a time limit, or "limitation period". Some states also have "statutes of repose", which prevent legal action after products reach a certain age, no matter when the plaintiff is injured.
You must be able to connect the product which caused injury with the party or parties responsible for its manufacture or sale. An exception applies in cases which involve defective medication. Since it is often impossible to identify the specific company that supplied a defective medication, a successful action will hold pharmaceutical companies liable according to their percentage of sales in the area where the injury occurred.
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Manufacturers can argue that the plaintiff or a seller altered the product after it was out of the manufacturer's control, and that this alteration caused the injury. They can also argue that the product was misused, and that the injury therefore arose from misuse of a reasonably safe product.
State law varies on which defenses apply. Other defenses also exist. You should discuss your case with an attorney with experience in product liability law to determine whether these defenses apply to your case.
Protecting Your Legal Rights
If you are injured by a defective product, the most important step is to consult an attorney with experience in product liability law as quickly as possible. These cases are often very complex and require technical evidence. As a result, an attorney's expertise is vital from the earliest steps to ensure all evidence is examined and your legal rights are protected. Contacting an attorney should be your first priority after the obtaining of medical care.
Immediately secure the product in order to guarantee that it is available for investigation, and to guarantee that its condition does not change from the condition that caused injury. It should be secured in a facility that is controlled by you and/or your attorney. Unless the product presents an immediate danger, you should not dispose of it. Do not sell or return the product before consulting an attorney.
If you cannot immediately secure the product, inform those with custody over the object, such as tow-truck operators or police, that they must take every possible step to preserve the evidence and that failure to preserve the object in its original condition will make them liable for allowing the evidence to be destroyed. Your attorney may file a temporary restraining order and preliminary injunction to prevent alterations or testing on the object while it is in another party's control.
Whenever possible, assemble all documentation related to the product, including receipts, instruction booklets, warranties, and any other related documents. Your attorney will need the product's complete history. Your attorney may also need your help in determining whether the product was modified or altered after it left the control of the manufacturer, and the names of those responsible for the alterations as well as the date of alteration.
Expert assistance is generally required in a product liability case. Engineers, medical professionals, and safety experts can all contribute to a successful case. Finding a qualified expert to support your case as soon as possible can be the deciding factor in a successful product liability action. Not only can an expert engineer identify manufacturing defects, but psychologists or human factor experts can also show that while a product may appear to work, its design is actually unsafe for human operation. Expert testing may also prove that your injury can be reproduced by those using the product in the manner that caused the injury.
The best way to secure expert testimony and to protect your rights in general is to seek the assistance of a lawyer with expertise in the area of product liability.