Protecting the defective automotive, electronic, or toy product is essential to a successful case. Preserving all of the product pieces, exercising proper care and storage in your electrocution, magnetic toy or toxic lead paint ingestion toy claims as well as guarding the wreckage to your automotive stability, roof crush or crashworthiness claims, will create the best possible outcomes during the investigation or reconstruction of the incident. Receipts, maintenance records, recalls and other paper trails such as relevant articles, and news stories, and your own notes and journals of your recollections are vital to building the best case possible.
When the product at issue is a defective vehicle or trailer like an SUV,
15 passenger van, economy car, boat, ATV, snowmobile, motorcycle, tow
dolly or camper, you must take extra measures to insure that it isn’t
damaged by man or nature or sold for scrap. Covered storage like a car
port or fully enclosed space like a garage or rental unit, preferably
locked, will help to ensure the evidence protection. If the vehicle is
left at the mercy of a junkyard, be sure to keep in contact with them,
they will not hesitate to part it out without plenty of communication.
Know their intentions and time limits for storage. In storage, at the
very least, be sure it is covered it with a large piece of loosely wrapped
plastic like a tarp. Shrink wrap or tight tie downs could actually create
“phantom” scratch marks that potentially hinder the reconstruction
Handle and transport the evidence as little as possible and don’t
ever remove pieces from the vehicle or trailer. Only during the investigation
with permission and supervision from all parties will they allow removal
of key components such as the defective seat, seatbelt, airbag or other
passive restraint. Not only would removal compromise the evidence, but
some restraint systems have small explosive devices that could cause additional
injury if not handled properly. If transportation is necessary, make sure
the carrier has sufficient insurance and try to transport vehicles in
an enclosed trailer. Wind flapping loose parts can damage evidence. Always
keep good records of who was in contact with it, where it was and for
how long. It is not unreasonable to video the loading and unloading of
evidence. Your attorney may be able to assist with possession and storage
of these items. Clothes and products such as appliances, electronics or
toys can usually be stored in climate controlled facilities and within
sealable bags and if deemed necessary bubble wrap or other protective
packing. As with larger products it is important you handle the evidence
and defective components as little as possible and keep good records of
who handled the product before and after the incident, and up to conclusion
of the case.
Keep and protect the original packaging and historical records. For vehicles
and trailers this may include, invoices, warranty and financing paperwork,
and routine maintenance records like oil changes, tire rotation and minor
repairs as well as recall work. For other products it will likely cover
repair or service records, gift receipts, and or testimonials of friends
or family that originally acquired the product.
Recall notices are also very important. Often, if you have completed and
returned the warranty information for the product, the manufacturer will
know how to contact you in case of a recall. Information will be sent
directly to the address you provide them. Usually, with new vehicles the
original title work will give the manufacturer the information they need
to contact you. Automotive recall info can be acquired at
US Department of transportation’s Office of Defects Investigation website. Other product recall information can be researched at the
United States Consumer Products Safety Commission
or often stores selling the product will post them. These records are
important to provide lot numbers and manufacturing dates, as well as insight
into the effectiveness or adequacy of warnings on the packaging.
A picture is worth a thousand words. Taking photos as soon after the incident
as possible could provide priceless insurance for your case. With automotive
accidents, the scene and vehicles are often at the mercy of Mother Nature
or the police impound until the investigation begins. Things like construction,
routine landscaping, street sweeping, careless impound personnel or heaven
forbid, fire, flood, hurricane or a tornado could compromise your case.
Photos of the scene and vehicle will provide some protection should something
Journaling your recollections of events and facts can prove to be very
important because cases don’t usually settle or go to trial overnight.
With the current statute of limitations, or the time in which you have
to file a claim, as low as 1-2 years, time passes and memories fade. Anything
you can do to jog or keep those memories will be helpful during your formal
or in formal telling of events.
Lastly, be on the lookout for any relevant articles or news reports on
your defective product, stories on the recalls or the incidents that lead
to them. The good old fashioned library or the internet would be a good
starting place. News networks all have websites, enter your current product
issues and easily search their archives for stories about your defective
or recalled products. Not only are those stories good but the information
within them can also provide leads to sources for your media related records.
Your case may only be as good as your evidence. Without careful preservation
and meticulous records you are at the mercy of oppositions’ case
against you. Your chance for a successful outcome is in your hands. Good Luck!
If you need representation for your products liability claim or would
like a free consultation, please contact us, Gilbert & Ollanik, P.C.