Suffering a personal injury because of a faulty product is more common than you might think. In fact, the regularity with which public recalls of products are made shows just how common the risk of injury from defective products is.
In July 2017 alone, high street fashion giant Primark recalled one of its flip flop products when unacceptable levels of a restricted substance in them was identified; HealthAid recalled its HealthAid Concentrated Air-Oxy product because it contains the unauthorised food substance; and a Scottish company recalled a number of products (including some manufactured for Lidl and Marks & Spencer) – because of concerns over its procedures to control a botulism-causing bacteria.
Fortunately, UK consumer protection law provides a strong framework protecting consumers from defective products, and enabling them to secure compensation for the physical harm and loss that can result.
All those who manufacture, produce, sell or supply products are under a legal duty to provide goods and services that are safe and free from defects. If this duty is breached and you suffer harm or loss as a result, any of those parties can be held liable for compensation under defective liability law.
Defective products are anything that you buy, or may be supplied with, but which are faulty. Often, the manufacturers recognise when a product is defective because, for instance, they have been made aware of a problem. This typically leads to a wide-scale product recall.
Unfortunately, defective products still slip through the net, and arrive into the consumer’s possession – potentially causing physical injury and/or damage to property.
Defective products can be virtually anything, such as:
Whilst some injuries caused by defective products can be permanent and life-changing, other injuries are minor. In many cases, it is only property that is damaged as a result of faulty goods. Depending on the circumstances, and the harm, injury and loss sustained by a defective product, you should be able to claim compensation.
Under defective product legislation, both the manufacturer, producer and the supplier of a defective product can be held liable. This means you can choose whether you contact the supplier or the manufacturer about making a claim – or any party involved in its production or supply.
In addition, contractual liability means any party to the contract under which you were supplied with a defective product or service can be held liable for breach of contract.
If you have been injured or have become ill after using something faulty, or ingesting defective food or drink, you should make it a priority to seek medical attention. Apart from the obvious need to see a doctor in most cases, the medical records will be important in any defective product compensation claim you subsequently make.
If your property or any belongings are damaged as a result of a faulty product, it is important to take photographs and keep receipts, invoices, and other documentary evidence of any damaged items. Keeping a written record of what happened can also be useful as evidence.
If you need to make a defective product compensation claim, the law provides you with a number of avenues. In many cases, the best way to claim compensation is under the Consumer Protection Act 1987 (CPA) because you do not have to prove that the manufacturer/supplier was negligent to succeed (this is called ‘strict liability’). So long as you can prove the product was faulty, and the injury suffered was probably caused by that defective product, you can rely on the CPA.
However, you cannot rely on the CPA to claim for pure economic loss, or damage to business property or, indeed, the defective item itself.
If you cannot bring a claim under the CPA, you can make a negligence claim instead. Manufacturers owe a common law duty of care to all those who it could reasonably be expected to use its products. So if you can show, on balance, that the manufacturer (or producer) failed to take reasonable care and you were injured as a result, you can make a compensation claim. If, for instance, you were injured by a product with a manufacturing fault, you can argue that the manufacturer was negligent by not taking reasonable care during the manufacturing process.
You could also claim for breach of contract against the supplier. When you bought the product (or service), your supplier had an implied legal duty to provide goods or services that were fit for purpose and of satisfactory quality. If a defective product was supplied in breach of this implied duty, you can claim damages for any resulting losses.
Your expert claims lawyer will use all of the information you provide to build the strongest possible case against any party who can be held liable for your injuries and loss.
Nicola is a dual qualified journalist and non-practising solicitor. She is a legal journalist, editor and author with more than 20 years' experience writing about the law.
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