Product Liability Claims for Defective Child Safety Seats
Between 2010 and 2014, an average of 11 children died each week due to car accidents in the United States. This horrifying statistic shines a light on the issue of car seat safety and underscores the need for manufacturers, product designers, and retailers to create and sell safe child safety seats.
For the most part, child car seats are highly effective in preventing serious injury or death for a majority of children restrained in them. However, even the most effective car seats only have a lifespan of approximately six to eight years from the time it was manufactured (you can typically find this expiration date on the car seat itself or in the packaging that came with it). These expiration dates exist to protect the manufacturer from claims that arise outside the so-called “useful life” of the car seat.
Nevertheless, defects still occur within the lifespan of many child safety seats. In fact, there are enough that the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) offers an extensive list of recalled child seats on its website.
There is some good news, effective January 2, 2022, Federal law now requires hand-held infant carriers to meet safety standards. According to the Consumer Protection Safety Commissions’s website:
Federal law requires that hand-held infant carriers comply with the Safety Standard for Hand-Held Infant Carriers, 16 CFR part 1225 (effective January 1, 2021), and with additional requirements, including those of the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act of 2008 (CPSIA).
Note that hand-held infant carriers that function as car seats are also regulated by the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration, under 49 C.F.R. § 571.213 Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard (FMVSS) No. 213.
Manufacturers and importers of hand-held infant carriers must certify in a Children’s Product Certificate that the hand-held infant carriers comply with the standard and the additional requirements after the hand-held infant carriers have been tested for compliance at a CPSC-accepted, third party laboratory. These requirements are discussed below and at: www.cpsc.gov/BusinessEducation.
Types of Car Seat Defects
Although people typically think of a design flaw that could cause injury to a child as the sole purpose for a product liability claim, there are often other defects at play. These defects may include:
Failure to Warn Defects
All car seats come with an implied warranty that they will protect the child using them. This warranty is extended from the manufacturer, but it also applies to retailers who fail to warn buyers about safety issues. For example, AAA states that children should be in rear-facing seats until at least the age of two. This means that retailers who target parents of toddlers with marketing for front-facing car seats could be exposing themselves to liability if they fail to warn of the dangers involved.
Design defects occur when the product was designed with a fault that makes it unstable and unsafe for use. For example, a car seat with a faulty seat belt buckle could cause the restraint to come undone during a collision and result in the death or serious injury of a child. This is a design flaw that could expose the designer and manufacturer to liability.
Manufacturing defects happen during the assembly of the car seat and are not supposed to be an intended part of the final product. For example, a manufacturer may use the wrong screws on the seat, causing it to fall apart upon impact.
Although each of the defects covers different aspects of the product, they can all result in serious injury or death, and could be a reason to file a product liability claim—or even a class action lawsuit—against the designer, manufacturer, or seller of the car seat.
Common Reasons Why Car Seats are Recalled
Although they may go unnoticed by a majority of Americans with children, car seat recalls do happen with some regularity. Here are some of the most common reasons car seats are recalled for causing, or potentially causing, injuries to children.
See: Car Seat & Booster Seat Safety, Ratings, Guidelines – NHTSA
Improper Installation Instructions or Warnings
Car seat installation can be confusing even with the best-detailed instructions. However, unclear instructions and warnings can dramatically impact the safety of any car seat. If instructions are unclear, it’s simple for parents to incorrectly install the car seat, which could result in serious injury during an accident.
Defective Base Units
The base unit and carry handles allow adults to detach the car seat from the unit that’s secured in the car. If the base unit is defective, the seat and child can become dislodged during an accident, causing serious injury or death.
Defective Seat Belt Buckles and Chest Clips
Properly designed car seat buckles are used to secure children in the seat during regular transportation and accidents. If the buckle is defective, it could easily come undone, causing the child to be ejected from the seat, and potentially causing the child harm.
Car seat padding is used to cushion the child in the case of an accident to help prevent head injuries. If a car seat has inadequate padding, the child could have life-threatening head or brain injuries after an accident.
While these are some of the most common issues among car seats, there are numerous other defects that could bring harm to your child if they were involved in an accident.
Compensation for Product Liability Claims for Child Safety Seats
When it comes to child safety seats, product designers, manufacturers, and sellers are typically the parties held liable for any injuries caused by defective products, but compensation can often expand further than current medical expenses.
One of the main goals of your product liability attorney will be to recover damages to a level that makes you or your loved one whole again, including financial compensation for such things as:
- current medical bills;
- future medical expenses and lifetime living expenses;
- compensation for pain, suffering, and emotional trauma;
- compensation for future income loss due to physical or mental disability; and
- as well as other economic and non-economic damages.
Although these are the most common types of compensation for these injury cases, there are numerous other economic and non-economic damages that may be recoverable.
What to Do if You’ve Been Impacted by a Defective Car Seat
If you believe you have a defective car seat, be sure to check the NHTSB website above or the government’s dedicated recall site to see if your specific seat has been recalled. You can also fill out the registration card that comes with most seats so that the manufacturer can notify you in the case of a recall.
If your child was in a car accident and you believe he or she was injured due to a defective car seat, then contact us today to discover what legal action you can take to recoup the damages that have affected your family and your child’s future.
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If you have been injured in Miami-Dade, Broward or Palm Beach County, or any county in Florida, as a result of a defective car seat, contact Alan, by calling or emailing him, and ask for a free consultation. He’s happy to discuss your claim with you, review what happened, determine your legal options, and help you understand your rights and options to recover the compensation you deserve.
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