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Collecting Preserving Evidence, Notes Records in your Product Defect Claim.

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 investigation.
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 unexpected occur.
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.