Steps to Take After Injury

You have already read that products liability law controls cases brought by injured people against the companies that market products that are defectively designed or manufactured or that do not contain correct instructions and warnings about hidden dangers.  This time, let me suggest some steps that you might want to take if you or a family member are injured because of a defective product.

Obviously, getting medical care must be the first thing done after an injury.  Try your best to describe accurately how the accident occurred when you are asked to do so by the medical personnel.  You do not have to provide every detail, just be accurate.  For example, saying you were hurt while using your table saw is accurate and a complete enough explanation for your doctor.  You do not have to tell your doctor the type of cut you were trying or the size or kind of wood that you were cutting.  When you are in pain and worrying about your condition is just not the time to review the particular details of your accident.  This is important because your medical chart will list your explanation for how the accident occurred and that chart will be reviewed by the lawyer who represents the company responsible for that defective product.

Second, for your potential product liability claim, it is very important to preserve the evidence.  I understand completely that you may be inclined to immediately throw away the toy that injured your child.  While you certainly do not want anyone else to play with this toy, do not throw it away.  Instead, save the toy or save whatever product is involved and make sure that no one changes it or tampers with it.  You should make the product available to your attorney as soon as possible.

If you get injured by a product at work, perhaps a piece of equipment owned by your employer, ask your employer to save that product or piece of equipment.  If you contact your attorney promptly after an accident, perhaps the attorney can have that piece of equipment examined by an engineer and photographed, especially if your employer cannot save the product or cannot stop using the equipment.

Sometimes, people are injured soon after they purchased a product.  In those cases, you should provide your attorney with the receipt for the product.  You should also give your attorney the box or any instruction booklet for the product.  You may have pictures of the product.  For example, perhaps you took a picture of your child on the brand new bike right before the front fork collapsed.  Your attorney will ask you to provide these kids of documents.

However, many times, the injured person was not the one who purchased the product and may not even be the one who was using the product.  For example, if you were injured at work, you might not have information about when or where the defective tools or equipment were purchased.  If your neighbor is using a snow blower and, because of a manufacturing defect, the metal blade fractures and a piece flies off and injures you, you may not have any information about where or when the snow blower was purchased.  Asking your employer or your neighbor to preserve the product and contacting a lawyer promptly is critical so that important evidence is preserved for your product liability claim.

There are cases in which injured persons and their families simply cannot accomplish some or all of these suggested steps.  Let me emphasize again that the first and foremost consideration should be getting the medical care necessary to get better.  Many of these steps can be accomplished by your lawyer if you are able to contact your lawyer fairly soon after the injury.  Again, that timing depends on your situation.

In our Toyota example, if sudden acceleration occurs and results in an accident, the injured driver will likely be taken to the hospital by ambulance.  The vehicle will be towed by a company contacted by the local police department.  Even though the vehicle may be a total loss, you do not want it towed to the scrap yard.  A responsible attorney will do what is necessary to preserve the vehicle.  Hopefully, you will never need to call me or some other lawyer because of an injury caused by a defective product.  However, if you have to call, now you know that some of the questions asked by the lawyer will be about preserving the product itself.

Thank you for reading.  Next time, I will finish our discussion of product liability law by describing what an injured person can recover in a product liability case.  For now, let’s be careful out there.

John A. Orlando, Esquire can be reached in his office at 115 Fayette Street, by phone at (610) 897-2576 or by email at

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