Fully understanding when and how to file a product liability lawsuit in Virginia first requires defining key terms.
At the most basic level, a product liability case involves holding a manufacturer or retailer financially responsible for an injury or wrongful death caused by an item the company produced or sold. Any item with a known or demonstrable defect can be the subject of a product liability lawsuit, including tires, cars, trucks, cribs, tools, machines, lawnmowers, appliances, clothing, toys, medications, food, and talcum powder.
A product can be defective due to flaws in its manufacture, labeling or handling before sale. To get fully legal, section 38.2-5101 of the Virginia Code states
“Product liability” means liability for damages because of any personal injury, death, emotional harm, consequential economic damage, or property damage, including damages resulting from the loss of use of property, arising out of the manufacture, design, importation, distribution, packaging, labeling, lease, or sale of a product, but does not include the liability of any person for those damages if the product involved was in the possession of such a person when the incident giving rise to the claim occurred.
As lawyers who advise and represents victims of defective products in Virginia, we apply one of three theories of how a manufacturer or retailer can be held responsible. These are
- Failure to Warn/Insufficient Warning, meaning a user was not given enough information about potential injuries from and safe use of the product;
- Defective Design, meaning the product was inherently unsafe. or
- Manufacturing Defect, meaning the company that produced the product failed to follow design specifications or committed some error while assembling the product.
If you get hurt while using a product you believe comes with insufficient warnings, poor design or shoddy construction, you may have grounds for filing a product liability lawsuit. Succeeding with the claim requires receiving medical care, holding on to records of that care and securing testimony from an expert who can confirm the harmful defect. Keeping the product for later analysis and examination can also help your case.
Consulting with a knowledgeable product liability attorney will help clarify which company holds primary responsibility for allowing the defective product to inflict injuries. Claims could exist against the company that assembled the finished product, against the producer of a single component used in the product’s assembly or against the store that mishandled the product after it left the manufacturer’s facility.
A final, though very important, consideration is that a product liability lawsuit must be filed fairly soon after an injury or death. With few exceptions, the statute of limitations for any personal injury or wrongful death claim is two years from the day on which the harm occurred. The actual date from which the filing deadline extends can be disputed, especially when the problem is an illness like cancer from using an improperly labeled product. The day on which an illness is diagnosed can sometimes serve as the first date on which the statute of limitations clock runs.
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- When Do Companies Have Strict Liability for Injuries From Defective Products?