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When can I hold a manufacturer responsible for a defective product?

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Illinois honors a strict liability policy, which means people who suffer due to a dangerous or defective product may hold manufacturers responsible.

In 2014, the average product liability injury jury award was $5,276,103. According to the Insurance Information Institute, that is higher than any other average award for a personal injury claim for that year. There are several explanations for this, ranging from the amount of damage a defective product can do to the way liability for products is approached here in Illinois.

When a defective product causes harm, consumers may seek legal recourse to compensate for their damages. It is important to understand the state and federal laws that dictate how these claims should proceed.

Strict liability

Illinois adheres to a strict liability policy, which means that manufacturers are strictly liable for a defective product. In other liability cases, such as a car accident or medical malpractice, plaintiffs typically must demonstrate that the defendant was negligent in some way.

Product liability lawsuits differ in that the injured party does not need to show that any negligence was involved. Instead, it is assumed that a manufacturer (and distributor, retailer or producer) assumes responsibility for the safety of the product. Therefore, it is possible to hold more than just one party in the chain of distribution responsible with a product is defective.

In a strict liability lawsuit, the plaintiff must demonstrate the following:

  • The defective product caused an injury.
  • The defect was unreasonably dangerous.
  • The defect was in place when the product left the control of the manufacturer.

All of that said, it is possible to file a lawsuit citing negligence. In these claims, the plaintiff must show that the defendant owed a duty of care to the consumer, the duty of care was breached and the breach caused the injury.

Statute of limitations

In Illinois, people who have been injured due to a dangerous or defective product have two years from the date of the injury to file a product liability lawsuit. However, there are also two statutes of repose: The first states that no suit may be brought 12 years from the date of the sale of the product, and the second states that the suit may not be brought 10 years after the product was delivered to its first owner.

Damages available

As with any personal injury lawsuit, there are a number of damages someone may recover through filing a claim. The first, economic damages, cover quantifiable financial losses such as medical expenses and missed wages. It is also possible to secure noneconomic damages, which would include items such as pain and suffering.

Lastly, there are punitive damages that may be applied in rare circumstances in which the defendant was especially negligent. For example, if a car manufacturer knowingly sold vehicles with a faulty ignition switch, they may be ordered to pay a punitive damage.

People who have concerns about this topic should speak with a personal injury attorney in Illinois.

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