|Low: Small Claims Court Fees Usually Run $20-$320||Medium: Personal Injury Lawyers May Charge 15-40% of the Settlement|
Designers, manufacturers or sellers can be held responsible for any harm suffered by buyers and users of defective products. The basis for a product liability claim can be strict liability (a design or manufacturing defect that makes the product unreasonably dangerous), negligence, breach of warranty or failure to warn.
Related articles: Small Claims Court, Property Damage Lawsuit
- A product liability lawsuit usually requires numerous expert witnesses and the evaluation of thousands and even hundreds of thousands of documents; a Pennsylvania attorney estimates that the cost of investigating and litigating this type of case easily exceeds $100,000.
- Most attorneys only accept an individual product liability case if the damages are severe. Legal fees are typically on a contingency basis; the lawyer takes anywhere from 15-40 percent of the final settlement/court judgment, but only if you win. If you don't receive any money, neither does the attorney. The percentage the attorney receives is negotiated in advance, and will depend on prevailing rates in your area, the expected length and complexity of the case, the amount of money expected to be awarded and whether or not the case goes to trial or is appealed.
- Rather than take on individual cases, product liability lawyers are more likely to tackle class action lawsuits, where minor damages have been suffered by thousands or tens of thousands of people. Class action lawsuits are also done on a contingency basis, where the attorneys are awarded fees from any settlement/judgment received. The legal fees must be approved by the court; typically it's about 25 percent, although it can be higher or lower depending on the facts of the case.
- If you don't want to file a class action lawsuit, for individual cases involving more modest amounts of money you may be able to file a complaint in Small Claims Court, often without involving lawyers. The maximum amount that can be awarded in Small Claims Court varies from $2,500-$15,000, depending on state law.
- If you have a consumer complaint you haven't been able to resolve but don't want to file a lawsuit, you can fill out the online Federal Trade Commission Consumer Complaint Form . The FTC does not resolve individual consumer problems, but does keep records and will investigate fraud. You can also file complaints with your state's Attorney General's Consumer Protection Division, the local Better Business Bureau or local municipal agencies, who may help negotiate a compromise.
What should be included:|
- Each state has its own statute of limitations for how long you can wait before filing a product liability lawsuit; FindLaw.com lists the time limits for each state.
- Lawyers. com provides an overview of making a a product liability claim  as well as frequently asked product liability questions .
- It's important to preserve any evidence related to your product liability claim -- don't throw away anything, unless it's clearly dangerous to keep it.
- Some lawyers may charge an up-front retainer fee to cover expenses. This can vary considerably depending on what's needed and the facts of the case.
Shopping for a product liability attorney:
- Low-income folks may be eligible for free assistance from Legal Aid or other agencies; the American Bar Association lists legal resources by state.
- Lawyers will often specialize in a particular aspect of product liability law, such as toxics, automobiles or prescription drugs. It can be a plus if you find a lawyer who specializes in your type of case, but it can be difficult if your case is unusual. Be prepared to talk with several lawyers before choosing one. Be as clear as possible about when and how you were injured; FindLaw.com provides a questionnaire to complete before meeting with an attorney . Lawyers.com explains how to select a personal injury lawyer.
- Search for personal injury lawyers at Lawyers.com and FindLaw.com .
- Your attorney should provide you with a written fee agreement. Be sure you understand exactly how and when the fees will be deducted from any settlement/judgment you receive, and what other costs might be paid out of your settlement/judgment.
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