Each year, many Florida residents are harmed by products that have been incorrectly designed, manufactured, or sold. Unfortunately, even when the case against a manufacturer or retailer is clear, injured plaintiffs – who may face burn injuries, head injuries, and a myriad of other serious personal injuries – may have a hard time proving their case. For a product liability case to succeed, it is important that a case involve:
1) A prompt investigation. It is important that any case involving a defective product be reported at once and investigated quickly, so that evidence as well as the defective can be preserved. Witnesses may not recall key details months after an incident, so it is important to speak to any witnesses soon after an injury. If the defective product is in the hands of someone else, a temporary restraining order and a preliminary injunction should be filed to ensure that the product is not altered or destroyed.
2) Thorough research. The complete history of a defective product should be investigated – including when it was purchased, where it was purchased, and who used or saw the product. Any written materials and instruction booklets that came with the product should be carefully looked over. It is important to research whether any changes or alterations were made to the product after it left the manufacturer and distributor. Research can also involve buying more of the same product to test it and use as evidence.
3) Contact federal agencies. A number of government agencies can assist in a product liability case. These include the U.S. Consumer Products Safety commission, the Injury Information Clearing House, The National Technical Information Service of the U. S. Department of Commerce, The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), the Environmental Protection Agency, the Office of Technical Information and Publications of the National Bureau of Standards, The Food and Drug Administration, the Bureau of Radiological Health, The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, The Federal Highway Administration, The Transportation Research Board, The United States Coast Guard, the Federal Aviation Administration, the National Transportation Safety Board, and the Federal Fire Council. These agencies run their own tests on products, alert customers about unsafe products, set standards for safety, and publish information that can be useful in a products liability case.
4) Contact insurance organizations. A number of insurance organizations publish studies and information about safety. Organizations such as The Factory Mutual Engineering corporation, The American Insurance Association, The Applied Science and Technology Index, Engineering Index, the Science Citation Index, The National Safety Council, National Fire Protection Association, The Center for Auto Safety, the Transportation Safety Department of Calspan, the Highway Safety Research Institute, The Society of Automotive Engineers, American National Standards Institute, American Chemical Society, American Society of Mechanical Engineers, American Water Works Association, and the Manufacturing Chemist’s Association are all good areas of research.
5) Contact experts who can testify about expected standards and safety measures. Running a literature search or contacting the local university will often yield the names of at least a few qualified experts.
6) Run an e-discovery investigation. A qualified private investigator can run a check of the paperwork, computer files, and other data available at a company. This can help uncover paperwork that shows that a manufacturer or distributor knew about a problem with a product but failed to act on the information. Laws surrounding e-discovery ensure that once an e-discovery investigation is launched, internal corporate records cannot be deleted. Additionally, qualified investigators are often able to recover deleted files and show evidence of file tampering that can work in the plaintiff’s favor.