Proving Fault in a Defective Product Personal Injury Case

Posted by Allison Sullivan on Jun 18, 2019 10:48:00 AM

If you've been injured by a defective or dangerous product, you may have an easier time recovering compensation for your injuries than you think. This is because special rules and theories of recovery have been developed in the area of product liability law.

As the victim in a defective product legal case, it is your responsibility to lay out the issues associated with liability. You must be able to show how the manufacturer or seller is responsible for the injuries you have incurred. Even though you might believe that the case is clear-cut, it’s important to sit down with an experienced personal injury attorney so they can walk you through the process.

State law determines what you need to do to begin a legal claim against a responsible party, and an experienced defective products lawyer can advise you about what to expect, such as the key elements your claim must prove in order for you to be successful.

The majority of of defective product liability cases are based on strict liability. This means that a particular person or entity is held strictly liable for any injuries that are produced by their actions. Strict liability is usually imposed by statute, and there are certain types of personal injuries where liability strictly falls with another when a victim is hurt or injured. Two specific examples of strict liability can be found in injuries that are due to a defective product, and injuries that are due to animal bites.

Strict Liability for Defective Products in South Carolina

Ordinarily, to hold someone liable for your injuries, you must show that they were careless. That is, they were negligent, and that their carelessness led to your injuries. With products sold to the general public, however, it would be extremely difficult and prohibitively expensive for one individual to have to show how and when a manufacturer was careless in making a particular product.

Neither can the consumer be expected to prove whether the seller or renter of a product had a proper system for checking for manufacturer's defects, or whether the seller caused the defect after receiving the product from the manufacturer. Finally, a consumer can’t be expected to check each product before using it to see if it’s defective or dangerous.

South Carolina allows for individuals who are injured by a defective product to bring a personal injury action under strict liability against the designer or manufacturer that sold the defective product to the victim, under S.C. Code Section 15-73-10.

Proving Fault and the Rules of Strict Liability

In order for strict liability to exist in a defective product personal injury claim, three things must be shown:

  1. The product caused the injury when it was in the condition in which it was sold (i.e., the victim must not have modified the product to place it in a dangerous condition)
  2. The product must have a defect that is unreasonably dangerous, and this defect must have caused the victim’s injuries
  3. The injury must be attributable to the defect, and the injury must have been sustained during normal, routine use of the product for its intended purpose.

Types of Defects

A major defect will fall under one of the categories listed below. Your approach to arguing that a defective product caused an injury depends on the kind of defect. If you claim that something in the manufacturing process compromised the integrity or safety of the product, an expert witness or manufacturing professional could examine the item and discuss the flaw in question with you.

If you’re arguing that the product had a design defect, the proof can be more complex to gather. You will need to show that the danger created by the design defect was unreasonable. Just because the product carries some level of danger does not mean highlighting liability is simple. If you dropped the product or were using it in an unsafe manner the manufacturer would not be responsible for your injuries.

Design Defect

A design defect exists when a defect is inherent in the design of the product itself. In a products liability case, a plaintiff can only establish a design defect exists when he proves there is hypothetical alternative design that would be safer than the original design, as economically feasible as the original design, and as practical as the original design, retaining the primary purpose behind the original design despite the changes made.

A “consumer expectation test” is used to determine if a design defect exists. The consumer expectation test makes the seller of a product liable if the product is in a defective condition unreasonably dangerous to the consumer. The standard allows a jury to infer the existence of a defect if the product fails to meet reasonable expectations of consumers.

Manufacturing Defect

A manufacturing defect is a defect in a product that was not intended. This kind of defect occurs when a product departs from its intended design and is more dangerous than consumers expect the product to be. Manufacturing defects are relatively uncommon in product liability law. While a design defect affects every product made and a warning defect affects every product sold, a manufacturing defect generally affects a limited number of units.

Manufacturing controls and regulatory oversight at production facilities normally limit the number of defective products, and those that are defective can be easily replaced. Products that are dangerous due to a manufacturing defect tend to be the ones that slipped through the cracks.

Failure to Warn

In the law of product liability, the consumer must show that the manufacturers knew about the danger posed by the product, had a duty to warn consumers about the danger and were negligent about their duty in such a manner that the consumer was hurt by the product. Gathering proof about the dangerous nature of a product is somewhat easier when you can demonstrate that the dangerous quality of the product is not clearly illustrated to the average consumer. This is known as “failure to warn”, which holds the manufacturer responsible for failing to provide proper safety instructions for the device.

In this case, you’d want to gather all of the paperwork and instructions that came with the device when you bought it as well as any packaging. To meet the grounds for strict liability in a product defect, you have to show that the product had an unreasonably dangerous defect that injured you as a user of that product. This defect could become active during the design, making, or shipping of the product.

Manufacturers' and Sellers' Defense: Awareness of the Defect

Manufacturers and sellers have a defense to claims of strict liability that may be particularly important if you've owned the product for a while. That is, you may not be able to claim strict liability if you knew about the defect but continued to use the product anyway. If it appears that you were aware of the defect before the accident -- either from the condition of the product (which the manufacturer's or seller's insurance company will have a right to examine) or from your description of your use of the product -- but used it anyway, you may have given up your right to claim injury damages.

Get an Attorney for Your Product Liability Claim

As a user, it can be difficult to step into the complex world of product liability law without the help of an experienced attorney. For this reason, it’s in your best interests to set aside time to talk with one of our attorneys immediately.

An attorney can help you in the process of proving fault in your product liability claim. Have your claim analyzed by one of our experienced personal injury attorneys today.

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Topics: Personal Injury, Defective Products