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What Are the Common Defenses in a Product Liability Lawsuit?

Gavel next to a paper that says "product liability".

Thousands of people are injured every year by defective or dangerous products. If you’ve suffered an injury or illness while using a product in Casper or Cheyenne, Wyoming, you may be able to recover compensation for your losses. A product liability lawyer can help you file a lawsuit against the product manufacturer. But the defendant may seek to challenge your claim with a variety of possible legal defenses.

What Are the Common Defenses in a Product Liability Lawsuit?

For a product liability lawsuit to be successful, you must prove that the defendant acted with negligence during the design, manufacturing, packaging, or marketing of the product: somehow they negligently allowed a defective or dangerous product to make it into the hands of the consumer. You must also prove that your injury or illness directly resulted from the product’s defect.

Finally, you must prove the full value of your damages: the money you’re seeking to recover for your medical bills, lost income from missed work, emotional distress, and other losses. The defendant’s legal team may dispute any part of your claim, seeking to deny liability and avoid paying any damages.

The following are some of the most common defenses used in a product liability lawsuit:

There Was an Assumption of Risk

The defendant may argue that the injured victim understood that there was an inherent risk involved in using the product at the time they were injured. For example, lifting heavy weights at the gym entails an inherent risk of dropping a weight on your foot. If the injured victim injured themselves in a generally predictable way, the product manufacturer may claim an assumption of risk and deny any liability for your injury.

An assumption of risk defense may also be used when the customer was aware of a defect but chose to use the product anyway. If someone knew the brakes on their car weren’t working properly but still decided to drive it and caused an accident, the jury may find the injured party to be liable for their own injuries, rather than the defendant.

The Product Was Altered

If a product was significantly altered in a way that made it unsafe after leaving the manufacturer’s control, the manufacturer wouldn’t be liable for any injuries resulting from the modification. With this defense, liability is passed to whoever altered the product and made it dangerous to use. This might be another company down the chain, such as a retailer, or it might be the end-user of the product.

Removing safety guards from products or modifying a product by installing non-standard parts may render the product unsafe. If you become injured after altering a product, the defendant may claim that liability lies with you. This defense can sometimes be countered if the modification itself is deemed to have been reasonably foreseeable.

The Product Was Misused

The manufacturer of a product can only be liable for a customer’s injuries if the product was dangerous while being used in a common and expected way. If the plaintiff injured themselves while using the product in an improper and unforeseeable way, the manufacturer may dispute liability for any resulting injuries. Examples of misuse might be throwing a kitchen knife or standing on a folding chair to change a lightbulb.

No manufacturer is expected to produce a foolproof product. However, for this defense to succeed, the misuse must be unforeseeable. Sometimes, the manufacturer should be able to predict that many customers will use their product in a way other than its primary intended use. For example, screwdrivers aren’t designed to open cans of paint, but they’re still commonly used to do so.

You Contributed to Your Own Injuries

Another common product liability defense is contributory negligence. Here, the defendant claims that the injured victim contributed to their own injury in part through their own negligence. With contributory negligence, even though the product may have been defective or dangerous, the manufacturer wasn’t entirely to blame for the plaintiff’s losses.

Cooking a microwave dish improperly may worsen the harm caused by a defect in the ingredients, for example. A defective e-cigarette battery that combusted and caused a burn may have been stored improperly by the customer, exacerbating the problem. When contributory negligence on behalf of the injured victim is proven, the damages paid by the defendant may be reduced.

Your Injuries Were Caused Elsewhere

Even when a product is considered defective or dangerous, the defendant may argue that your injuries were caused elsewhere. Proving a direct link between a product and an illness or injury can sometimes be difficult; the defendant may take advantage of this.

For example, if an illness developed over time because of prolonged use of a certain product, the connection won’t be as clear as an injury caused by a single, sudden accident while using a product. Claiming that injuries were pre-existing or caused elsewhere is a common defense in many different kinds of personal injury cases. This is why it’s so important to seek immediate medical attention after an accident, follow doctor’s orders, and document everything.

You Signed a Product Liability Waiver

Many manufacturers require customers to sign or acknowledge a liability waiver before using the product. If you’ve signed such a waiver, it may have included a clause stating you cannot sue for damages if the product causes an injury. This defense may prevent you from filing a lawsuit at all.

In the case of a signed waiver, you may still be able to recover a settlement through private out-of-court negotiations. Without the viable threat of a lawsuit, however, you may be limited in how much compensation you can hope to receive.

How a Product Liability Lawyer Can Overcome These Defenses

Product liability lawsuits tend to be complex and challenging to win. Firstly, it’s not always clear which party in the chain of manufacture and distribution is liable for a product’s defect. You may need to sue the designer, manufacturer, wholesaler, retailer, or another party. When investigating the incident, a skillful product liability lawyer can establish who is to blame and start to build a strong case against them.

Furthermore, corporate defendants often have deep pockets and formidable legal defense teams. Overcoming their defenses requires an experienced product liability lawyer who can prepare a mountain of evidence that often includes various expert witnesses. When hired early on, your attorney can also stop you from inadvertently making mistakes that hinder the strength of your claim. If many customers have been injured by the defective product, your attorney may even prepare and file a class action lawsuit against the defendant.

Hire a Local Lawyer in Casper, Wyoming or Cheyenne, Wyoming

Various aspects of product liability law differ from state to state. So if you’ve been injured in Wyoming, it’s best to hire a local lawyer with a deep familiarity with Wyoming law and the local court system. After practicing law locally for many years or decades, an attorney will also have built up a valuable network of expert witnesses in the vicinity.

When you hire a local attorney, you also have easier access to them and can meet face-to-face more readily to prepare for the jury trial. And if you’re still suffering from your injury or illness, a local lawyer may even be able to help you find suitable medical care.

If you need an experienced product liability attorney to handle your case, contact Ochs Law Firm at (307) 739-3959 for a free consultation. As a seasoned trial lawyer, Jason E. Ochs can help you recover the full and fair compensation you deserve.

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Our experienced Wyoming personal injury lawyer, Jason E. Ochs will fight to help you recover proper compensation in a class action, pharmaceutical, and medical cases throughout multiple states. Contact us today.

Jason E. Ochs

Jason began his legal career in 2002 with a national multi-district litigation law firm in Newport Beach, California. There he worked on a variety of high-profile, complex-litigation projects including pharmaceutical and medical-device litigation across the country.

The Ochs Law Firm epitomizes professionalism and commitment to all of our clients, regardless of the size of the case or the might of the Defendant. We practice in Wyoming, Colorado, Kansas and California in personal injury litigation, medical malpractice, defective products, class action lawsuits, Qui Tam lawsuits, litigation across multiple districts, bad faith insurance, and civil litigation.

We look forward to providing top quality service and representation for you and your family.