On a daily basis, we all engage in activities that involve the use of countless consumer products. Toys, recreational equipment, appliances, tools, gadgets, and all other sorts of products are an integral part of our daily lives. Of course, when we are purchasing and using these products, we expect that they are safe for their intended use. Unfortunately, many products fail to meet our basic expectations of safety and the consumer ends up injured.
In its 2010 annual report, the Consumer Product Safety Commission, which monitors consumer products in the market and issues recalls, documented over 3,000 annual deaths that involved a consumer product and another 15 millions injuries related to product use. In total, the CPSC oversaw 427 product recalls in 2010. Of course not all of these deaths and injuries were the result of unsafe products. But, what exactly happens when you are injured as a result of using a consumer product? And more importantly, what should YOU as the consumer do?
The actions that you take following a product-related injury are important because as a consumer, you may have legal recourse against the manufacturer if the product was defective.
First, you should evaluate your injury, whether a product was involved, and if the injury was more serious than would be reasonably expected. The injured person might have been the one actually using the product, or someone who was merely watching or standing by. If someone did sustain an injury, you need to determine if a product was actually involved in the injury. Finally, in evaluating the injury, you want to ask yourself if it is the type of injury you might expect from using the product. Different products present different levels of risk–the types of injuries one expects from riding a bicycle, for example, are very different than the injuries you might expect from using a lawn mower. You need to consider whether your injury could have been foreseen given what you knew about the product beforehand and your own expectations of safety when using the product.
Second, after sustaining an injury, you should do your best to document everything that happened. At this point, if you still have the product involved, you should hold on to it in case it needs to be examined at a later date. Keeping the product is crucial to any legal claim you might have. It is also helpful to take photographs of the scene and product or at least write some notes down about what happened. What were you doing with the product when the injury occurred? What did the product do? What type of injury do you have? Hold on to any documentation you might have of the injury, for example medical records. Likewise, if you still have instructions and warning information that came with the product, you should hold on to those documents.
At the end of the day, if you have been the victim of a defective product, then you will need to speak to an attorney about your options. Proving that a manufacturer, wholesaler, or retailer of a product is to blame is a complex legal situation.