Advertising aims to provide potential buyers with a brief understanding of the product’s function. When that product proves defective, not working as advertised, and causes an injury, the consumer should not be responsible for the damages incurred. If you suffered an injury because of a faulty product, you may benefit from reaching out to an experienced product liability lawyer to learn more about your rights to compensation.
Who Is Liable in a Product Liability Case?
In the mid-1990s, Congress passed the Product Liability Fairness Act to provide a broad, uniform baseline for product liability across the country. Additionally, states have the power to expand on those laws and create their own regulations. Typically, you can bring forth a product liability claim using one of four theories: negligence, deceptive marketing, breach of warranty, or strict liability.
In a personal injury claim, you may have enough evidence to support the argument that the company that manufactured and distributed the defective product acted negligently. To do so, you must prove that the defendant breached their duty of reasonable care during one or more stages of the production process, including design, manufacturing, and distribution.
Before filing a lawsuit, an attorney would consider the possibility of a favorable outcome, and sometimes, the burden of proof is too heavy. Product liability cases are inherently nuanced and require an in-depth understanding of the legal process and knowing where to look for proper evidence. For example, suppose you struggle with a health condition caused by a defective medication. In that case, you may have to prove that someone in quality control breached their duty of reasonable care somewhere in the production process. That may be impractical, but it all depends on many factors relating specifically to your case.
Breach of Warranty
Product warranties are meant to act somewhat like a guarantee to consumers that the company has faith in its product. Some examples of warranties include:
- An implied warranty comes from state law rather than the manufacturer. These are specific to the state, industry, and type of product.
- An express warranty comes directly from the company. You can find it in the marketing rhetoric, printed on the product package or label, or in the paperwork you received with the product.
Implied warranties can come in more than one form. For example, an implied warranty of product capability for a particular purpose suggests that the product should work for a specific purpose. If you buy a lawnmower designed to cut grass more than 6 inches and sustain an injury trying to use it to cut 10-inch grass, you may have a product liability case based on breach of warranty.
An implied warranty of merchantability is slightly more specific. For example, if a manufacturer creates a product designed to protect your hands from oven burns and you sustain burns while using the product, you may have a breach of warranty claim. However, remember that the defense will attempt to prove you misused the product.
Another theory of product liability is deceptive marketing. The simple concept is that a company cannot make fraudulent claims about a product or hide known dangers presented during its use. When you claim a company intentionally misrepresents its creation, you usually need evidence in the form of documents from the company proving it knew of the issues with the product.
Strict liability removes the burden of proving negligence. For example, a product liability claim under strict liability holds the product manufacturer responsible for the damage it caused without needing to establish the company acted negligently during production or distribution. Massachusetts is a strict liability state.
What Laws Govern Product Liability Cases in Massachusetts?
Massachusetts adheres to the law of implied warranty of merchantability, which is virtually the same as strict product liability. The state allows claims against any company involved in the distribution chain from manufacturer to retailer. Any of the following parties can file a product liability claim:
- The person who purchased the product
- An employee of the purchasing party
- A family member of the person who originally bought the product
- A guest or visitor of the original purchaser
- A guest or visitor of the original purchaser’s family member
If you suffered an injury from a defective product, you have three years to file a lawsuit from the date of the damage and 12 years from the date you purchased the product.
How Do You Prove a Breach of Implied Warranty of Merchantability?
In Massachusetts, to prove a breach of warranty, you must verify the defendant was the merchant that created or sold the product and provide evidence that you purchased it from them. You also need to prove you used the product as intended and that it failed as you used it. Finally, you must show that the product’s failure resulted in an accident that caused your injuries.
What Do You Need To File a Product Liability Claim?
Even with a strict liability claim, you need to provide proof that the product had a defect, that you sustained an injury, and that your injury resulted from the defective product. The evidence you need for that claim includes:
- Names and contact information for anyone involved, including the manufacturer, seller, and anyone who witnesses your accident
- Medical records documenting treatment for your injuries
- The actual product, stored and presented safely
- Photographs of the product, including any identifiers like product numbers or barcode information
- All paperwork included with the product during the sale
- The receipt for your purchase and any proof of warranty
A product liability lawyer can help you identify and locate most of this information. Additionally, they can advise should you not have access to any of it.
What Are Some Possible Defenses in a Product Liability Case?
As with any personal injury case, you can expect the defense to respond with a counter-claim. For example, the defense may argue:
- The buyer ignored the apparent risk associated with using the product.
- The retailer or wholesaler received and distributed the product with no knowledge of the defective and no reason to suspect one existed.
- The manufacturer created a product with the highest available safety standard, essentially claiming there was nothing more they could do to make it safer.
- A third party altered the product without instruction from the manufacturer or seller.
- The manufacturer or seller had no chance to warm consumers before they used the product.
- The consumer contributed liability by misusing the product or failing to use reasonable care.
Part of the reason you benefit from having legal representation throughout the process is they can help you combat defenses and effectively negotiate to reach a fair settlement.
What Steps Should You Take if You Suffer an Injury Due to a Defective Product?
It is relatively impossible to prepare for a product to fail because you never purchase anything assuming it will not work as intended. However, you can take steps in the aftermath of an accident and injury. Consider the following as you navigate the fallout:
- Get the medical treatment you need. When you suffer an injury, the first thing you should do is see a doctor. However, avoid waiting too long to seek a medical evaluation because it could be detrimental to your health and your case.
- Begin gathering evidence. Start collecting the things you need to file your claim. If your accident happened in public, this step included getting contact information from any potential eyewitnesses. Keep the product somewhere safe and secure.
- Keep documentation of your journey post-injury. For example, you can write in a journal about the healing process to have written documentation of pain or just take notes about your emotions throughout the day.
- Avoid social media. Anything you put online is accessible by the defense. Even a reasonable photo of you smiling may damage your legitimate argument stating you suffered as a result of your injury.
- Speak with an attorney. Legal counsel could be an asset to you during a complicated product liability case.
The more you know about the legal process, the better your chance of properly evaluating your claim and assigning value to your damages. These are two things an experienced product liability lawyer can help you do effectively.
How Can a Product Liability Lawyer Help Your Case?
As the plaintiff in the lawsuit, the burden of proving liability falls on you. Unfortunately, product liability claims are among the most difficult types of tort to prove. Before you consider taking on this challenge alone, you may benefit from speaking with the team at Jason Stone Injury Lawyers. Our experienced product liability lawyers can guide you through the complexities of product liability law. We understand the financial strain a defective product injury can place on you and your loved ones, which is why we work on contingency. The first element of the Strone Cold Guarantee ensures we only get paid after you get paid. Therefore, if we take your case, you can assume we have confidence in our ability to reach a settlement or award in the end. Contact Jason Stone Injury Lawyers today to schedule your free consultation. There’s No Obligation, Just Information (R).