If you or a loved one experience an injury or death due to a defective product, or if your property is damaged due to a defective product, you may very well be entitled to compensation through a product liability lawsuit. There are a few rules to be aware of, though, including limitations on when and why you can sue. It’s also good to know what types of defense you might expect from the product manufacturer, retailer, or other party held liable for damages.
What can I sue for?
Anyone who manufactured, sold, rented installed or serviced a defective product may be liable for damages. However, the lawsuit is only likely to succeed under certain conditions. In most cases, the plaintiff bringing the lawsuit must demonstrate one of the following:
•· A design defect– the product was not designed in a safe enough way
•· A manufacturing defect – the product did not match its intended design, rendering it unsafe
•· A failure to provide adequate warnings – the product was fine, but the company did not fulfill its duty to profile sufficient instructions or warn the consumer about potential dangers if used improperly.
In cases where there was a contract between you and the seller or renter, AND the only damage was to the product itself, you are not entitled to compensation. Crashing a rented snowmobile and losing your deposit would be a typical example. There are some exceptions to this, depending on the specifics of the contract and circumstances.
How much can I get in compensation?
There are no specific limits on the compensation that can be awarded in a product liability lawsuit. However, Colorado does have some laws than can reduce the amount the provider of a defective product has to pay.
For example, it is common for the court to assign some of the fault for the injury or damage to the user of the product. In such cases, the damages awarded are reduced in proportion to the person’s own contribution to the injury or damage. This legal concept is often referred to as contributory negligence. So, if an accident is determined to be 50% the fault of the user, they will only be able to collect half of the total damages.
What types of defenses do companies usually use?
There are a few common defenses companies successfully employ to defend themselves against product liability lawsuits.
•· The plaintiff knew about the defect and knowingly continued using the product
•· The product was modified after it was sold
•· The product was being misused (and the company could not have foreseen the misuse)
How much time do I have to bring a lawsuit?
Waiting too long to sue a company for a faulty product can cost you. In Colorado, you have only two years from the date of the injury, death, or property damage to file a lawsuit. Additionally, if ten years have passed since the product was first sold by the company, the courts will assume that the product was not defective and you are unlikely to win.
In certain cases, you may not know about the damage at first, and that won’t count against you. Colorado’s “discovery rule” allows you to count the two years from when you either learned about, or should have learned about, the injury or damage.