How to Prove Negligence in Product Liability

AUTHOR: A.J. Bruning | October 15, 2022
How to Prove Negligence in Product Liability

Missouri law may entitle you to compensation if a defective product injures you. A settlement could pay for your medical bills and lost wages while you recover. But first, you must prove that negligence caused your injury.

Negligence in a product liability case includes:

  • A defective design
  • An inherently dangerous product
  • A hidden defect
  • The failure to warn consumers of potential hazards

Proving negligence isn’t as easy as it seems, and a seasoned attorney can help you pursue your product liability claim. Contact a defective product injury lawyer to learn more.

An overview of a defective product liability claim

How to Prove Negligence in Product Liability

Proving that a manufacturer’s negligence led to your injury is complex. The simple fact that the product injured you may not be enough to stake your claim.

Lawyers look for these four elements when they prove negligence in a product liability lawsuit:

  • You used the product in its intended manner
  • The product had a defect
  • You sustained injuries
  • The product’s defect caused those injuries

Let’s take a closer look at these four elements.

You used the product in its intended manner.

The manufacturer may attempt to weaken your claim if they can prove you ignored the product’s warning labels, didn’t follow the directions, or used the product in an unreasonable manner.

The product had a defect.

The product must have a defect or malfunction in some way. Perhaps the defect caused the product to catch fire, fall apart, or explode. Or use of the product caused you to develop a health condition.

You sustained injuries.

The purpose of a product liability lawsuit is to reimburse you for your damages, like medical bills.

It’s unfortunate if the defect scared you or didn’t live up to your expectations. You may have some recourse in that case, like a refund or product replacement. But a defect in and of itself is usually not enough to build a product liability case. You will need to show you sustained injury from the defect.

The product’s defect caused your injury.

You need a lawyer to find a direct link between the product’s defect and your subsequent injuries.


Why do you need an attorney to file your product liability claim?

Even the most straightforward product liability claims can encounter roadblocks.

You will likely encounter these obstacles if you attempt to pursue a claim on your own, without an attorney:

  • You’ll play phone tag with insurance representatives, who all pass the buck to someone else. They know you have a limited time to file a legal claim. You may miss the deadline to take legal action if they continue to stall.
  • The manufacturer will claim you used their product carelessly or recklessly. They’ll do everything they can to make you look like the negligent party, even when that’s not the case.
  • The manufacturer’s insurance company agrees to pay your current doctor’s bills. But what about the medical care you may need a year from now? Or your lost wages, property damage, and pain and suffering? What they offer you may only be a fraction of what the law entitles you to.

Most individuals don’t have the resources, time, or energy to build a case against a manufacturer. These companies have experienced attorneys ready to dispute your claim and minimize what happened to you. Businesses know it’s difficult to bounce back from a product liability lawsuit. It’s challenging to restore consumer trust. Manufacturers will fight tooth and nail against your claim.

A product liability attorney has the experience and knowledge to handle your case. You can focus on your recovery when you hire an attorney to represent you. Your attorney will keep you updated on your case’s progress, and they’re available to answer your questions.

How product liability lawyers build a strong case.

Product liability attorneys tailor their strategies to your specific situation.

When needed, your attorney can:

  • Partner with medical, occupational, and financial experts to calculate an adequate settlement
  • Anticipate a manufacturer’s defense strategy
  • Communicate with the manufacturer’s representatives, insurance agents, and attorneys
  • Represent you in court if your case goes to trial
  • Handle media inquiries if you have a high-profile case

Meanwhile, you can focus on your medical care, loved ones, and future.

Who is responsible for a product liability case?

Defects can happen at any point along a product’s design, creation, and distribution chain.

Responsible parties can include:

  • Manufacturers of the product’s components
  • The manufacturer of the finished product
  • An assembly or installation company
  • A wholesaler or retailer

The law may hold more than one of these parties responsible in a product liability case. When this happens, each negligent party may try to minimize their contributions to the defective product. Product liability lawyers anticipate these tactics and work hard to pursue justice on your behalf.

Did a defective product cause your work injury?

Workplace injuries caused by a defective product are complex matters. Your first court of action is to tell your employer or supervisor about your injury. The Missouri Department of Labor requires you to report your injury to your employer within 30 days. This notification will start your workers’ comp claim.

State law may entitle you to more compensation than just workers’ comp benefits. To know what you qualify for, speak with an attorney. Find a firm that handles both workers’ comp and product liability cases to ensure they have the expertise to guide you through the process.

Defective product lawsuit: Do you have to go to court?

No, you don’t have to go to court to win a settlement. In a product liability case, both parties have incentives to settle out of court. A trial can cost more time and money than out-of-court negotiations. It’s also difficult to predict how a judge or jury will respond to any one product liability claim.

However, there are circumstances where a trial may maximize your settlement. Going to court may be appropriate if negotiations stall or the other party severely undervalues your claim. Your attorney will let you know if going to court could be in your best interest. As the injured party, the decision to pursue a trial is yours to make.

Who can file a product liability claim?

Adults in Missouri can file a product liability claim on their own behalf. Parents and legal guardians can pursue legal action if a defective product injures their child. Product liability claims are a type of personal injury lawsuit filed in civil court.

Fatal defective product injuries: Wrongful death lawsuits

You may be able to pursue a wrongful death lawsuit if your loved one died due to a fatal defective product injury.

