When a manufacturing company disregards its duty to provide safe products, it can cause injuries throughout large portions of the consumer public. Such cases can involve a wide range of products, like defective electronic products or dangerous pharmaceutical drugs.
Basically, any type of product can potentially be involved in a claim under product liability laws. These laws hold the manufacturer or other parties liable for injuries caused by products.
A significant percentage of injury cases filed each year involve flawed, faulty, or dangerous products. For instance, from 2016 to 2018, an estimated 27,100 people per year were treated in hospital emergency rooms for injuries related to unstable furniture tip-overs.
In many instances, the victim may fail to file a legal claim. In doing so, they may miss out on getting the financial compensation they are owed for their injuries. Many times, this happens because the person missed the filing deadline for their case, also known as the “statute of limitations.”
In order to avoid such situations, it’s important to learn a few basics about the California statute of limitations for product liability cases.
What Is a Statute of Limitations?
The statute of limitations (SOL) is a legal rule that sets the window of time a person can file a lawsuit after an incident. For instance, if the statute of limitations for an injury claim is one year, this usually means the person has a year to file a lawsuit after they’ve been injured.
After the statute of limitations “expires,” the person’s opportunity to file a lawsuit is essentially gone, and they can no longer bring a legal claim. The person is no longer qualified to bring a legal claim, even if their case would have been valid.
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What Is the California Statute of Limitations for Product Liability Claims?
In California, if you have been injured by a product, you have two years to file a lawsuit from the time you knew or should have known about your injury.
The California product liability statute of limitations is two years. This means that a person who has been injured by a product has two years to file a lawsuit. Product liability claims are unique in that the SOL period will not start until the victim actually knew or should have known about their injuries (not two years from when the injury occurred).
So, for example, suppose that a person goes to their doctor, who tells them they now have a lung disease that is likely caused by exposure to a specific chemical product. Under the California product liability statute of limitations, the patient then has two years to file their lawsuit, beginning on the day they learned of their injury. This is true regardless of when they were exposed to the product in question.
Why Is There a Statute of Limitations for Product Liability Lawsuits?
There are statutes of limitations for all injury cases. A few main reasons why there is a deadline to file a product liability claim include:
- Injuries can often heal over time, making it challenging to re-diagnose them or assess the value of damages connected with the injury
- Access to older medical records can be more limited as the years pass
- The product in question may no longer be available after many years, or it may have changed or decayed
Another element to consider with product liability claims is that many defective products eventually get recalled over time. If a person is trying to file a lawsuit involving an injury caused by a product that was already recalled, it could affect their ability to recover damages. The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission maintains a list of recently-recalled products.
Because of the issues listed above, it’s important to contact an injury attorney right away once you discover you have been injured. Try to document the way events unfolded, what types of symptoms you experienced, and other important notes. Doing so could be crucial for your ability to meet SOL requirements.
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Unique Aspects of Product Liability Cases to Consider
In most other types of injury cases, the injury can be immediately recognizable and easily diagnosed. For instance, a broken bone from a slip and fall case will usually be diagnosed at the hospital right after the injury occurs.
In comparison, many defective product injuries might not become apparent to the victim immediately. A typical example is with chemical exposure cases, where injuries and medical conditions result from repeated exposure over prolonged periods. The victim might not become aware that they are sick until months or even years after initial exposure.
For this reason, the law does give room and allows the SOL “clock” to “start ticking” when they discover the injury, not when the injury actually happened.
Also, there may be exceptions to California product liability statutes of limitations. For instance, the filing deadline might be longer if there was property damage involved, not just physical injuries. These types of legal nuances can be complex and typically require the expertise of an experienced product liability lawyer.
A Word on the “Should Have Known” Requirement
As mentioned, the California statute of limitations for product liability cases is two years from the time the person knew or should have known about their injury. What does this mean? How is it possible that a person “should have known” about their injuries?
In many situations, there may be a whole series of events, information, or other factors surrounding a particular defective product injury. Courts will often consider these when calculating a damages award.
A court may review the following factors to conclude that a person “should have known” about their injuries:
- Medical records indicate that the victim knew about their injury at an earlier date
- Warnings or notices were publicly issued regarding the product’s injury hazards
- The product was subject to a clearly-communicated recall process
A damages award in a defective products case can be highly beneficial for a victim facing medical bills, lost wages, and other costs. However, any type of delay between discovering an injury and filing a lawsuit could negatively affect the chance to obtain compensation.
Contact a Products Liability Attorney as Soon as You Discover Your Injury
SOL laws can be complicated, and you may need the guidance and of an attorney when filing your case. Get in touch with a lawyer right away if you need help with a product liability SOL issue.
For more than 30 years, Hodes Milman, LLP has helped injury victims receive the healing and justice they deserve. We have won record-setting verdicts on behalf of our clients, and our firm has earned more than 65 prestigious awards.
We have decades of experience handling technical requirements like filing deadlines. We want to ensure that you get a chance to fight for the recovery you deserve. Get in touch with us today at (949) 640-8222 for a free, no-obligation consultation. We’re here to help you get your life back on track.