Recalled Products: An Overview
Every year, hundreds of products are subject to a recall because they are found to be unsafe. Toys, baby furniture, children’s jewelry, sporting equipment, food, appliances, electronics, tools, clothing, vehicles and prescription drugs all rank among the most commonly recalled products. The one characteristic each shares is that they can cause death, injury or serious illness.
Unsafe products cause an estimated 27,000 deaths and countless accidents and injuries every year. Despite this, the tally of unsafe products sold to consumers continues to rise. Since 1990, the annual number of recalls in the United States has grown 85 percent. Recalls issued by just one government agency, the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, rose from 359 in 2004 to 472 in 2007.
Who Issues Product Recalls?
Most action comes from the Consumer Product Safety Commission. The CPSC is the primary government agency responsible for identifying dangerous products. It oversees more than 15,000 types of consumer products, from coffee makers and toys to lawn mowers and fireworks.
Products outside the purview of the CPSC fall under the oversight of other federal agencies. For example, the U.S. Department of Transportation oversees automobiles, trucks and motorcycles. The U.S. Food and Drug administration is responsible for recalled food, drugs, cosmetics and medical devices.
Recalled Products Go Undiscovered
Unfortunately, recalls can be slow in coming. Dangerous products remain on store shelves for years as government regulators investigate consumer complaints. Recent budget cutbacks at key regulatory agencies have only added to these backlogs.
Even after a product is removed from shelves, recalled toys, recalled food and other dangerous products remain in consumers’ homes. In fact, only 15 to 30 percent of dangerous products are ever returned. In many cases, no purchase records exist. By the time the danger is discovered, sellers have no way of tracking down recalled toys, recalled foods or other unsafe products.
What Leads to a Product Recall?
The order can come about in two ways. The first is when a government agency such as the CPSC demands the product be taken off the shelves. The second is when the manufacturer or distributor of an unsafe product voluntarily initiates a recall.
The CPSC issues a recall when it finds a significant risk of accident or injury to consumers. The risk might be from a defect in the product or its violation of safety standards. Consumer complaints are a key way in which the CPSC learns of dangerous products.
Surprisingly, companies that make or sell unsafe products have no legal duty to initiate a recall. Sometimes, a manufacturer voluntarily initiates the process. It may do this to reduce its liability for accidents and injuries or in anticipation of a government-ordered recall.
Children are Most at Risk
More than a third of recalls each year involve recalled toys and baby products. Toy accidents alone accounted for more than 220,000 injuries treated in hospital emergency rooms during 2006. Most of these accidents and injuries involved children younger than 15. Unsafe toys killed 22 children in 2006 and 26 in 2005.
Some say this surge in dangerous products is due to corporate greed. Companies cut corners on safety in order to maximize profits. Whatever the cause, these products pose serious dangers. In recent years, one of the most common dangers in recalled toys has been lead. Some recalled food caused hospitalizations and death. Other items posed risks of fire, severe injury, choking, strangulation, electrocution and other accidents.
Responding to a Product Recall
Upon learning of the injury risk, the owner’s first step should be to stop using the product. To prevent accident or injury, immediately remove the dangerous product from your home.
Your next step should be to obtain and read the official notice. For recalled toys, recalled foods and product recalls of other common household items, the notice will be posted on Recalls.gov, a Web site that serves as a central clearinghouse for all government recall notices.
Accident or Injury from a Recalled Product
If someone in your household has suffered an accident or injury involving a defective product, you should seek legal advice from an experienced product recall lawyer. These cases raise a number of specialized legal issues that a lawyer is trained to recognize. The sooner you consult with a lawyer after an accident or injury, the better able the attorney will be to protect your legal rights and preserve valuable evidence.
You need not be the product’s direct purchaser or direct user to recover damages. Even if someone else was using the product, you may be eligible to recover damages if it caused your injury. An example would be if the blade on your neighbor’s lawnmower flew off and injured you. An attorney will help you evaluate this.
The Reeves Law Group has successfully represented thousands of accident victims and has obtained exceptional results in all types of serious and catastrophic injury cases. If you or a loved one has been injured by a recalled product, we may be able to help you receive compensation for your losses. Call us at (800) 644-8000 or email us for a free consultation.