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5 Elements for a Valid Product Liability Claim

Fiol Law Group|Posted in Safety on March 6, 2019

A product liability claim aims to hold a manufacturer or distributor legally responsible for releasing an unreasonably dangerous product to consumers. Product liability claims may be appropriate if a defective auto part, medical device, food item, or other product caused consumer injuries, illnesses, or deaths. As the victim of a defective or dangerous product, you may be eligible for compensation from the at-fault party. To receive this compensation in Florida, however, you or your lawyer will have to prove four (or five) main elements.

The Product Contained a Defect

A product defect is something that makes the item pose an unreasonable risk of harm to consumers, even if used correctly. You or your lawyer must prove that the item contained a defect. All defective product claims center on at least one of three types of defects: manufacturing, design, and marketing. A manufacturing error is a mistake made during the production of the item that makes it dangerous to use. An example is a piece of metal detaching from machinery and contaminating a batch of chocolate bars.

A design defect is an error during the conception of the product that makes it too dangerous for consumers. An example of this type of defect is a fan designed without a protective shield. A marketing defect means the company failed to adequately warn consumers of known or foreseeable risks of using the product that may not be obvious. A manufacturer may not have to explain that putting a clothes iron on your skin could cause burns, for example, but a warning not to drop it in water could be necessary to prevent injuries.

The Product Caused Your Injuries

The second element of proof is that the defective item caused your injuries. Your attorney must draw lines of causation between the defective or dangerous product and your personal injuries. If you are pursuing a medical device claim, for example, your lawyer must have evidence that the defective device caused your injuries, and not your medical condition.

You Were Using the Item as Intended

Your lawyer will need to establish that you were using the product as the manufacturer intended at the time of your incident. If you were misusing the object, you may not have a claim against the manufacturer. The manufacturer is not responsible for making the item safe for all possible uses – only for the use for which the manufacturer intended the item. Using it a different way could bar you from compensation recovery.

You Suffered Real Damages From the Incident

Fourth, your lawyer will need to demonstrate evidence that you suffered real, compensable losses because of the defective product. Losses can include physical injuries, pain and suffering, emotional distress, lost wages, property damage, and medical bills. It can also include the death of a loved one and related bills, such as funeral and burial expenses. If you did not suffer any damages, you will not have grounds for a product liability lawsuit – even if you can prove that the item contained a defect.

Alternate Element: The Manufacturer Was Negligent

Most defective product claims adhere to the theory of strict product liability. This theory states that a manufacturer will be strictly liable, without the need for a victim to prove negligence, if the product had a defect and caused a consumer injury. If, however, your case falls outside the concept of strict product liability, you and your attorney may need to prove a fifth element: negligence.

Basing your case on the grounds of negligence gives you the burden to prove that the defendant owed you a duty of care and breached this duty. A breach of warranty claim, for example, aims to prove that the seller failed to fulfill the terms of a contract or promise regarding the safety or quality of the product. A successful breach of warranty claim would require proof of the seller’s negligence. Speak to a personal injury attorney about the specific elements you may need for your case.

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