A recall lawyer has to monitor several agencies and industries at once, as defective products are constantly released and withdrawn from the market. There are several product safety alert levels, and these alerts are handled by a variety of consumer agencies. In general, though, most alerts are released through the FDA, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), or the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC), with some exceptions. Every year, these three release hundreds of safety alerts, some more pressing than others, and some gain national attention as they include products that have caused serious or fatal injuries.
WHAT ARE THE DIFFERENT AGENCIES AND ALERTS THAT A RECALL LAWYER MAY RESPOND TO?
The aforementioned big three agencies release safety alerts in the following areas:
- FDA: Any alerts that have to do with food products, drugs, or medical devices.
- NHTSA: Any alerts that concern motor vehicles.
- CPSC: Any alerts that concern general consumer goods, such as clothing, children’s toys, furniture, appliances, and the like.
Several other agencies handle alerts in a few select areas. They include:
- The US Coast Guard, which oversees alerts that involve boats and watercraft.
- The EPA, which oversees alerts that concern biocides, such as herbicides and pesticides.
- The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms (ATF), which oversees any alerts concerning firearms.
Whenever a product is either in violation of federal regulations, or poses a significant risk of harm, a safety alert and recall is released. While all regulatory agencies observe a difference between a voluntary and mandatory product alert, the FDA also divides its alerts into several classes, which denote the perceived level of risk associated with the defective product. A recall lawyer will pay close attention to the class level of the alert, as the most severe injuries are usually caused by products tied to a higher alert class. Specifically, these classes include:
- A voluntary product alert is typically done voluntarily by the company, and asks consumers to return the product in question to the manufacturer for replacement or repair. By releasing such an alert, companies hope to reduce their legal liability in the event of an accident.
- A mandatory product alert is executed at the federal level and is done to protect consumers from imminent harm. They are rarely used, as consumers who do not comply may be charged with large fines.
- A Class III alert is released by the FDA when a food or drug product is in violation of regulations, but isn’t likely to cause adverse health problems.
- A Class II alert is released by the FDA when a food or drug product may cause temporary or treatable health problems.
- A Class I alert is released by the FDA when a food or drug product may result in permanent or even fatal health complications.
While these categories serve as a handy organizational tool, even a voluntary alert may involve a dangerous product, so a recall lawyer also takes them seriously. For example, in 2015, the Takata airbag alert, which resulted in several deaths, and the Blue Bell Listeria contamination case, which also resulted in several deaths, were both part of a voluntary product recall.
Whenever a defective product results in injury, a recall lawyer can help the victim determine if the product in question was part of an alert, and how to proceed if it was.