If you've been injured or made ill by a product that was recalled by the manufacturer, you may be wondering about your next steps. Can you recover funds to help compensate you for any medical expenses? What responsibility does the manufacturer have to ensure that the product was removed from shelves? Does it make a difference whether you purchased the product after the recall was made public? Read on to learn more about product recalls and how timing may affect your ability to file a claim.
How does the product recall process work?
When a company or manufacturer becomes aware that one of its products is defective, dangerous, or contaminated, it must immediately issue a public recall to inform vendors that they should remove this product from the shelves as well as to inform consumers that use or consumption of this product could result in injury. In most cases, the company will either compensate the customer for his or her purchase or issue a replacement product.
However, if a customer has already been injured by the product, the company's liability may be much higher.
What happens if you purchased a product prior to its recall?
In many cases, a company will only be liable for compensatory damages if it was unaware the product would or could cause injury. These damages are meant to make you whole, and can include funds for medical expenses, lost wages, and any emotional damages. However, if it can be shown that the company was (or should have been) aware that the product was defective, and the company failed to issue a recall in a timely manner, it may be liable for punitive damages in addition to any compensatory damages. These can greatly exceed the value of compensatory damages and are meant to discourage the company from engaging in similar conduct in the future.
What if you purchased a product after it was recalled?
If your purchase took place after the product was recalled, but before it was removed from shelves, you may be able to recover additional damages against the vendor as well as the manufacturer. Your ability to recover punitive damages in this situation will hinge on when and whether the vendor was made aware that the product should not be sold.
Although the vendor may try to argue that you also should have been aware of the product's recall and share some responsibility for preventing the injury, the ultimate responsibility lies on those responsible for creating and selling the product. Knowingly selling a recalled product is illegal, and the vendor may suffer additional fines and penalties from national consumer protection agencies for doing so.
How should you proceed?
Whether you purchased the product before or after it was recalled, there are a few important steps you should take to ensure that your rights will be protected.
First, collect all documentation you have related to your purchase, use, and side effects of the product. This can include receipts, medical bills, doctor's notes, and even any leftover or unused portion of the product. Any documentation of costs associated with your use of the product will help the court determine the amount you should be awarded, while evidence that your injuries were caused by the product (and that you did purchase and use the product) will help place responsibility on the manufacturer.
Next, consult a personal injury attorney or law firm that specializes in product liability. These cases can be complex and involve a great deal of evidence-gathering, so the sooner you can consult an attorney, the better. Your attorney may ask you to give a sworn statement or provide other information to help negotiate settlement with the defendant, as this process is generally cheaper (for both parties) than going to trial.