What You Need to Know as a Consumer about Product Liability

Published 03 May 2016

Despite the occasional appearance of high-profile class action suits such as the 2015 Vioxx settlement in the headlines, many Australians remain only dimly aware of their rights regarding product liability.

Thanks to the far-reaching Australian Consumer Law (ACL) enacted under 2010’s Competition and Consumer Act, Australian consumers actually enjoy extremely robust protection under the law in this regard. As leading compensation lawyers, we’ve successfully handled a large number of product liability claims on behalf of clients and are proud of our track record in both securing adequate redress and helping to rid the market of unsafe goods.

In this piece, we’ll provide you with a quick overview of product liability from a consumer point of view, and share some tips on practical next steps if you’ve fallen foul of dangerously defective goods.

What constitutes a product safety defect?

The standard to be applied is whether products are sold in a state where they’re safe for use in a way that consumers are generally entitled to expect. As expectations of safety vary from product to product, the ultimate arbiter of what constitutes an actual defect is the court.

It’s worth noting that the type of factors that will be taken into account aren’t limited to the product itself. Safety defects can also arise due to poor assembly and use instructions, or issues related to packaging.

How can I avoid unsafe products?

Consumers are naturally expected to exercise caution when purchasing products, but the safety burden lies firmly with manufacturers. One sensible precaution to take as a consumer is to periodically review the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission’s informative Product Safety Australia website.

In addition to straightforward overviews of the relevant legislation, you’ll also find up to date info on products that have been recalled or banned due to safety concerns. The site also has an excellent breakdown of products per category, along with useful safety tips for areas ranging from building materials to nursery equipment.

When can you claim compensation as a user?

If a product you’ve used has caused loss or damage, you may be eligible for compensation. This extends to personal injuries to yourself or others and any material loss relating to goods, land, buildings or fixtures.

There are a few caveats to bear in mind, however. Damage to commercial property is excluded here, as are any claims relating to workers’ compensation. Time limitations also apply – you must claim within three years of the defect being identified, and claims must be within ten years of the time the manufacturer produced the goods.

What should you do if you’ve suffered a product injury?

Documentation and detail are both key when it comes to successfully pursuing a product liability case. Do your best to gather all relevant information together as quickly as possible including product purchase details, photographic documentation, witness statements where applicable, and a clear outline of the sequence of events leading up to the incident.

At Gerard Malouf & Partners we’ve successfully handled a huge number of product liability claims over the years and are happy to advise you on the particulars of your potential case at no cost. In the immediate aftermath of a product-related injury, it can be extremely difficult to work out next steps on your own – our expert team is there to lighten the load and help you clearly and calmly identify your options.

All our product liability specialists operate on a no-win, no-fee basis and your initial consultation is always free. Contact us today and take advantage of the sort of expert, independent advice only a qualified compensation lawyer can offer.