consumer rightsWhen someone buys something to use or consume, they do so with the reasonable expectation that the product will work as intended and cause them no harm. Unfortunately, this is not the way things always turn out. Every year, a significant number of people are hurt, maimed and even killed by items they trusted. Perhaps it happened to you or to somebody you care about.

What is a defective product?

When a commercially produced item is inherently dangerous or unfit to use as intended, it can be called defective. Likewise if a commercially distributed product fails to include clear and adequate instructions for safe and proper use. Inherent danger may extend to defects in the design, manufacture, assembly or packaging of a product.

Some well-known product liability cases

In February 2014, Investopedia reported that a number of product liability lawsuits had been initiated against the General Motors automobile manufacturing company. Faulty ignition switches were implicated in more than a dozen deaths and over twice that many serious accidents. The switches in question turned off engines while cars were in motion, leading to power steering and power braking failure. General Motors wound up recalling thousands of vehicles that contained the faulty switch and paying an undisclosed amount of money to damaged consumers. It certainly was not the first time the car maker was sued for product liability. In 1999, GM faced product liability charges when several gas tanks on Chevrolet Malibu cars exploded causing the death of six persons.

In 2002, a woman with lung cancer successfully sued the Phillip Morris tobacco company. She claimed that her addiction to the deadly product was due in part to Phillip Morris’ failure to provide adequate warning about their product. The company was initially ordered to pay the woman $28 billion (yes, billion) dollars in punitive damages and more than $800,000 in compensation. Phillip Morris appealed and the cost of damages was eventually reduced to $28 million.

In 1998, the Dow-Corning company was successfully sued to the tune of $2 billion dollars after a class action suit was filed on behalf of women who became ill or died as a result of Dow silicone breast implants. Again, injured consumers claimed that the products did not come with adequate danger warnings.

According to CIO magazine, thousands of defective products have been recalled in recent years.

Who is responsible when a product is defective?

Every consumer is tasked with understanding how a product is to be used before actually using said product. This gets a bit tricky in cases such as cigarettes where the product in inherently hazardous when used as intended. That said, it is still up to the consumer to use or operate any product according to directions and with a reasonable amount of caution.

As a general rule, those who may be held legally responsible for product liability include the product manufacturer, the maker of product parts and components, the assemblers and installers of a product and the product wholesaler. The retail outlet that sold a defective product may also be held responsible. Read more about products being defective at Brown & Crouppen law firm.

What to do if you are injured by a product

If you or someone you are with is injured by a product, the first thing to do is seek medical attention. Retain the product, as it may be useful when determining defective product liability. Once humans are properly attended to, your best bet is to contact a legal professional who has experience in dealing with product liability cases.

Law Info, an online legal resource directory, reminds readers that the laws regarding defective products vary from state to state. Contact your state bar association to find contact information for a qualified personal injury tort attorney in your specific area.

To prevent injury, make certain that you always read and understand product instructions. When you are prescribed medicine, speak with your doctor and pharmacist to ensure you know exactly how to take the product. If a product is inherently dangerous, wear protective eye wear, gloves and other safety gear. Disregard the idea of receiving a big payout if and when you are injured. When it comes to commercial products, it really is better to be safe than sorry.

Isobel Riley works as a consumer advocate. She likes to help people by sharing her insights online. You can read her articles mostly on consumer and finance websites.

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