A Short Guide to Consumer Good Recalls, Product Liability and Personal Injury

Thanks to safety guidelines and regulatory oversight, most goods from large to small are tested, labeled, and packaged for proper consumer use. But no system is perfect, and sometimes things go wrong, causing injury or illness to hundreds or even thousands of people. To obey the law and keep their liability as low as possible, a manufacturer or retailer will sometimes issue a recall notice to warn the consuming public of possible dangers and what the company is going to do to remedy the problem. There is no one organization or group that sees all product recalls. Instead, the federal administrative body that oversees that industry will issue a recall, or a company will issue one on their own before directed to do so. Here is a short guide to recalls in industries that most consumers are affected by, in one way or another.

The Automotive Industry

Due to their large size and high speeds, automobiles have the possibility of causing serious injury and even death. Because of this, it is one of the most highly regulated consumer products in America today. The federal body that oversees this regulation is the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, or NHTSA. Their investigatory and regulatory powers cover safety defects in motor vehicles, fuel economy standards, safety belts, child safety seats, air bags, and more. 

What’s nice about the NHTSA is that you can find nearly all auto-related recalls in one place. Any auto part, tire, air bag, seat belt, and even car seats with issued recalls are in one location. Their website also has a search by VIN feature to allow car owners to see all recalls on their particular make and model, and even gives you directions on how to locate your VIN. It is important to note that internationally manufactured/sold vehicles are not covered, nor is any recall older than 15 years. But for most auto owners, the NHTSA website is the best source to find car or truck recall notices. 

Food Recalls

Another governmental entity that controls regulation of an industry is the Food and Drug Administration, or FDA. The safety of American food has come a long way in the past century, thanks to the hard work of scientists like Dr. Harvey Wiley. Wiley spent the majority of his career testing food additives for human toxicity, and he was the first commissioner of the FDA itself. Upton Sinclair’s famous work “The Jungle” led directly to laws aimed at reducing unsanitary conditions in the meatpacking industry.

Just like the NHTSA, you can go to the FDA website for a comprehensive list of foods, drinks, medications, and other consumables deemed unsafe for the public. They track food-borne illness outbreaks like listeria, e coli,  and salmonella, as well as food contamination. Many of these can be life threatening to someone with a weakened immune system.

Other Consumer Good Recalls

There are, of course, millions of other products that Americans use every day besides food and cars. In 1972, the federal government created the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) to group other recalls from other industries under one umbrella. They coordinate recalls, evaluate products that are the subject of consumer complaints or industry reports,  develop uniform safety standards and conduct research into product-related illnesses and injuries. 

From defective toys and sports equipment to furniture and fixings to car seats, the CPSC puts all recalls on their website for easy public access. Their main aim is to prevent the American public from products that pose a fire, electrical, chemical, poison, or mechanical injury risk. In addition to product description, the website provides a description of how the manufacturer or retailer will remedy that risk and give them the right contact information to follow through with the recall.

Manufacturer Liability and Consumer Compensation

Normally, when someone suffers an accident that results in injury, they would file a personal injury lawsuit under the legal theory of negligence. Consumer products are different in that manufacturers, distributors, and retailers are held liable under the legal theory of strict liability. This means that if the consumer is injured due to a product defect, those involved in the making and selling of the product are legally responsible even in the absence of fault or criminal intent. This not only encourages businesses to take as many safety measures as they possibly can in manufacturing and selling their product, it helps protect the public at large.

But sometimes accidents do happen, and a product defect is at fault. Most of the time, widespread product recalls allow a person to be compensated in the form of exchange or refund, but if you suffer serious illness or injury you may want to seek the advice of an attorney. You may be entitled to compensation for medical expenses, lost wages, and other damages. 


Many companies take pride in delivering a safe product to the public, but sometimes things go wrong. Keeping an eye on product recalls is a good way to make sure that you and your family are safe from dangerous and defective goods, and is usually as easy as a quick internet search.


[1]  http://www.theinjurylawyers.com
[2]  https://www.recalls.gov/recent.html

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