Legal options when you're injured by a defective product
We use commercial products every day. According to one report, Amazon ships over 5 billion products every year through its Amazon Prime program alone.
If we're not using a commercial product, we're undoubtedly sitting next to one or sitting next to someone who is using one. In most cases, the products that surround us work properly.
But what happens if a product is defective and causes an injury to you or a loved one?
Let's take a look at product liability lawsuits in Indiana.
3 types of product defects
The law recognizes 3 types of defects that can lead to a product liability claim:
|Manufacturing defect||A defectively manufactured product is one that—though properly designed—left the manufacturer in a condition other than intended.||An over-the-counter medication used to treat constipation became tainted with a more dangerous drug during the manufacturing process. As a result of the accidental contamination, the medicine caused serious injuries to the infant who was administered the drug for his constipation.|
|Design defect||A product is defectively designed if it failed to perform as safely as a reasonable person would expect, even when used as intended (or at least in a manner that was reasonably foreseeable)||A toy posed such a high choking risk that most children who used the product choked on the product.|
|Failure to warn||Manufacturers have a duty to warn users of the dangers that can be reasonably anticipated and that are inherent in their products.||The container that held the microwave dinner was not microwave-safe, but the packaging failed to warn consumers and many ingested harmful chemicals as a result.|
How to establish a product liability claim in Indiana
In Indiana, product liability claims are based on negligence or strict liability:
In a product liability case based on negligence, the plaintiff must prove that:
- The defendant owed the plaintiff a duty of care (manufacturers owe a duty of care to all potential users),
- The defendant breached the duty of care, and
- The defendant's breach caused the plaintiff's injuries.
In a product liability case based on strict liability, the plaintiff must prove that:
- The product was sold in an "unreasonably dangerous" condition,
- The unreasonably dangerous condition existed when the product left the defendant's control, and
- The dangerous condition caused the plaintiff's injuries.
Your attorney will likely conduct discovery in order to obtain as much evidence as possible to support your product liability claim. This evidence might include:
- The defective product (or a similar product if the actual product is no longer available)
- The product manufacturing guidelines
- Video footage from the manufacturing plant
- Relevant internal communications (such as emails between designers discussing potential problems with the design)
- Incident reports
- Medical records
- Testimony from designers, manufacturers, and others who can speak about the defective product
Who's at fault for a product defect in Indiana?
The following parties may be held liable in an Indiana product liability lawsuit:
- Manufacturers. A manufacturer is an individual or entity that creates, assembles, constructs, or otherwise prepares a product or component before the sale to a customer.
- Sellers. A seller is a person engaged in the business of selling or leasing a product for resale, use, or consumption.
Though you can sue a manufacturer or seller in most cases, there are a couple of important exceptions:
- A product liability lawsuit based on strict liability can't be filed against a seller unless the seller is also the manufacturer of the product.
- A casual seller can't be sued for a defective product. A casual seller is a person who's not in the business of selling a particular product. (For example, a parent who works as a school teacher and sells her child's old rattle at a garage sale to make a few extra dollars would be considered a casual seller.)
Who can file a product liability claim?
In Indiana, ANYONE who's injured by a defective product can file a product liability lawsuit. This means you can file a product liability lawsuit if you bought the product secondhand, if you received the product as a gift, or even if you were injured by someone else's use of the defective product.
Common defenses to product liability claims
Defendants in product liability lawsuits stand to lose a lot of money. In addition to paying any judgment against them, the manufacturer or seller will have to refrain from manufacturing or selling the defective product. As a result, defendants tend to hire attorneys and fight product liability lawsuits vigorously.
Apart from arguing that the plaintiff was not actually injured (or was not injured as severely as claimed), the 2 primary defenses in a product liability lawsuit are:
- The real cause of the harm was a substantial modification (for example, the plaintiff replaced the engine on their lawnmower with a more powerful engine)
- The real cause of the harm was a misuse of the product (for example, the plaintiff used their bedsheet as a hammock)
Other possible defenses include:
- The statute of limitations has run
- The defendant in a strict liability lawsuit is not the manufacturer and can't be sued
- The plaintiff was injured by something other than the allegedly defective product
Statute of limitations for product liability lawsuits in Indiana
Additionally, your claim must be filed within 10 years of when you bought or received the product. However, if your injury occurred at least 8 years after you bought or received the product but before the 10-year deadline, you'll have 2 years from the date of the injury to file your lawsuit.
There are a couple of narrow exceptions to the statute of limitations, including an exception for asbestos-related claims. Because of these exceptions, it's a good idea to meet with an attorney as soon as possible to determine when you need to file your lawsuit.
Defective product damages and caps
The goal of a product liability lawsuit is to make the plaintiff "whole." To put it another way, the damages awarded to a plaintiff in a product liability lawsuit are intended to put the plaintiff in the position they were in prior to the injury.
In Indiana, plaintiffs can receive the following damages:
- Economic damages. Economic damages represent the monetary losses caused by an accident and include things like medical expenses, lost income, and property damage.
- Non-economic damages. Non-economic damages represent the non-monetary losses caused by an accident and include things like pain and suffering and emotional distress.
In cases where the defendant's actions were intentional or particularly egregious, the plaintiff may be able to recover punitive damages. Punitive damages are capped in Indiana at 3 times the amount of the compensatory (economic and non-economic) damage award or $50,000, whichever is greater.
Finding an Indiana product liability lawyer near you
Lots of Indiana personal injury attorneys handle product liability cases. Additionally, there are some personal injury attorneys who ONLY handle product liability cases. When choosing an attorney, be sure to find out whether they have experience litigating product liability cases. It's also a good idea to make sure the attorney has experienced representing plaintiffs in product liability cases and not just defendants.
Need a lawyer?
A personal injury lawyer helps individuals who have sustained injuries in accidents to recover financial compensation. These funds are often needed to pay for medical treatment, make up for lost wages and provide compensation for injuries suffered. Sometimes a case that seems simple at first may become more complicated. In these cases, consider hiring an experienced personal injury lawyer. Read more