Harmful Products, Strict Liability, and Chicago Personal Injury Law

Lead in the paint on our children’s toys. Packaging plastics that leech chemicals into our food. Recalls on all types of pharmaceuticals. Unsafe produce, dog food, and automobiles. It seems that as consumers, everywhere we turn we encounter potential dangers. We find ourselves watching the nightly news to see if any of our trusted products have been canceled, recalled, or otherwise exposed as hazardous. We are justifiably outraged when a product is found to be unsafe. This outrage can take many forms. When it is expressed through the legal system, we can call on the expertise of a Chicago personal injury attorney to guide us as consumers seeking recourse.

Personal injury law is based on the idea of one entity’s (person or organization) duty to another. When this duty is broken or neglected and damage occurs as a result, this is a violation of personal injury law. Specific to the area of products and consumers, the legal duty of the manufacturer to protect the consumer from harm through use of their products is very strong, so strong, in fact, that a company may be held liable whether negligence can be proven or not. Whereas an individual must be proved to have acted with intent or neglect that resulted in an injury, a manufacturer need only be shown to have produced a harmful product. This is called “strict liability” and emphasizes the importance this country places on a safe marketplace.

Also emphasized in product liability is the responsibility of the consumer to use the product as directed. There is, of course, some risk in using any product improperly, and to award damages to an individual for using an electrical appliance in the bathtub or a gas grill indoors would only encourage such activities and ultimately undercut the manufacturer’s ability to introduce products into the market. Though there will always be enough individuals committing such grossly improper uses of products so as to keep the late-night television hosts happy, these bad apples needn’t  spoil the bunch. For the average consumer, beyond these and other no-brainers, we as consumers can expect relative safety in the use of any product as instructed by the manufacturer – this is the “duty” referred to above that forms the basis of personal injury law. Be a smart consumer. Always follow these tips:

1)    Use common sense. If you don’t  feel comfortable about a product, choose another. We live in a market that allows this luxury on most items. While we want to avoid paranoia and we understand that the vast majority of products are safe, we should trust our instincts.

2)    Stay informed. Know what it is you are buying/consuming. Follow the news for any big, relevant stories, but also check periodically with organizations like the Consumer Product Safety Commission, Consumer Reports, AARP, and other consumer advocacy groups.

3)    Read and follow all product directions. With particularly potentially dangerous products, such as pharmaceuticals, don’t be hesitant to ask an expert, such as a pharmacist, for clarification.

Even following these tips, dangerous products do slip through into the market. A Chicago personal injury lawyer can help if you or a loved one is the victim of such product. If you think you or a loved one needs the council of a Chicago personal injury lawyer, do not hesitate to call or e-mail us at VanDerGinst Law today!