Defective Product Claim Guide: What to Do and How to Get Compensation

Americans are injured every day by defective products. Here’s what you need to know about filing a product liability claim for compensation.

Defective products come in all shapes and sizes. Almost any product has the potential to cause harm if there’s something wrong with its design, manufacture, or marketing.

When a company is negligent and its product causes harm, the company can be held liable. If you were injured and want to file a defective product claim, you need to build a case.

Here’s where you can learn what to do if you’re injured by a defective product, who is liable for your injuries, and how to get them to pay fair compensation.

What to Do When Injured by a Dangerous Product

First, get the medical care you need to treat your injuries. Only after your immediate injuries are addressed should you think about filing a defective product claim.

Product liability is a complex area of law. Only an experienced attorney knows the intricacies of your state’s product liability laws. They will find all the at-fault parties and determine your cause of action, such as breach of warranty or other claims.

After getting your injuries treated, schedule a free consultation with a personal injury attorney. It costs nothing to discuss your case with a professional.

Elements of a Defective Product Liability Claim

There are four key elements needed for a strong product liability claim:

  1. You used the product as intended
  2. The product was defective in some way
  3. The product malfunction directly caused harm
  4. There were actual damages, such as injuries

3 Kinds of Defects in Products

There are three main types of product liability claims, corresponding to the types of defects that lead to product malfunctions. The defects may occur before production, during the manufacturing process, or during the distribution or sale of the product.

  1. Design Defects happen on the “drawing board” when the maker or inventor creates the design or formula for a new product or modifies an existing product. A defective design can cause injury in the normal use of the item, especially when there are reasonable design alternatives that would have made the product safer to use. For example, airbags that don’t deploy in a car accident.
  2. Manufacturing Defects occur while the product is being made. The defect could be created by failing to follow the design specifications, using substandard materials, shoddy workmanship, or other shortcuts that undermine the safety and performance of a product. For example, an extension ladder that was manufactured using incorrect bolts is likely to collapse during use.
  3. Marketing Defects occur when the manufacturer makes false claims about a product, or fails to provide adequate warnings (failure to warn) of the risks of using the product. Multi-million dollar verdicts have been levied against pharmaceutical companies for failing to warn patients and prescribers of the addiction risks of opioid pain medications.

Steps to File a Product Liability Claim and Lawsuit

Successful product liability cases depend on proving you were injured by a defective product.

  1. Seek immediate medical attention. Tell your medical care providers when and how you were injured by a specific product. It’s vital for your medical records to establish a link between your injury or illness and the faulty product.
  2. Gather evidence. Write down what happened, and keep an injury diary. Preserve the defective item as-is. Collect medical bills and records, a lost wages statement, photographs, and witness statements.
  3. Protect your legal interests. Be careful what you say to the insurance adjuster. Consult a product liability attorney before giving a recorded statement to the insurance company or signing any forms. Stay off social media.
  4. Take timely action. Get reliable legal advice and keep an eye on the statute of limitations in your state for filing a lawsuit. Tort (injury) lawsuits must be filed in the correct venue, usually the county where you were injured. Your attorney will know where and how to file a timely lawsuit.

Here’s a Sample Demand Letter for a Product Liability Claim

What’s the statute of limitations for product liability lawsuits?

The statute of limitations for product liability claims varies by state, typically from one to three years after you were injured or discovered your injury. If you haven’t settled your claim or filed a lawsuit before the statute runs out, you lose your right to pursue compensation.

Several states also have a statute of repose, which is a period of time that elapses after a specific event, like the purchase of a potentially defective product. For example, Florida Code 95.031(2)(b)2 prohibits product liability claims more than 12 years after the purchase of a product with an “expected useful life” of ten years or less.

When is filing a product liability lawsuit worth it?

Every product liability case is different. If you’ve fully recovered from mild injuries, you may prefer to settle for your expenses and the replacement cost of the product. The costs of a lawsuit would be out of proportion to the damages of a single plaintiff.

