Jeffrey Johnson is a legal writer with a focus on personal injury. He has worked on personal injury and sovereign immunity litigation in addition to experience in family, estate, and criminal law. He earned a J.D. from the University of Baltimore and has worked in legal offices and non-profits in Maryland, Texas, and North Carolina. He has also earned an MFA in screenwriting from Chapman Univer...

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UPDATED: Feb 7, 2020

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In order to win a defective product, or product liability, lawsuit against a manufacturer you will need to demonstrate that the product that caused your injury was improperly designed, manufactured, or damaged before you began using it.  While state law varies on what you will need to demonstrate in order to prove this, generally you will need to provide evidence that:

  • The product was defective
  • You were using the product correctly
  • You suffered injury or damages
  • Your damages were caused by the product

Depending on the nature of your defective product claim, winning the lawsuit can be complex and require the use of an experienced attorney.  Before you take legal action, speak with an experienced product liability attorney for assistance with your case.

Proving Defective Product Liability

Before you can prove a product is defective, you need to determine what type of defect caused your injury.  There are two primary types of defective product claims that you can make:

  • Manufacturing Defect:  In order to prove a product was defective in the way it was manufactured, you will need to show that an error occured while the product was made.  For example, if a table developed a crack as it was constructed and that crack later causes the table to collapse, then you can show a manufacturing defect.  
  • Design Defect:  When filing a products liability lawsuit for an alleged design defect, you will need to show a dangerous flaw in the product’s design. While many products have elements of design that pose danger, in order to win a design defect products liability lawsuit, you will need to show that the danger in design was unreasonable given the intended use of the product.  For example, if an electric teapot explodes because of a poorly conceived heating system, the manufacturer may be liable for design defect.

In any defective product case, you will have a better chance of success if you can show that the dangerous element of the product was something that a reasonable consumer would not expect.  Often times companies include warning labels and instructions, so winning a product liability case may depend on your ability to show the warnings were inadequate or the type of injury was something you could not have expected.  

TIP: In most cases, you will need to show that you were using the product as intended at the time of your injury.  If the manufacturer can show that you were misusing the product and contributed to your injury, then your legal case will suffer.  In some cases, you can argue that you were using the product in a way the manufacturer should have expected – even if it was not the approved use.

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Proving Damages

Damages are the injuries to person or property allegedly sustained due to the defective product. Most product liability cases involve injuries to one’s person. Therefore, without a medically documented injury, a product liability case is unlikely to get far. If an injury is slight – for example, if a pair of shoes causes blisters or the placement of the seatbelt clip in a car bruises a leg – the likelihood of a successful product liability claim is very low.

However, when an injury caused by a product is severe or abnormally persistent, a lawsuit is much more viable. Even one instance of seeking medical assistance, whether it be a trip to the ER for stitches or to see a doctor for some type of severe adverse reaction, can be enough to establish a medical record backing up the alleged injuries and make your injury claim a legitimate, actionable one.

Was the Injury from a Defective Product, or Just a Product?

Once the determination is made that an actual injury occurred, and the injury is backed up with medical documentation, the next and perhaps most important step is proving that the product was the cause. In many states, this means showing that the product was actually defective. This is an important point: a product that causes an injury is not always a defective product. Thousands of products can cause an injury, and virtually any product, if used in an improper manner, can be considered dangerous. 

The key is showing that the product was defective due to a manufacturing flaw, or a flaw in the design of the product itself. If you’ve used a product in the manner of and for the intended purpose, and the product still causes injury, there may indeed be a design or manufacturing defect, allowing for a successful claim.

Class Action Defective Product Lawsuit

One final point to consider is whether other people were injured in the same manner by the same product. If you’re not the only one injured by the product, a class action lawsuit could be an option. A class is a group of plaintiffs, all with common claims, who would all file essentially the same claim as individuals. 

For reasons of judicial economy, courts may allow large class actions to go forward against manufacturers for product liability claims. Search online for class actions existing against specific manufacturers. If a product has injured many people, chances are that a class action against its manufacturer or distributor is pending. These cases are often publicized, and you may be able to join one based on the facts of your individual case.

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Consulting a Product Liability Attorney

The procedures and likelihood for success of lawsuits vary greatly from state to state. If you believe you were injured because of a defective product, your first step should be to contact a product liability attorney in your area. A local attorney will be best situated to explain the product liability laws in your state and give you a fair and realistic assessment of your case. As a general rule, though, if you’ve been seriously injured due to a defective product, there is likely to be some remedy under the law.