How Product Safety Laws Help Consumers

These days, we hear more and more about efforts to change our civil justice system. The changes are being pushed mostly by big corporations and insurance companies. Consumer groups are not seeking such changes. And for good reason, since the changes will make it harder for injury victims to get fairly compensated for their injuries and losses.

Many of the proposed changes deal with product liability. Businesses want to limit claims for injuries caused by defective products and make it harder for victims to get compensated. They complain that product liability claims make it harder to do business. In reality, the risk of claims is one of the best incentives for companies to make products safer. Here are examples of how product liability claims improved product safety for everyone:

• A four-year old girl was badly burned when her pajamas caught fire. The pajamas were flammable, and a claim was made to recover compensation for the little girl’s medical bills, pain and suffering, and other injuries. After a jury ruled for the child, the manufacturer stopped making the pajamas.

• Playtex stopped selling tampons linked to toxic shock syndrome. It did this only after a jury awarded money to the family of a woman who died from using the company’s product. Along with removing the product from the market, the company improved warnings on other products.

• A 13-month old girl died when her head was caught between the rails of a poorly designed crib. A jury awarded the girl’s parents a large sum of money. The manufacturer stopped making the crib before the accident, but did a bad job of recalling the product. The verdict forced the company to change the way it notified the public, thus saving the lives of many other children.

• Pain relievers with acetaminophen now have warning labels thanks largely to a case involving a man whose liver was damaged after he took Tylenol and drank wine. The labels warn people to consult a doctor before mixing alcohol and acetaminophen. Tylenol’s maker was likely aware of the link between its drug, alcohol and liver damage for many years, but did not fully warn the public until it was hit with a large verdict.

• According to Sports Illustrated, product liability claims were a key factor in getting makers of football helmets to make their products safer. As a result, the number of young athletes killed or hurt while playing football has dropped significantly in the past few decades.

• Makers of dangerous cutting tools and other equipment started including safety features only after being required to pay damages for injuries their machines caused.

These are just a few examples of how product liability claims made products safer and why we need strong laws protecting consumers. The next time you hear businesses complain about product liability claims, remember that without such motivation, they would likely focus only on boosting profits and ignore safety. Also remember that such claims are the only way people who have been hurt by a defective product can get compensated for their injuries.

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