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Clearing up misconceptions about product recalls

Product recalls often make the news here in Garden City and through Long Island and the entire metropolitan area, particularly when the recall is prompted by the death or a serious of one of the product's consumers. However, New Yorkers may have some misconceptions about how a product recall actually works and what it can and cannot accomplish for an accident victim.

For one, product recalls are usually not ordered by a single government agency. Many agencies oversee product safety, and many of them do have a recall process in place. However, on most occasions, they never have to use their legal power to compel a company to pull a product from the shelves; in many if not most cases, the company itself discovers a problem and tells the government agency it intends to recall a product.

However, on the other hand, one should not be misled by the term "voluntary recall." In many cases, a recall is only "voluntary" in the sense that, when the government confronted a company about a product safety issue, the company "voluntarily" agreed to do something about it in cooperation with the government. All voluntary means is that the company did not want to fight in court.

Another misconception is that product recall entitles an accident victim to compensation or, at least, proves a product was dangerous. In fact, all a recall entitles a New York customer to is a refund or a replaced or properly repaired product. If the customer got hurt because of the product, he or she would have to file a products liability case to get compensation.

While an injured person can ordinarily use a recall as evidence that a product might have been dangerous or defective, the recall does not automatically prove an unsafe product causes the injured person's injuries. Someone gets hurt because of a product will still have to make his or her case in court.

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