Product Liability Law and Its Benefits for Injured Consumers

Product liability law gives consumers a path to injury compensation. Learn how these claims work and the factors that decide how much you receive.

Sarah Edwards


Reviewed By Adam Ramirez, J.D.


Read in 4 mins
Product Liability Law and Its Benefits for Injured Consumers

Product Liability Law for Consumers

Product liability law has historically struggled to find ways for consumers to seek redress for injuries caused by defective products. Contract law did not always work because the injured person might not be the person who bought the product. The legal theory of negligence burdened the injured person with determining whether it resulted from a failure to exercise reasonable care.

While these legal theories still have their place in product liability claims, many cases now rest on strict liability. This theory avoids the limitations of contract and negligence laws by holding the manufacturer liable upon proof that the product contained a defect that caused the injury.

This shift benefits consumers by strengthening their ability to pursue compensation, which also incentivizes manufacturers to make safer products. Here is what you need to know about product liability law and the advantages it offers for consumers.

Product Liability Law Defined

Product liability encompasses the legal theories used to hold manufacturers accountable for consumer injuries caused by their products. The judges who created modern product liability theories wanted to avoid two limits on contract and negligence theories: privity and care.

You can bring a breach of contract or breach of warranty claim against manufacturers when their products fail to perform their intended purpose. A product that explodes, falls apart, or has some other problem that compromises your safety is unsuitable for the use for which you bought it. You did not receive the benefit of your bargain and, thus, the manufacturer breached your sales contract.

The problem with this theory is that your kids and neighbors were not a party to the contract. When they get injured by the product you bought, they cannot bring a product liability claim under contract law because they lack “privity” with the manufacturer.

The second theory, negligence, requires proof that the manufacturer failed to exercise reasonable care in producing its products. However, people outside the company, like consumers, often have no way to gather the evidence necessary to prove a lack of care.

Worse yet, a product might still injure or kill a consumer even though the manufacturer exercised reasonable care because of inherent flaws in the product.

Strict Liability

Under strict liability, privity and care are irrelevant. The injured consumer only needs to prove that one or more of the following defects caused their injury:

  • Design defect
  • Manufacturing defect
  • Warning defect

A design defect makes a product unsafe for its intended use. An example of a product with a design defect is a dangerous drug called thalidomide. This morning-sickness medication caused birth defects. Thus, when used during pregnancy as intended, it caused injuries unique to pregnancy.

Manufacturing defects get introduced at the factory and turn a safe product into a dangerous one. An example of a manufacturing defect happened when tires from a particular Bridgestone/Firestone factory had their layers incorrectly adhered. The tread separated from the rest of the tire, causing rollover car accidents.

Warning defects happen when manufacturers fail to inform consumers of a product’s safe use. This defect is the source of Roundup lawsuits and asbestos settlements, where users developed cancer because the manufacturer did not warn them to wear respirators while applying the chemical.

Once you prove a defect exists, you must show that it caused your injury. Causation simply means the injury followed naturally from the defect. For instance, a burn injury is directly caused by an exploding propane tank. However, a pre-existing knee injury would not be caused by the defective tank.

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Recoverable Compensation in Defective Product Law Claims

Under the law, injured consumers can pursue compensation for economic and non-economic losses after proving liability. Economic losses include the financial costs of the injury, such as:

  • Past and future medical costs
  • Lost income
  • Diminished future earnings due to disabilities
  • Out-of-pocket expenses

You can prove your economic losses using financial records. Bank statements, credit card records, and receipts will show what you spent and why you spent it. You can pursue compensation for all reasonable and necessary losses incurred as a result of the manufacturer’s product.

Non-economic losses cover the diminishment in your quality of life due to your injuries. For example, pain keeps you awake and makes you miserable. Disfigurement causes social anxiety. Worry can arise from the costly treatment you face and the disabilities you may suffer for the rest of your life. These losses may be compensable under product liability law.

Learn More About Product Liability From ConsumerShield

Defective products can cause severe or even fatal injuries. Additionally, the injury might go undetected for years or decades if it resulted from exposure to toxins. These factors make product liability cases some of the most complex claims lawyers face.

ConsumerShield is dedicated to educating you about your legal rights. We can assess your case for free and recommend a skilled lawyer to guide you in your pursuit of fair compensation. Contact us for a free case evaluation to learn how we can help you today.

Sarah Edwards's profile picture

Sarah Edwards


Sarah Edwards is a seasoned legal writer with more than a decade of experience.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • Product liability is a set of legal theories that allow consumers to recover compensation for injuries caused by products. Product liability laws include:

    • Breach of contract
    • Breach of warranty
    • Negligence
    • Strict liability

    One of the most commonly used theories is strict liability because the injured person need not prove intent.

  • The standard of proof is a “preponderance of the evidence.” This means that your lawyer must persuade the judge or jury it is more likely than not that the product was defective and the defect caused your injury.

  • Manufacturers defend themselves from product liability cases by disputing that the product had a defect or that it caused the injury. Another defense is product misuse. In this defense, the manufacturer argues that your injuries resulted from your misuse of the product rather than its defects.

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