What to Do When A Product-Related Accident Happens

Under the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission's (CPSC) jurisdiction, 22,000 deaths and 29.5 million injuries are associated with consumer products. The deaths, injuries and associated property damage resulting from defective products, cost the American public over $500 billion annually.  Almost all categories of products may cause a product-related accident, including such common items as: defective cigarette lighters, lawn-mowers, bicycle helmets, and more.  In general, any and all consumer products that are dangerous and defective can cause injury.

In legal terms, a product is considered dangerous or defective if it is found to be unreasonably safe for its intended use. Intended use of a product is any reasonable use of the product, keeping in mind its characteristics, directions for use and warnings and labels.

Defective Products – Who’s To Blame?

Dangerous and defective products may come to market because of a failure by the manufacturer, the wholesaler or the distributer of the product and in some cases the retailer. There are three main reasons why a product can be considered defective or dangerous:

Design Defect – the product was manufactured as intended, but it is unsafe for its intended use.

Manufacturing Defect – the design of the product is adequately safe, but the product was made with a flaw which makes it dangerous.

Inadequate Warning Label – instructions and warnings regarding use of the product fail to inform the customer of its potential hazards or side effects

  • KEY PRINCIPLE – A product should be reasonably safe for its intended use.

Evaluate Your Injury

If you or someone you love has been injured in an accident involving a product, you can consider the following three questions to help make a common-sense evaluation:

  • First – Was there an injury?
  • Next – Was a product involved?
  • Last – Was the injury more serious than you would reasonably expect?


Simply stated, did an accident occur involving a product, and does it seem unreasonable that a person would be hurt so badly in these circumstances?  To give you a practical application of evaluating an accident, here is an actual example:

During the holidays, a child is playing and casually brushes by a decorative candle.  Immediately, the child’s shirt catches on fire.  The fire spreads quickly, and the child suffers serious burns before her parents can do anything to help.

Did the injury come as a result of a defective or dangerous product?  Using our three step process, we can quickly evaluate this incident:

First – Was there an injury?
Yes – The child suffered serious burns.

Next – Was a product involved?
Yes – The child’s shirt is what caught on fire causing the burns.

Finally – Was the injury more serious than you would reasonably expect?
Yes – The child’s clothing caught fire and burned quickly even though it was a casual brush with the candle.  Also, the clothes caught on fire “immediately” and spread quickly burning her seriously before her parents could respond.

With three “yes” answers, this accident seems like it may be product-related and worth further investigation.  In fact, it was later discovered in this case, that the shirt was not fire retardant but actually flammable and it was found to be a dangerous and defective product.

When considering whether an injury has occurred as the result of a defective or dangerous product, use this simple test.  If you answered “yes” to all three of the above questions, you should contact an attorney to discuss what happened and what you should do next.

Hold on to the Product

The most important element of a product liability case is securing the product that was involved in the injury. If you do not have the product, it will be nearly impossible to bring about a case.  Whether the case involves a motorcycle accident, automobile accident or a consumer product such as a car seat or even a coffee maker, the product involved needs to be secured. We can not stress this fact enough.  Without the dangerous and defective product on hand, there is no case.

Read the next article:  Legal Issues and Defective and Dangerous Products 

Contact an attorney in your area.