Top misconceptions about Pennsylvania products liability claims

Pennsylvanians can benefit from understanding the criteria used to assess whether a product is defective and whether its manufacturer is liable.

Most people in Pittsburgh are aware that manufacturers have a legal duty to create reasonably safe products. When companies fail in this duty, they may be liable for any resulting injuries that consumers suffer. Injury victims may be able to secure compensation for various losses, including medical costs, wage loss and emotional suffering.

Despite this basic knowledge, many Pennsylvanians harbor potentially harmful misconceptions about the state's laws and criteria for products liability claims. Most people can benefit from becoming familiar with the following misunderstandings so that they can better protect their rights in the event of an injury from a defective product.

Any dangerous product is defective

Many people assume that any product that could cause injury can be considered defective, but this isn't the case. Some products, such as power tools, pose obvious dangers and have the potential to harm users even when they are properly designed. As summarized in one Pennsylvania Supreme Court opinion, past rulings have held that a product isn't defective if the danger it creates is clear to a reasonable person.

Past court cases have established two criteria that are used to determine whether a dangerous product is defective. If a product poses a danger that a consumer couldn't reasonably anticipate, it may be defective. Alternately, a product might be defective if the risks associated with using it outweigh the burdens that its manufacturer would face in making a safer product.

Defects must arise during design or production

A product that lacks manufacturing or design flaws may still be defective if consumers don't receive adequate directions regarding its use. Manufacturers have a duty to provide directions for proper usage or warnings of risks that aren't obvious. When such instructions or warnings are absent, injury victims may be able to make products liability claims. For example, a manufacturer's failure to warn users of harmful side effects of pesticide exposure may provide grounds for a claim.

A specific defect must be identified

Consumers can seek compensation for injuries even if they can't pinpoint a specific product defect. The Pennsylvania Supreme Court has found that circumstantial evidence can provide adequate proof that a product is defective. In one case, an injury victim recovered damages after showing that a product malfunction caused his injury, even though the defect that caused this malfunction wasn't identified.

Personal fault in an injury bars claims

Pennsylvania observes comparative negligence laws, which hold that personal negligence doesn't prevent a person from seeking compensation for an injury. However, the victim must show that his or her actions did not contribute to the injury more than the actions of the product's manufacturer. Additionally, any damages awarded will be reduced by the amount of fault attributed to the victim.

It's important to note that people who are injured while misusing a product may be able to secure full compensation. The Pennsylvania Supreme Court has held that a product can be considered defective if it causes injury while a consumer is using it in a way that a manufacturer could have anticipated. Therefore, a person who uses a product for a purpose that is abnormal but reasonably foreseeable can still make a products liability claim.

Avoiding other misunderstandings

These various misconceptions about products liability law underscore why injury victims can benefit from consulting with an attorney. In Pennsylvania, consumers only have two years from the date of injury to file claims, and misunderstandings about personal rights may cause some people to miss this deadline. Therefore, most people can benefit from consulting with a lawyer soon after an injury from an unsafe product occurs.