In Tulsa, Oklahoma, a person who has suffered injuries from using a defective product may sue the liable party within two years from the date of occurrence. Every year, manufacturers pay tens of millions in insurance premiums to protect themselves against product liability claims. But as much as product makers and suppliers are held accountable for injuries caused by defective products, Oklahoma, like many other states, has adopted some form of comparative fault standard to protect vigilant manufacturers and innocent players on the distribution chain.
Nonetheless, an injured person is entitled to compensation if they can demonstrate the product was defective, leading to their injuries and subsequent damages. But they must have been using the product as intended when the accident occurred. Some of the defects that incur liability include design defects, manufacturing defects, and marketing defects. A claim can be based on strict liability, negligence, or breach of warranty.
What Kind of Evidence Can Be Used in a Product Liability Claim?
The defective product is the primary evidence in a product liability claim. A claimant should preserve the product or any part that remains, plus evidence to prove no alterations had been done to it. In addition, there are other forms of evidence that are equally important to support the claim and warrant compensation, such as:
- Medical records – A detailed description of the treatment received following the injury is crucial in supporting the claim. Lawyers rely on medical records to understand the severity of the injuries and build a solid case to demonstrate the damages suffered. The documents may include emergency room records, admission information, doctor’s report, lab reports, surgery records, prescriptions, therapy records, etc.
- Bills and other expenses – The settlement helps reinstate the claimant to the financial position they would be in had the accident not occurred. For this to happen, they must provide evidence for the financial losses incurred, such as medical bills, invoices for nursing care, the receipt for the defective product, etc.
- Pay stubs and tax returns – A claimant is entitled to compensation for lost wages or future earning capacity in the event of a severe injury that hinders them from working again or doing the work they used to do before. Pay stubs and tax returns show how much losses they have incurred in terms of lost wages or potential future losses.
- Photos and videos – Images and video recordings of the accident scene, injuries, property damage, etc., are crucial in demonstrating the severity of the injuries or damages suffered.
- Police report – When law enforcement officers respond to an accident scene, they make a report documenting the vital details of the incident. Having the police report can strengthen the evidence.
- Eyewitness and expert witness statements – Statements of eyewitnesses can provide a clear perspective of what happened to understand how the claimant got injured. Expert witnesses can also be instrumental in proving some elements of the case, such as reconstructing the accident scene or explaining the possible future medical costs and the impact of the injuries on the victim’s quality of life.
- Statements of product recall and past lawsuits – If the product has caused injuries in the past that resulted in suits, the information can be crucial in building the case. Similarly, if the manufacturer has ever recalled the products for suspected defects, the recall statement can add more strength to the evidence.
Ways of Collecting Evidence for a Product Liability Claim
Evidence is one of the most crucial elements in a product liability claim. Its validity and strength determine the ability to demonstrate the product defect, injuries sustained, and their impact on the claimant’s life.
If the claimant has hired an attorney (which is essential due to the complexity of product liability claims), they can help them compile the necessary evidence. That said, here are some tips for effective evidence-gathering:
- Defective product – The product or any part of it that remains after the accident should be preserved in its current condition, without alterations whatsoever. A spoliation notice (request for preservation of relevant evidence) should also be sent to the manufacturer/seller/distributor to preserve similar products. If the manufacturer requests the victim to return the product for a refund (which is likely to happen), they should not oblige as this could end up depriving them of a vital piece of evidence.
- Medical records, bills, and other expenses – A claimant should file copies of all of their medical records, bills, and receipts of other costs. The receipt of the defective product should also be kept as proof of purchase.
- Wage loss statement – If the claimant was hospitalized, they should obtain a report from the hospital indicating the number of days they were hospitalized and any doctor’s directives instructing them to stay off work. In addition, they should get a letter from their employer confirming the number of days they missed work.
- Photos and videos – Similarly, photographs of the accident scene, injuries, and property damage should be preserved. If the accident scene was covered by CCTV surveillance, the attorney could request the camera owners for the footage. Usually, a spoliation notice should be sent soon after the accident, and the lawyer can later ask for the clip using a subpoena (court order).
- Witness statements – The attorney can interview those who witnessed the accident and keep a record of their account. They can also get relevant expert witnesses to record statements on the implications of the injuries for maximum compensation.
Claimant Rights When Recovering Damages for a Defective Product
As long as the claimant can prove the product that caused their injuries was defective, they have a right to receive compensatory damages. These may include both economic and non-economic damages as follows:
- Economic losses – Current and future medical expenses, lost wages/lost earning capacity, property damage, disability costs (e.g., home remodeling expenses).
- Non-economic losses – These are mainly pain and suffering damages that compensate for physical pain, emotional distress, loss of limb, depression, loss of quality of life, disfigurement, and embarrassment, among others.
Why Do You Need a Lawyer Experienced in Defective Product Claims?
The law has put in place a comparative fault standard to protect vigilant manufacturers, which empowers them to fight back against allegations of product defects. For this reason, a claimant facing the companies and their insurers alone can be greatly disadvantaged. Working with an experienced Tusla product liability claims lawyer is always recommended, as they can leverage their knowledge and skills to build a strong case and negotiate a fair settlement.
Generally, the lawyer can help them preserve and compile the necessary evidence, provide legal counsel throughout the process, compute fair damages, then file and negotiate the claim. If the liable party fails to settle fairly and a lawsuit is deemed necessary, the attorney can also handle the litigation.
Receiving compensation in a product liability claim in Tulsa requires proving the product that caused the injuries was defective. Often, product liability cases are complex as a claimant is against large corporations and companies that fight back aggressively to clear their name and avoid potential losses. Working with an experienced attorney is thus vital as they can help preserve and compile the necessary evidence to demonstrate the product’s defect and the damages arising from the injuries sustained.
If you are dealing with a product liability claim, contact us or call us at 918-359-6600 today for a free consultation.