What are Dangerous Products and Product Liability?
A dangerous product is any consumer good that is defective in some way, and which directly results in harm, injury, and damages. Some examples of dangerous products include:
- Poorly-designed airbags in cars that fail to inflate after a collision and cause injuries or even fatalities
- Food contaminated with harmful substances during the manufacturing process, which can trigger illness or poisoning
- Children’s toys that contain lead and result in harmful, long-lasting lead poisoning effects
- Cell phone batteries that catch fire or explode, causing burns and other injuries
- Prescription drugs with side effects not listed on the drug information guide that may cause mild to serious health problems
Product liability is the responsibility of the manufacturers, distributors and suppliers, and sellers of consumer products to provide safe, defective-free products. The law allows consumers to sue these parties for damages if that responsibility is not met.
Dangerous Product Facts and Statistics
The ways in which dangerous products cause harm seem endless. Products are much safer today than they have been in the past, thanks to consumer protection laws, government agencies, and consumer advocacy groups.
Even with improvements to safety, regulations, and laws, people still suffer injuries and even fatalities when products are defective. The National Safety Council reports the following statistics for 2019:
- Consumer product injuries went down more than three percent from 2018 to 2019. They reached a peak in recent years in 2017.
- The top category of products that caused injuries was floors, ramps, stairs, and landings. This was followed by beds, pillows, and mattresses, and chairs, sofas, and sofa beds.
- The top five product groups that cause the most injuries are home structures and construction materials, home furnishings and fixtures, personal use items, household containers, and home workshop equipment.
- Older adults, young children, and babies are most vulnerable to product injuries.
- Children from birth to four years old suffer the most injuries from products, including detergents and soaps, televisions and television stands, and ovens and ranges.
What Defects Make Products Dangerous?
In the eyes of the law, three broad types of defects can make a product dangerous or harmful and lead to liability in manufacturers, distributors, and sellers:
- Design defects. A design defect is a flaw in designing a product that makes it faulty or potentially harmful. This kind of defect exists before a product is ever manufactured or sold.
- Manufacturing defects. If a mistake occurs during the making of the product, it is known as a manufacturing defect.
- Marketing defects. A defect in marketing is an error in how a product is described or sold. For instance, if the company makes or sells a product without warning consumers of inherent risks, they can be liable when someone gets hurt.
Do Laws Protect Consumers from Dangerous Products?
Lawmakers have passed several laws to protect consumers from defective and dangerous products. These include federal and state laws as well as a federal agency dedicated to regulating and enforcing standards in consumer products:
- Consumer Product Safety Act (CPSA). The CPSA passed in 1972 and created the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC). It gives this agency authority to set safety standards, to enact bans, and to recall dangerous products.
- Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act (CPSIA). This law amended the CPSA in 2008, adding additional protections for children and consumers. These include testing of products for infants, bans on lead and phthalates in children’s products, and the creation of a consumer complaint database, SaferProducts.gov.
- Federal Hazardous Substances Act (FHSA). This law requires warning labels on certain household products and regulates hazardous materials in children’s products.
- Child Safety Protection Act (CSPA). The CSPA was enacted to amend the FHSA for greater protection against choking hazards in children’s products.
- Poison Prevention Packaging Act (PPPA). This law requires and enforces child-resistant packaging for certain products, like household chemicals and medications.
- Flammable Fabrics Act (FFA). The FFA protects consumers from highly flammable fabrics used in furniture, mattresses, interior decorating materials, and clothing.
Legal Claims Resulting from Dangerous Products
Laws protect consumers from dangerous products, but they cannot prevent all harm. When a product causes an injury or fatality, the individual or family member may file a personal injury or wrongful death lawsuit.
These claims allow victims to recover damages for actual costs, like medical bills, lost wages, and funeral expenses. They can also cover non-economic damages, like pain and suffering or the loss of companionship resulting from a death.
What to Do if You Have Been Harmed by a Consumer Product
If you or a child has been injured by a defective or dangerous product, take steps to get medical care, document the defects, and talk to a lawyer:
- Get medical care.
The priority, especially for an injured child, is to get medical attention. Seek emergency care if necessary.
- Document injuries.
As you get treatment for injuries or illness, keep careful records. Keep all medical reports and bills.
- Document the defective product.
You may know which product harmed you and how, but it isn’t so clear in some situations. Keep the defective product, or take pictures of it if you cannot. Keep a record of what happened when you used it and the results.
- Talk to a lawyer.
Contact a dangerous products lawyer as soon as possible. They can help you determine if a product really hurt you and find the evidence necessary to prove it. They will provide you with a case evaluation and advise you as to legal steps to take.
Dangerous products hurt thousands of people every year. If you are a victim of a consumer product, you may be entitled to damages. Contact a lawyer right away to determine what to do next.