If you use a product and you get hurt, there are times when the maker is responsible and liable for your injuries, and other times when you are to blame through product misuse. If you use a product and it malfunctions in a way that causes you injury, you might be able to receive compensation.
In most instances, it depends on what the product was, how it was labeled and whether or not you followed the instructions for use. If the product manufacturer was to blame, then you are entitled to both non-economic and economic damages, so knowing who is at fault in a product misuse case is crucial to establishing whether you can sue for a product liability personal injury.
When you are injured while using a product as specified, you may be able to sue either the product manufacturer, the distributor, or both. In some cases, there might be several people who are both responsible and liable for your injuries. For you to be able to sue, however, you have to prove that there was negligence on the part of the person that you are suing, be it the manufacturer or the distributor. If you can’t prove that they are negligent, then you don’t have a product liability case at all. When you are injured by a product, the most likely defense that the manufacturer or distributor of the product will use is that you misused the product, and therefore you are liable and responsible for your own injuries.
Standard product misuse defenses
When someone uses the standard “product misuse” defense, they do so to prove that you were liable for your injuries specifically because you used the product in a way that it was not intended to be used.
An example of standard product misuse would be if you purchased a dining room table and chairs. One day you notice that the light above the table has gone out, so you stand on the chair to replace the lightbulb. Unfortunately, while you are standing on the chair, it buckles under your weight, causing you to fall and hurt yourself. If you sue the manufacturer of the table and chair insisting that it didn’t have any weight limit posted and should not have buckled, the manufacturer’s defense might be that you shouldn’t have stood on the chair because that was not its intended use – and that you misused it.
It is then up to a judge and jury to decide if the chair should have been capable of holding your weight, and if it was the chair’s fault for not being able to bear the weight that it should have or if it was your fault for misusing it. The key to winning against a standard product misuse defense is to prove that someone might use the chair to stand on, and since it was foreseeable that someone might stand on it, then the product manufacturer had an obligation to put a warning label on the chair that it is not for standing on.
Alterations and modifications
When you sue someone for product liability, another likely defense is that there were alterations and modifications that caused the product to malfunction, and since you (the product owner) made them, it is not the liability of the product maker.
An example of the alterations and modifications defense would be if you bought a wheelchair that was too short for your loved one, so you altered it so that they could get in and out of it more easily. If they fell out of the chair one day and they were injured, the wheelchair manufacturer might try to claim that it was the modification or alterations that you made to the wheelchair that caused your loved one to fall out and be hurt.
In product liability, you have to prove that you were not only injured by using a product, but that there was negligence on the part of the manufacturer, the distributor, or anyone else along the chain of distribution. To beat the most common defenses to product liability cases, it is important to have an experienced injury lawyer in your corner to prove that it was not your misuse that was to blame, but the product itself that caused your injury.