Imagine this. After scrimping and saving, you’ve finally bought the new car that you’ve been wanting for years. It’s a watershed moment in your life and you feel on top of the world as you proudly drive it out of the car yard.
You decide to take it for a spin in the countryside, but on the way you brake to stop at a red traffic light. You are horrified to find that the brakes have failed and in an instant you’ve ploughed into a wall of traffic.
You’re seriously injured, the car is wrecked and three other drivers are injured and their cars written-off. It’s a disaster for you and for them, all because, through no fault of your own, a key safety feature on your new car failed at a crucial moment.
This kind of scenario can raise a number of legal issues, including product liability.
What is product liability?
When you buy products or use services, Australian Consumer Law (ACL) acts to protect you. Under ACL, every product and service is guaranteed that it will work properly. Products must be safe and fault-free, not be disfigured and do everything that you would expect. So a car should have brakes that work properly each and every time.
Services must be provided with care and skill and precautions should be taken to avoid loss or damage. They must also be fit for purpose and provided in a reasonable time frame.
Product liability arises when the product or service does not meet these criteria.
What can be done?
In most cases if you have received a faulty product or service, you can fix the problem yourself by contacting the manufacturer or service provider and making a complaint. Most will fix the problem there and then.
If that doesn’t work the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) provides advice about resolving problems. You can make a complaint to the ACCC if the manufacturer or service provider hasn’t resolved the issue.
Sometimes, the issue is so serious that these actions will not resolve the matter, regardless of how willing the manufacturer is to fix the problem.
In our car example, the police may have been involved and there is potential for a charge of dangerous driving. The other drivers may be seeking compensation for personal injury and damage to their vehicles and your own injuries look like they will be ongoing. You will need significant compensation as well as a replacement car.
You may need to consider taking legal action.
Legal action can be taken for product liability when loss or damage has been suffered. This can include:
- Personal injury
- Injury or death to other people
- Economic loss where someone else’s property is damaged.
In these circumstances, you can make a legal claim for compensation. You may be able to take action under ACL but you may also be able to make a common law claim, which means that a court will look at previous similar decisions to decide whether you should get compensation and how much.
Although this can be complicated, an experienced product liability lawyer can guide and advise you, making the whole process far less stressful.
It is important to get legal advice as soon as the issue arises. This is the best way to try and ensure an outcome that’s right for you.
Websters Lawyers have product liability specialists as well as a team of lawyers who practise in a range of legal areas. If your claim involves more than one area of law, you’ll know that we have you covered.