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What Should I Do If I Get a Recall Notice for a Product I Own?

As consumers, we trust that the products we buy will make our lives better, not worse. We also believe that when something goes wrong, the manufacturer will do its part to protect us from danger and make sure that no one is harmed again. Unfortunately, this does not always happen.

In this blog, Andy Citrin Injury Attorneys’ product liability team outlines what to do after a recall and how to seek compensation if you’ve been hurt by a defective product, whether it’s been recalled or not.

What Is a Product Recall?

When a design defect or manufacturing errors puts consumers at risk, a company can recall the product on their own, or at the behest of a government agency. This process is called a product recall. Typically, a manufacturer must notify the government when they identify a defective or faulty product that carries a significant risk of injury or death. However, noncompliant companies may face a mandatory, government-ordered recall.

After a product has been recalled, the company must implement a recall plan.

The Company Publishes a Recall Notice

Many recalls are made public in trade journals, pushed through the media, or to dealers and owners directly, depending on the circumstances. When a car or car part is recalled, the manufacturer will notify the registered owner of the vehicle.

Government Agencies Monitor Recall Compliance

Depending on the type of product involved, a recall may involve the CPSC (Consumer Product Safety Commission), FDA (Food and Drug Administration), the NHTSA (National Highway Traffic Safety Administration), or other state and federal agencies. These agencies help oversee recalls and protect consumers from further harm.

Consumers Receive Repairs or Refunds

If you own a dangerous or defective product that has been recalled and it has not harmed you, read the recall notice carefully and follow its instructions. Depending on the company’s recall plan, it will either give you a refund, replace, or repair the product.

If the recall notice tells you that you should not use the product, cease its operation immediately.

Takata Airbags: A Recall Gone Very Wrong

While some recalls are relatively short-lived, others go on for years. Japanese airbag manufacturer Takata began noticing problems with its airbags in 2000, when inflators started malfunctioning and even exploding during tests. However, the company did nothing to protect consumers – and employees even manipulated test data to hide the problem.

Unfortunately, when a defective Takata airbag activates, it can break into tiny fragments and shrapnel that cause catastrophic and fatal injuries. One of the first documented Takata cases occurred in Alabama in 2004.

In November 2008, Honda issued the first Takata-related recall. In November 2009, the NHTSA began investigating the issue but was hampered by inaccurate information it received from the airbag company. Eventually, Takata agreed to recall millions of airbag inflators and pay up to $200 million in penalties – but problems still persisted.

In 2016, Takata agreed to recall another 35-40 million inflators, making it the largest recall in U.S. history. The company pled guilty to criminal charges and agreed to pay nearly a billion dollars in penalties and compensation.

According to the NHTSA, almost 42 million vehicles contained defective Takata airbags. Due to the size of the recall, the process was staged. The last expected round of Takata recalls will occur in December 2019, almost two decades after the problem arose. The most recent Takata-related fatality occurred in March 2019.

What Should I Do If I’m Injured by a Recalled or Dangerous Product?

If you or a loved one suffered injuries due to a defective vehicle, product, or medication, you may be eligible for compensation. However, to protect your legal claims, you’ll need to act quickly.

Seek Immediate Medical Attention

Defective products and dangerous drugs can cause catastrophic injuries. However, even if your injuries appear minor at first glance, it’s in your best interest to consult with a doctor. First, you may have unidentified injuries or complications that need immediate care. Second, your medical records will serve as valuable evidence in your potential product liability claims.

Preserve the Evidence

If a defective product hurt you, don’t return or repair it as part of a recall. To prove your injury claim, your product liability lawyer and their team of experts will need to examine and study the product.

In most product liability claims, you must prove that the product malfunctioned “without substantial alteration” and caused damage to your person or property as a result. Having reliable evidence is critical. Otherwise, the company will assert that you damaged or modified the product and caused it to malfunction, instead of taking responsibility for their dangerous product.

Call a Product Liability Lawyer

When a dangerous product hurts you, you deserve honest advice from an experienced lawyer. In Alabama, it’s especially critical for victims to seek legal counsel; factors like liability and breach of warranty may impact your ability to recover damages. Given these complex factors, it’s in your best interest to consult with an injury attorney before deciding to return the product or pursue legal action.

You Have Two Years to File a Product Liability Lawsuit

Under Alabama law, you only have a short period to file a product liability claim. You typically must file your lawsuit within two years of your date of injury. Different rules may apply if you were not immediately aware of your injury – if you need help calculating your filing deadlines, contact Andy Citrin Injury Attorneys.

