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Product Liability Law Basics

Product liability laws protect consumers from goods that cause them harm. The ways this can happen include:

  • A product was defectively manufactured. Use of sub-standard materials or careless workmanship caused the product to malfunction
  • A product was defectively designed. The product is designed in a way that renders it dangerous, regardless of how it is manufactured
  • You were improperly warned about the product. This is sometimes referred to as marketing defects. It happens when the dangers inherent in a product are not obvious to the consumer and are not disclosed to the consumer.

A product liability claim usually falls into one of three categories:

  • Strict liability. You suffer an injury caused by the product itself. Under strict liability, the manufacturer of the product is held responsible even if there was no negligence involved in the production of the item
  • Negligence. You get hurt because a product was manufactured in a substandard way or with substandard parts.
  • Breach of warranty. The manufacturer offered guarantees about a product which led you to use it in a certain way and you were hurt.

Many responsible companies will recall their own products on a voluntary basis if they learn of a safety issue. And a "recall" doesn't always mean you have to return the product. For example, an auto manufacturer will make arrangements for repairs to be made at no charge to their customers.

Agencies such as the Consumer Product Safety Commission (http://www.cpsc.gov/) or the Food and Drug Administration (http://www.fda.gov/) can alert the public about safety concerns and recalls. If you are considering buying something (especially if it is used) it is a good idea to check into whether the product has been subjected to any recalls.

Product liability law is one of the areas where a person should really not try to handle the case themselves. An experienced attorney can help you determine which sort of liability case you have and what type of liability applies.

Brown and Crouppen

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