Product Liability Lawsuits in Illinois
Product liability cases can arise from just about any situation involving the products people use everyday, from automobiles to a daily cup of coffee. From the Ford Pinto actions of the 1970's to the infamous "Hot Coffee" case against McDonald's in the 1990's, product liability actions are often big news and give rise to strong feelings from consumer and manufacturer groups alike. The basic idea underlying products liability law is that the companies providing the products are usually in the best position to prevent defective products from entering the marketplace, so if they fail to do so, they should be held accountable.
Product liability lawsuits are often quite complex, and require the assistance and testimony of experts. Large manufacturers often defend themselves vigorously against product liability actions, further increasing the length and cost of proceedings. Thus, most product liability claims do not go forward unless a plaintiff can claim a substantial amount of damages. In other words, if you are in a car accident and the airbag fails to go off, but you mostly sustain bumps and bruises, it's probably not worth bringing a lawsuit. On the other hand, if your airbags fail to deploy and you suffer a brain injury, then it would be worth investigating a lawsuit. The key thing to remember is that these lawsuits aren't about what could have happened, but instead are about what did happen.
If the damages do justify the cost of a product liability action, there are several theories under which a plaintiff might bring a claim (strict liability, negligence, and warranty theory). Regardless of the theory of recovery, plaintiffs in all product liability cases must prove that the product that caused injury was defective and that the defect made the product unreasonably dangerous.
Thus, the initial question in any product liability case is whether the product was sold in a defective condition. There are three types of defects that may leave a manufacturer or supplier liable for injuries caused by their product: 1) design defects (an inherently dangerous design before the product is manufactured), 2) manufacturing defects (although properly designed, some problem during manufacturing process leaves product defective), and 3) marketing defects (inadequate warning or instruction as to how to use product safely).
Having established a defect in the product, a plaintiff must show that defect made the product unreasonably dangerous. In general, a product is unreasonably dangerous if it fails to perform its intended function in line with a user's expectations. If however, a plaintiff misuses the product in a way the manufacturer could not predict, the manufacturer may avoid liability.
Almost every product liability lawsuit in Illinois is handled on a contingency basis. That means that the lawyer can only get paid if they win the case. Most of the lawyers we know advance all of the costs of litigation. As this can get expensive (it's not un-common for it to be in the six figures) the lawyers we know will normally only take on a case where damages are very significant and justify the costs of going to trial. That said, you have nothing to lose by calling a lawyer to see if your case merits pursuing.
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