In our consumer society we use purchased products all day long. Most work as they were intended. Some are defective and the defects cause injuries and/or death, potentially to bystanders as well as the person using the product: a power saw blade comes loose while cutting logs, a tire blows while the car is traveling 60 miles an hour in heavy traffic, an adhesive fails to warn users that leaving it in direct sunlight can make it ignite.
There is little or nothing that consumers can do to prevent these incidents, because the entire design, manufacture, and marketing of the product is under the control of the company that makes the product and, sometimes, the company that sells the product. The law in Texas, as elsewhere, allows people injured by defective products to recover damages upon proper proof. Texas has very specific laws that apply to these claims.
Types of Defects
There are several ways in which a product can be defective:
- Defective (inadequate) instructions on the safe use of the product
- Defective manufacturing, meaning that some aspect of the manufacturing process made the product unsafe even though its basic design was safe
- Defective design, meaning that the product, even if manufactured properly, was unsafe for the uses it was intended to serve
Under Texas law, defective design claims require that you prove there was a safer design available. That proof has to demonstrate a reasonable probability that the unused, alternative design:
- Would have reduced or eliminated the risk of injury;
- Without substantially reducing the product’s usefulness; and
- Was actually feasible both technologically and economically at the time the product was sent into the stream of commerce.
Damages: Who Can be Required to Pay?
Upon establishing that the product was defective, that your injury was, in fact, caused by the defect, and that the injury has caused you damages, you are entitled to recover the amount of those damages that you can prove. Typical damages include medical expenses, any loss of past and future income, and pain and suffering. In special circumstances, punitive damages can be recovered.
In general terms, anyone involved in creating the product and moving it through the “stream of commerce” can be liable for damages. Unlike many other states, however, Texas law severely restricts attempts to hold those who merely sold the product liable. Unless the injured person can prove one of several special circumstances that justify recovery from a seller, the claim is ordinarily against the manufacturer.
Product Liability Cases Tend to Be Complex
Many products liability cases involve very technical questions. Proving that the manufacturing process was defective requires detailed understanding of the properties of the materials used, as well as of the entire manufacturing process. Defective design claims tend to be even more complex, and require the use of experts to explain design alternatives. Even claims of inadequate warnings involve tricky issues of proof—what’s adequate to warn one person may be completely inadequate to others.
Some products also present technical legal issues. For example, what’s the impact of the product having been licensed or approved by a federal agency? What if the company that manufactured and/or sold is no longer in business? Or if they were bought by another company that has since merged with a third company? What if the defendant claims you were using the product for a purpose that the manufacturer never intended, or that you knew the product was defective and decided to use it anyway?
Get Quality Help from a Product Liability Lawyer in Austin
It’s a good idea to get legal help as early as soon as you suspect that an injury was caused by a defective product. Texas has a 2-year limit for bringing most products liability claims, but claims that are based on the manufacturer or seller having breached a warranty have a 4-year time limit.
There is no substitute for experience in handling claims for injuries from defective products. It speeds up the progress of the case and improves your chances of recovering fair compensation for injuries that should never have occurred. At the Austin personal injury lawyer team at Briggle & Polan, PLLC, we have a history of success in handling these cases, settling when possible and taking the case through trial when that’s required to get what you deserve. Call us for a free consultation. 512-472-1926