Missouri Revised Statute § 537.080 allows these survivors to file a wrongful death claim:

  • Spouse
  • “Lineal descendants”: natural, adopted, legitimate, and illegitimate
  • Parents
  • Siblings, if none of the above are eligible

The court may appoint a plaintiff ad litem in certain situations to represent the victim and ensure they are guided through the legal process properly. You should consult an attorney about your eligibility to file a wrongful death lawsuit.

How much does hiring a product liability attorney cost?

As someone recovering from an injury, the last thing you need is additional expenses. You can’t work while you recover, yet your daily expenses and bills don’t go away. Even incidentals associated with doctor visits—gas, public transportation, parking, and cafeteria meals—can stretch your budget.

Most personal injury law firms work on a contingency fee basis. They do not collect any money unless you win your case. Often, the attorney fees are an agreed-upon percentage of your settlement.

If you lose your case, you don’t owe any attorney fees. However, you may still be responsible for court fees and other expenses.

Contingent fees benefit you, as attorneys take on cases with solid legal claims. You can file your claim and pursue legal action without paying anything upfront.

How to choose a product liability lawyer.

Most defective product attorneys offer free consultations.

Consider asking these questions:

  • How many product liability cases do you handle each year?
  • Can you share the outcomes of some of these cases?
  • Have you ever dealt with a case similar to mine?
  • How often do you take defective product claims to trial?
  • Do you work on a contingency fee basis? Tell me more about your payment plan.

A consultation is your chance to learn if you have a valid claim and decide if the firm is the right fit.

How long does a product liability claim take to process?

These cases may settle in a few months or take a year or more to resolve.

Your case may take longer to wrap up if:

  • Doctors can’t determine your prognosis yet.
  • You haven’t reached maximum medical improvement (MMI).
  • More than one entity is at fault.
  • Negotiations stall.
  • You and your attorney decide to take your case to court.
  • You experienced catastrophic injuries such as a traumatic brain injury, spinal cord injury, amputation, or significant disfigurement.

Even an experienced lawyer cannot accurately predict how long a case will take at the outset. Generally speaking, higher-value product liability claims take longer to process.

What does a product liability settlement cover?

A settlement provides financial compensation for your injury-related damages. The law categorizes your damages as either economic or non-economic.

Economic damages in a product liability case.

Economic damages are the financial losses and expenses incurred due to your injury. These damages have a set cost and may include:

Medical care for your defective product injuries

  • Ambulance ride and ER visit
  • Diagnostic tests
  • Hospitalization
  • Surgery
  • Out-patient doctor visits
  • Medication
  • In-home care
Rehabilitation therapies
  • Physical
  • Occupational
  • Vocational
Mobility aids
  • Wheelchair
  • Walker
  • Cane
  • Crutches
Lost income
  • Missed work while you recover
  • If you are permanently disabled
  • If you can only return to work in a limited capacity (fewer hours or lower-paying occupation)
Property damage for any belongings destroyed by the defective product
  • Home repairs
  • Vehicle repair or replacement
  • Electronic equipment, work tools, antiques

You and your family shouldn’t be left to struggle after a defective product injury. A settlement helps secure your financial future.

Non-economic damages in a product liability case.

Non-economic damages are the intangible effects of your injury. Most people are familiar with compensation for physical pain and emotional suffering.

Depending on the specifics of your case, the law may also allow you to claim:

  • Loss of self-esteem due to permanent scarring/disfigurement
  • Loss of enjoyment if you can no longer pursue hobbies or partake in family activities
  • Your spouse may qualify for loss of companionship

No amount of money can seem like enough compensation for what you’ve endured. But reimbursement for non-economic damages can provide a sense of closure and support moving forward.

Are product liability claims only for serious injuries?

Many people tend to downplay the severity of their injury. A broken arm that doesn’t heal correctly might seem “minor” compared to other types of injuries. However, this injury could still end someone’s career and make it impossible to care for their young children.

Product liability isn’t about comparing your injuries to anyone else’s. Your case concerns what happened to you, how your life changed, and what medical care you need going forward.

Deadline to file a Missouri product liability lawsuit.

State law limits how long you have to take legal action after a defective product injury. According to Missouri Revised Statue § 516.120, you have five years to file your claim.

Some people may not know for years that a product injured them, which can be the case with pharmaceutical drugs or certain chemicals.

Depending on the nature of your claim, the clock may start ticking:

  • The day of your injury; or
  • The day you were made aware of your injury; or
  • The day you should have been aware of your injury

Speak to an attorney as soon as you know or suspect a defective product injured you. Taking prompt action can preserve your legal rights and help you build a strong case.

Injured by a defective product? Talk to an attorney.

Car Accident Lawyers of St. Louis Personal Injury Law Firm
Product Liability Attorneys at The Bruning Law Firm

An attorney can help you pursue justice and secure financial compensation for your losses by proving negligence in your product liability case.

Don’t miss the deadline to file your claim. Contact a skilled product liability attorney for your free consultation to learn more about your right to compensation for your injuries.

A.J. Bruning


I was born and raised to represent individuals who have been needlessly injured. I mean that literally. At a young age my father would tell me about the clients he was representing. I would meet them and take pride in their admiration of my father. I always knew I wanted to be a lawyer and represent clients that needed my help.

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