Who Is Liable For Injuries Caused By A Defective Product?
It happens all the time. You’re using a product, it breaks, and you sustain an injury. Often, the injury can be chalked up to user error. However there are other times where the product itself is defective in some way and can be responsible for your injury. In this case, what is your path to recourse, and do you need a defective product lawyer?
Defective product claims almost always require the services of an experienced defective product or “products liability” lawyer. Writing to a company who’s product has caused you an injury will almost always result in a denial letter from the company’s insurer where it will be argued that you were at fault.
In many cases, you may be referred to an instruction manual where safe operation of the equipment under normal operating conditions is described. But what if you read and followed the instruction manual and still received a physical injury during normal use of the product?
Cases might include riding a bicycle where the pedal breaks, resulting in a serious fall, or driving a vehicle were a tire blows out on a normal road surface. Clearly there are different types of defective product scenarios and generally they can be classified into three groups:
Defective Marketing (labeling or instruction for use)
Product Liability in North Carolina
In much of the United States, when a product injures someone, the law applies “strict liability” to the manufacturer. That means the manufacturer is automatically liable and there is no need to prove fault or negligence. In North Carolina, however, that is not the case.
North Carolina law applies a negligence standard to product liability cases, as outlined in Chapter 99B of the North Carolina General Statutes. An injured party must prove one or more of the following:
- There is an essential flaw in the design of the product that creates a risk of harm to the user.
- There are not adequate warnings on the product to make users aware of the potential dangers associated with using the product.
- The instructions provided by the manufacturer are not adequate, putting the user at risk to misuse the product and put themselves in harm’s way. For example, if a cleaning product could cause chemical burns, the instructions should note that it should be used only while wearing protective gear such as gloves.
Manufacturers’ Defenses Against Liability
Even if you are able to prove the manufacturer was negligent,
they may still have a viable defense. Here are the most common:
- North Carolina’s contributory negligence law
- The statute of limitations
- Alteration or modification of the product
North Carolina’s contributory negligence law
It may seem counterintuitive to blame the victim for their own injuries; however, a victim’s negligence may play a part in causing an accident. This is especially true in defective product cases and it is a common defense of manufacturers. Unlike in other states, the North Carolina contributory negligence law considers not only the property owner’s responsibility in safety but also an individual’s responsibility for their own safety. If the victim of the accident is proven to have been careless in any way, then they may share liability.
Here are some examples of defective product cases in which the victim could be blamed (at least partially) for causing the accident:
- You did not follow the product’s directions or heed its warnings.
- You used the product in a way which was not intended.
- You were distracted while using the product. For example, using your phone while riding your bike.
- The greater situation in which the product was used was dangerous, not the product itself. For example, riding a bicycle intended for road use on rough terrain.
North Carolina Statute of Limitations
If you are considering pursuing a lawsuit to help recover costs for personal injury and you live in North Carolina, it’s important to understand the statute of limitations.
A “statute of limitations” is a state law that puts a strictly-enforced limit on how much time can pass from when the injury occurred to when you must file your case with the court. If you miss the deadline to file, you effectively lose the right to file a lawsuit at all. Every state has statute of limitations laws with different time limits for different types of cases.
The statute of limitations in North Carolina for personal injury cases is usually three years. Though this may seem irrelevant, you were injured, you’re going to claim almost immediately, right? Well, not everyone knows the full extent of their injury after an accident, and in some cases it can take time for the injury to develop to the point where one thinks seriously about consulting a product defect or personal injury lawyer.
When the Retailer or Seller is Liable
In some cases, it may not be the manufacturer who is liable, but actually, the retailer or seller who sold you the product. For example, if the retailer or seller altered the product in some way before selling it to you, they might be liable for your injury. Or if the product was a food product and needed to remain sealed in order to be safe but they sold it to you with a broken seal, they may be liable.
What to do if you were injured by a defective product
Let’s go back to our first example. You bought a bicycle, were using it in a way it was intended and the pedal broke, causing you an injury. What do you do now?
First, don’t fix it or throw out any of the parts. Second, take photographs of the bicycle, of your injury, and the scene of the accident. Third, make an appointment with a North Carolina Law Firm, where an experienced product defect lawyer can have the proper experts examine the defective product to see if you have a case.
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The content on this website is provided for general information only. It should NOT be construed by the reader as LEGAL ADVICE. The LAWS of the Nation and of the State of North Carolina are subject to frequent change and addition. Such changes and additions may periodically render the general information on our website out-of-date, thus, we disclaim any and all liability in respect to actions taken or not taken by the reader based on his or her interaction with the content of this website.
OUR ADVICE TO YOU:
It’s often the case that the outcome of an accident or injury claim can hinge on the smallest of details. While it may seem appealing to try to handle a case on your own, it’s rare that acting independently of a lawyer will yield the best results for the plaintiff. Therefore, whilst we encourage you to read the useful articles at our website, we strongly recommend that you seek sound legal advice before attempting to deal with any type of accident or injury claim on your own.