When a product fails, how do we prove that it was defective?
A critical part of a product liability claim is proving that there was a defective product that caused an injury – this can be a design defect, a manufacturing defect, a failure to warn or to provide adequate warnings, or other issues. Regardless of why a product failed, proving a defective product is a key element of a product liability case.
What Failed and Why did it Fail?
When we look at how a product failed, there are many things to consider. Did a component part of the product break? Was there an issue with the product’s design that caused a failure? Is it possible that the product was working correctly, but there were no warnings about the product being dangerous? These questions, and more, go into our analysis of a claim and our work in a case.
Generally, the first step in proving liability rests in retaining the right expert to determine the cause of the product’s failure. The experts that we work with in a product liability claim will evaluate the product, the use of the product, the design of the product, the warning labels and instructions, and other components of the product to find out where the problem was. In some cases, a product’s components may fail due to the design – in these cases, who is responsible for any personal injury that occurs? Is it the manufacturer of the component part or the manufacturer of the product? These questions can be difficult to navigate, and without a law firm that understands product liability cases and product liability law, your claim may not be properly handled.
A key part of nearly any lawsuit is the discovery process, where both sides exchange information and evidence, including documents, depositions, product designs, communications, and more. The discovery process is critically important during product liability cases as the information procured can help indicate what type of experts a law firm needs to hire, who the parties are that may be responsible for the manufacturing or design of a product, and who has shipped the product. Law firms can then use this information to shape the road map of their case.
Depending on the type of product, the type of injury, and the actual failure, a product liability attorney will retain different subject matter experts that work to prove what caused a failure. Experts are important in advancing claims for personal injury due to product liability as they serve as a third party that is qualified to provide insights as to how failures occurred. We work with many experts with different specialties that can help prove problems with a product. You can learn more about expert witnesses in general from FindLaw.com’s legal blog.
Once discovery has been conducted, and experts have been brought in, the type of product liability can be determined. There are typically three types of product liability cases that arise, which include:
- Strict Liability
- Breach of Warranty
- Failure to warn
Depending on what was learned about the product, its design and manufacturing processes, the distributors, wholesalers, and retailers who sold it, and more, we then need to determine what type of claim we are looking at.
For claims of strict liability, we only need to prove that a defect in a product exists and that defect led to an injury. This is one of the most common causes of action for a product liability attorney to file.
For claims of negligence, the manufacturer, designer, distributor, wholesaler, or retailer of a product had a duty to act or meet a reasonable standard of care in providing their product, and they either failed to act or failed to meet that standard of care which led to the injury. This type of case is less common for product liability claims but can come up from time to time, especially in cases where warning labels were not properly provided with products or were removed by distributors, wholesalers, and retailers before a product was sold.
Breach of warranty claims are a violation of an express or implied contract of warranty. In these cases, a product may not have been inherently defective, but it did not work as it should or was not to the quality advertised implicitly or explicitly. For example, a manufacturer or safety equipment says a product is rated for a certain weight, yet it fails at or below that weight. In this case, a breach of warranty claim would be a potential cause of action.
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It is clear that proving a product is defective and why it was defective is not always easy! Design flaws, defective designs, manufacturing errors, poorly written or omitted disclaimers or warnings, and other issues can all lead to serious injury when a product fails. Because these claims can be complicated, it is important you speak with a law firm that has experience in product liability lawsuits, knows the right experts to work with, and can help you in succeeding in your personal injury case. Contact us for a free consultation about your potential product liability case.