Product recalls are mixed bags for consumers... and injury claimants. The latest from General Motors is that millions of automobiles will be recalled for a faulty ignition switch and other problems are just the latest in bad news for consumers. A quick look at government websites and the newspaper will confirm what most of us already know. Despite advances in design and manufacturing techniques, manufacturers continue to distribute defective products. Sometimes these products cause injury and even wrongful death. Often, however, a product can be recalled for even minor problems.
Most recalls are actually initiated by a regulatory arm of the federal government. The Consumer Product Safety Commission is given lead authority. It acts as a clearing house for all reported problems with products. If a product does not work as promised (even if it doesn’t cause injury), the information will be reported, stored and analyzed by the Consumer Product Safety Commission. The Commission looks at all data to see if there are trends around the country. Other industries (such as the automobile industry) are regulated by other authorities.
The consumer can be victimized by a defective product in many different ways. Even if a product malfunctions but does not cause injury, it should probably be reported to the appropriate regulatory authorities. By aggregating data, they can determine if a trend or other problem exists.
Note that a recall by itself will not necessarily prove a products liability injury case. Control of “tort law” still rests primarily with the state courts and state laws. But a review of recall databases is critical when an injury has occurred. While proof of a recall alone may not establish a claim, review of government data can prove that the manufacturer had notice of a problem with their product. Government engineering reports can often be accessed for free. Frequently other injury victims can team up in class action lawsuits or benefit from the work personal injury law firms have done for other injury victims. As such, researching product recall data is an invaluable tool in determining whether a personal injury claim can be asserted.
In summary, proof of a recall by itself is not sufficient to establish a personal injury case. A recall may very well provide the “probable cause” to do additional work and to perhaps expend the substantial funds that will be required to assert a products liability case. If you believe that you have been injured by a defective product, please contact our Virginia Beach personal injury law firm to discuss these and other strategies further.