When numerous consumers are damaged in the same way by a defective product, a class action lawsuit can force payment to individuals with small damages who would otherwise not be in a position to sue. A good example is the $40 Million settlement Sketcher shoe company was forced to pay for false advertising (defective marketing) about their “toning shoe” line.

Severe or fatal injuries caused by defective products are complex, high-dollar cases that are typically only resolved through litigation.

Manufacturing corporations and pharmaceutical companies have aggressive defense attorneys to fight product defect claims. They know if you win, you could be awarded hundreds of thousands in compensatory damages. In some cases, when a company’s behavior was willful or fraudulent (like covering up known defects) the jury may award millions in punitive damages.

Liability for Defective Product Injuries

Figuring out who is liable for causing your injuries can be tricky. Depending on the type of defect in the product, and how you came in contact with the product, there may be more than one party liable for your damages.

Parties liable for defective product injuries may include:

  • Product designers
  • Product manufacturer
  • Part and material suppliers to the manufacturers
  • Installers
  • Retailers and wholesalers in the chain of distribution

Some states have laws that protect retail stores from liability for the products they sell.

If you were injured by defective machinery on the job, your employer may be liable if they knew there were issues with the equipment.

Evidence to Prove Product Liability

Many states have strict liability laws so you won’t have to prove the manufacturer was negligent. To win your case, you must show the product was defective, directly caused your injuries, and that you didn’t do anything to cause or worsen your damages.

Evidence of product liability can come from many sources:

  • The product itself as it was at the time of the incident, along with user manuals
  • Sales receipts or other proof of your use of the item
  • Medical records from your doctor describing the cause and scope of your injuries
  • Witness statements from those who saw the injury occur or its immediate aftermath
  • Expert witness testimony from medical, engineering, or mechanical specialists

Product Liability Damages and Compensation

Types of Damages in Product Liability Cases

As with any type of personal injury case, the victim may pursue compensation through a claim or lawsuit. The two main types of damages include economic and non-economic.

1. Measurable economic costs:

  • Medical expenses (past and future)
  • Lost wages (past and future)
  • Replacement services (like child care or lawn mowing)
  • Transportation costs (to and from medical appointments)

2. Non-economic losses:

  • Pain and suffering
  • Emotional distress

Punitive damages, also called exemplary damages, are a type of compensation only available through a personal injury lawsuit. These damages are meant to punish the at-fault party and set an example of what can happen to other companies that cause serious harm.

Calculating Compensation for Defective Product Injuries

Fair compensation for minor to moderate injury claims can be calculated using a multiplier method.

Add up all your economic damages, meaning medical expenses, lost wages, and out-of-pocket expenses. Then multiply the total of your economic damages by 1 or 2 times to account for your pain and suffering. The total will be a good estimate of your settlement amount.

Severe injuries should be handled by an experienced personal injury lawyer to get the full amount of compensation you deserve.

Complex cases, such as for faulty medical devices, may require hiring a specialized product liability law firm that can cover the costs of medical and technical experts necessary to win at trial.

Common Types of Product Liability Claims

Injuries from Foods or Personal Care Products

We expect the foods we eat and the products we use on our hair and skin to be safe. State and federal regulations are meant to protect us from food poisoning and other injuries. Yet, millions of people are harmed every year. If bad food or personal care products have harmed you, you’re entitled to seek compensation for your damages.

Injuries Caused by Medications

If you or a loved one have suffered severe or fatal illness or injuries from medication side effects, you are entitled to compensation for your medical costs and terrible pain and suffering.

Defective Products that Harm Children

A severely injured child is a parent’s worst nightmare. If defective products have hurt your child at home, school, or play, the at-fault party should be held liable. Here’s what parents of the injured party need to know.

Serious Injuries from Everyday Objects

We rely on dozens of everyday objects to make our lives easier and more comfortable. When commonly used items suddenly fail, people get hurt. Learn more about manufacturer liability for unsafe products.

Defective Product Questions