Defective product claims, formally known as product liability claims, are a type of personal injury claim which results from the defect of a product. Product liability claims can include anything from a toaster that catches on fire to an airbag that doesn’t properly deploy during a car accident. In this guide we will be going over the types of damages you can be compensated for, the statute of limitations, the types of product defects, and how to prove liability.
Types of Damages
There are two major categories of damages you can claim in a product liability case, economic and noneconomic damages. Economic damages are the ones most people think of when they imagine a product liability case. These include current and future medical expenses; the loss of past, current, and future wages; repairs and replacement of damaged property; and other out-of-pocket expenses that may be tied to your injuries.
Noneconomic damages are more abstract, and therefore more difficult to prove. However, this is typically where the majority of the monetary compensation seen by the victim comes from as it isn’t directly used to cover costs. Noneconomic damages can include things such as pain and suffering, loss of consortium, and loss of enjoyment of life. The reason these damages are more difficult to prove, however, is that only you truly know the extent of these damages. It’s not as easy to put a price on the loss of enjoyment of life as it is a medical bill.
Statutes of Limitations and Repose
The two main statutes that come into play in a product liability claim are the statute of limitations and the statute of repose. In Pennsylvania, the statute of limitations lasts for two years, meaning that you have two years from the date you sustained the injury or the date you discovered your injury was caused by the defective product to make your claim. The statute of repose specifically applies to construction projects and lasts for 12 years. This means that you have 12 years from the completion of construction to make a claim that you were injured by a defective product that was used in that construction. For example, if your house was built with faulty wiring that electrocuted you when you plugged in a TV, you would have a valid claim. However, if you aren’t electrocted until more than 12 years after the house was built, then your claim may be dismissed due to the statute of repose.
Types of Defects
Three types of product defects make up all product liability claims. There are design defects, manufacturing defects, and insufficient warnings.
Design defects are when the product is faulty by design, and this faulty design caused your injury. There are two standards used to determine design defects: the consumer explectations standard and the risk-utility standard. The consumer expectations standard deals with how the product failed to live up to the expectations of the consumer. The risk-utility standard on the other hand deals with whether or not the utility of the product outweighed the risk of using it.
Manufacturing defects are a bit different because a product can have a sound design, but still be defective due to a manufacturing error. For example, 99.9% of the ladders manufactured by Company A may work perfectly, but the one ladder you bought happened to break and cause you to fall due to a rung that was improperly attached. In this case the product isn’t defective by design, but instead due to an error in its manufacturing.
Insufficient warnings on products are simply when the product fails to properly warn consumers of the potential risks and dangers that come with using it. For example, that ladder you bought from Company A might not have had a manufacturing defect, but it failed to properly warn you about the weight limit and broke while you were putting a heavy box up on a shelf.
Finally, there are five points you need to prove in order to have your claim accepted:
- You were using the product as intended
- The product has at least one of the three defects outlined above
- This defect caused you physical harm
- You suffered losses (economic or noneconomic) due to that harm
- You were less than 50% at fault for the injuries you sustained.
The first four points are necessary to prove that you have a valid claim. The fifth point has to do with Pennsylvania’s comparative fault law which says that the plaintiff in any personal injury case must be less than 50% at fault for the accident which caused their injury. The law also states that for every percentage of fault that is placed on the plaintiff, one percent of their damage compensation is removed. This means that if you would have been awarded $100,000, but are found to be 10% at fault, you will only receive $90,000.
Product liability claims can be tricky because you may not always realize that you have a valid claim at first. Many times people are injured by a product and simply aren’t aware that a product liability case is an option they can pursue. Luckily, all your case has to do is pass the five-point liability inspection and you could be compensated for any injuries you received.
Experienced Product Liability Attorneys
If you or a loved one got injured while using a product, or if your injuries were made more severe due to the defective nature of a product, there is a good chance you can receive compensation. At Donaghue & Labrum we have experience with a variety of product liability cases, including a $3,000,000 mass settlement involving a defective drug. Contact us today for a free consultation regarding your defective product claim.