RELATED ARTICLE: Injured by a Dangerous Drug or Medical Device? Know Your Rights

A Product Recall Does Not Guarantee Compensation for Your Suffering

There’s a common misconception that, as a victim who’s been harmed by a dangerous product, you’ll automatically get compensation. But a recall does not mean the company has any legal obligation to offer you compensation, nor does it automatically bring a suit against the company.

A recall notice simply means the manufacturer is aware of the problem and is doing something to correct it. In fact, many dangerous products are never recalled! If a faulty product results in lost time, money, and quality of life, you deserve compensation. However, the only way to collect these damages is to file a product liability lawsuit against the manufacturer, retailer, or distributor.

No matter what you decide to do after a product recall, you deserve to understand the options available to you. We always encourage victims to take advantage of a free consultation with Andy Citrin Injury Attorneys to make sure you have all the information you need to make a good decision.

Andy Citrin Injury Attorneys: Protecting Alabama Residents From Dangerous Products

Getting hurt by a dangerous product can be one of the scariest things that can happen to a person. When you do everything right, but things still go wrong, you need the wisdom, guidance, and reassurance of an experienced product liability attorney.

At Andy Citrin Injury Attorneys, we’ll listen to your story with empathy and understanding, and fight for you like you were our own family. When you need to win, don’t hesitate to get in touch. Call us today at (251) 888-8888 today or complete our simple online form. Consultations are free and no risk to you!

Resources

Jones, C., & Bomey, N. (2017, June 25). Timeline: How Takata’s air-bag scandal erupted. USA Today. Retrieved from https://www.usatoday.com/story/money/2017/06/25/takata-air-bag-scandal-timeline/103184598/

Takata airbag recall: Everything you need to know. (2019, March 29). Consumer Reports. Retrieved from https://www.consumerreports.org/car-recalls-defects/takata-airbag-recall-everything-you-need-to-know/

The content provided here is for informational purposes only and should not be construed as legal advice on any subject.

Can I Get Punitive Damages in an Alabama Injury Claim?

What If My Seat Belt Fails During a Crash?

In Alabama, everyone in the front seat of a passenger vehicle must wear a seat belt. Unfortunately, about one in seven people ignore this rule and fail to buckle up.

Below, the safety and injury law experts at Andy Citrin Injury Attorneys explain the importance of seat belts and discuss what you should do when a safety belt malfunctions during a car accident or truck wreck.

Why Are Seat Belts So Important to Driver and Passenger Safety?

Seat belts are a critical part of the safety system in any car or truck. The statistics surrounding unrestrained drivers and passengers are grim:

  • More than half of the people who die in car accidents each year are not wearing seat belts.
  • You’re 30 times more likely to be ejected from the vehicle during a crash if you’re not wearing a seat belt.
  • In 2009 alone, seat belts saved roughly 13,000 lives.

However, if you’re wondering how a simple strap of nylon can save your life, you’re not alone.

Our cars can come to a sudden stop because of their brakes. However, when you’re traveling in a car and the brakes suddenly bring the car to a stop, the brakes don’t exert any stopping force on you. That’s why you keep moving even though the vehicle stops, and it’s also why you’ll be thrown forward if you’re not restrained.

When you’re wearing a seat belt, you’re attached to the vehicle. The seat belt absorbs your forward momentum and spreads the force across sturdy parts of your body like your torso and pelvis, which can significantly reduce the severity of your injuries in a wreck and even save your life.

Most states today have laws mandating seat belts. Alabama doesn’t require back-seat passengers to wear seat belts, but this exception makes little sense since the back seat isn’t significantly safer than the front seat for an unrestrained passenger. Crash studies show that for teenage and adult passengers, the fatality rates are almost the same for unrestrained front-seat and back-seat occupants. And compared to a back-seat occupant wearing a seat belt, you’re eight times more likely to get injured or die in a crash if you’re sitting in the rear seat unrestrained.

Can the Insurance Company Deny My Injury Claim Because I Wasn’t Wearing a Seat Belt?

Sometimes, we meet people who suffered catastrophic injuries because they weren’t wearing a seat belt during a car crash. These victims and their loved ones frequently face a lifetime of medical care and financial uncertainty due to their serious injuries.

RELATED ARTICLE: How to Prove Fault After an Accident

For most personal injury claims, Alabama law imposes a standard called pure contributory negligence. This standard says that if an accident victim was even slightly at fault for their injuries, they cannot receive compensation. Thankfully, Alabama law makes a clear exception for cases that involve unrestrained drivers.

If you or a loved one suffered serious injuries in a car accident, you can and should work with an attorney to recover compensation for your injuries, even if you weren’t wearing a seat belt.

Are Some Seat Belt Types Safer Than Others?

Depending on the type of motor vehicle and its purpose, the vehicle may include any of several different seat belt types. Some of the most common types of seat belts include lap belts, sash belts, automatic seat belts, three-point belts, belt-in-seat (BIS), five-point harnesses, and six-point harnesses. However, not all seat belts offer the same level of protection.

  • Lap Belts

Lap belts are the oldest type of seat belt. A lap belt uses an adjustable strap that only goes across the waist. However, the lap belt design fails to restrain your torso, shoulders, head, or neck during a collision. Lap belts are rare in newer cars, although you’ll sometimes see a lap belt in the middle rear seat.

  • Sashes or Shoulder Belts

sash or shoulder belt is an adjustable strap that only goes over the shoulder of an occupant. These belts do a poor job of providing restraint during a crash, and they’ve been almost entirely phased out of existence in newer cars. During a collision, vehicle occupants can easily slide out of a shoulder belt and suffer catastrophic injuries.

  • Three-Point Belts

Most modern vehicles contain three-point seat belts. A single piece of nylon (or other material) stretches from the occupant’s shoulder, runs across the chest, and ends in a lap belt. When an impact occurs, these belts help spread out the energy of the moving body across the chest, pelvis, and shoulders.

  • Automatic Seat Belts

Some vehicles have shoulder belts that automatically move in place to secure the passenger when the vehicle starts. A separate lap belt is usually included, and the lap belt must be fastened manually. Once popular among automakers, automatic seat belts have fallen out of favor somewhat in newer cars.

  • Belt-in-Seat (BIS)

The BIS is a three-point harness in which the shoulder belt is attached to the backrest. Some studies have shown that this type of belt may provide additional protection during rollover accidents, particularly when a BIS is used to restrain a child between four and eight years old.

  • Five-Point Harness

A five-point harness is safer than other seat belts but also restricts movement more. This type of seat belt is usually used in child safety seats or in cars used for competitive racing. Some vehicle owners also install five-point harness belts as an aftermarket modification.

  • Six-Point Harness

A six-point harness is like a five-point harness, but it has an additional belt that goes between the legs. These belts are mostly used in racing and began to gain popularity after the tragic death of race car driver Dale Earnhardt, who was wearing a five-point harness at the time of his fatal crash.

RELATED ARTICLE: Three-Point Seat Belt Design

Who Is Responsible When a Seat Belt Malfunctions?

Sometimes, seat belts fail to do their jobs. When a seat belt fails, it’s important to identify the causes of the malfunction and demand accountability. Sometimes, a crash victim will have product liability claims related to a faulty seat belt in addition to liability claims against a negligent driver.

For example, suppose you were at a four-way stop when another driver failed to yield the right of way and T-boned your car. During the collision, your seat belt broke and you were thrown from the vehicle. Under these circumstances, you might have a claim not only against the reckless driver but also against the companies that designed, manufactured, and installed the defective seat belt.

RELATED ARTICLE: Mobile Personal Injury Lawyer Explains Defective Auto Product Liability Claims

If you know or suspect that your seat belt failed during the crash that injured you, then you should contact an experienced product liability lawyer right away. Your lawyer will need to act quickly to preserve the seat belt system and the vehicle as evidence.

In any product liability claim, your lawyer should work with a team of engineers and other experts to identify the cause of the product’s failure and determine who was responsible. However, it’s almost impossible to perform this analysis unless you’ve preserved the relevant evidence, so it’s critical to act quickly and contact an attorney as soon as possible.

Andy Citrin Injury Attorneys: We Fight for Alabama Car Accident Victims

At Andy Citrin Injury Attorneys, we offer free legal consultations to Alabama crash victims. During your consultation, an experienced attorney from our legal team will listen to your story, review the details of your claim, and talk with you about your rights and options.

To schedule your free case evaluation, fill out our quick online contact form or call us at 251-888-8888.

References

Policy impact: Seat belts. (2014, January 21). Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Retrieved from https://www.cdc.gov/motorvehiclesafety/seatbeltbrief/index.html

Unbelted: Adults admit they often skip belts in rear seat. (2017, August 3). Insurance Institute for Highway Safety. Retrieved from https://www.iihs.org/iihs/sr/statusreport/article/52/5/1

The content provided here is for informational purposes only and should not be construed as legal advice on any subject.