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March 2, 2023

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Defects in Car Seats

According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), motor vehicle accidents are the leading cause of death for children in the United States; many cases involve defective child car seats.

Combining all unintentional serious injuries and deaths among those between 0 and 19 years each year, motor vehicle–related accidents claim the most lives. An appropriate child’s car seat can reduce head injuries and deaths in car accidents. The causes of accidents vary widely, but parents can take safety measures to reduce the risks on the road for their children.

Was your family involved in a vehicle accident, and do you suspect an issue with the defective car seat or child safety seat? The personal injury attorneys at Rosenfeld Injury Lawyers, LLC are legal advocates for injured car accident victims.

Contact our Chicago product liability attorneys at (888) 424-5757 (toll-free phone number) or use the contact form today for immediate legal advice and schedule a free consultation. All confidential or sensitive information you share with your defective car seat lawyer remains private through an attorney-client relationship.

Common Car Seat Defects in a Child Safety Seat

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), “The misuse of child restraints accounts for an estimated 71 percent of car seats that are not effective.”

As a society, we try to safeguard those who cannot defend themselves and focus mainly on protecting our children. When it comes to passenger cars, that consists of putting kids in a child car seat that has been installed correctly.

In addition to being crucial to protect young passengers in an accident, a child’s car seat is also mandated by law. Seat belts for standard child safety seats won’t adequately protect small children the way they will adults. Thus an appropriate child’s car seat is required.

Even if your child is buckled into detachable child safety seats made for newborns or toddlers, many flaws and compatibility problems can seriously endanger children in passenger car accidents.

Recalls of Child Safety Seats

Child car seat recalls involving various brands and manufacturing defects. Here are a few common issues with child car seats and their restraint system:

  • A defective plastic shell: A fragile shell will break under stress and won’t protect your child as it was designed. Manufacturing a plastic car seat shell with poor materials can weaken the structure.
  • Flammable substances: Manufacturing the car seat with flammable materials could be disastrous in an accident.
  • Shoulders harness slots with incorrect labels: The car seat manufacturer was required to provide sufficient information on the unit’s system to ensure it is correctly tightened through the harness slots.
  • Faulty adjusters: The straps must be appropriately set to secure your child. Any faulty car or booster equipment will not protect the child.
  • Defective buckles or latches: Your child won’t be properly secured in an accident if the buckles and latches malfunction and could be seriously hurt if thrown from defective car seats in a car accident.
  • Incorrectly placed chest clip: Your child may be thrown from the safety seat in the event of an accident if the chest clip is positioned too low on the body.

Many recalls of child safety seats have involved products with multiple car seat defects, including weak latches, faulty buckles, and flammable materials. Some child car seats have led to catastrophic injuries when the vehicle is in an accident.

Problematic Child Car Seats

The problem with child car seats is that they’re often not correctly installed or otherwise defectively constructed. It doesn’t matter if your loved one was riding in the backseat or front because these issues can cause injury during accidents – even minor ones!

A defective car seat can cause serious problems, including:

  • Make it possible for the seat to fold back or loosen at its attachment points, which could result in the driver losing control.
  • Reduce the effectiveness of other safety precautions requiring passengers to remain in a specific position to work correctly, like airbags or seatbelts.
  • Allow child passengers to be partially or completely ejected from the car in an accident.

A Child’s Car Seat Safety

A child safety seat is one of a parent’s most crucial investments. There are many appropriately sized car seats designed for children in the market – make sure you research before choosing the best fit and appropriate seat for your child. Additionally, no child should sit in the front seat (back seat only) until they are tall enough not to require a booster.

Using child safety seats is mandated by law in all states when riding in a vehicle. Children are unfortunately at risk for severe injury or death in even minor auto accidents when car seats, booster seats, or the back seat have a defective design or manufacturing flaw.

Rear-facing Child Safety Seat

Parents transporting a newborn infant must use a rear-facing car seat to restrain the child until they reach the manufacturer’s recommended height and age limits to use a forward-facing car seat.

Forward-facing Child Car Seat

Toddlers and young children under the age of five should be buckled up in forward-facing seats until they reach the height and age restrictions established by the manufacturer or until they reach the legal age as determined by their state.

Booster Seats

A booster seat is a car seat that raises the child up so that the vehicle’s seat belt can fit more securely across the body. Boosters are necessary for children who have outgrown their forward-facing seats but are still too small to wear the adult-sized seat belt without help.

Boosters can help keep children safer in a crash, as they help distribute the impact force over a wider area and reduce the risk of injury. They also ensure that the seat belt fits properly across the child’s body, which can help prevent or minimize injuries in a crash.

Child Car Seats Are Subject to Federal Regulations

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) [1] is a Federal agency within the United States Department of Transportation responsible for motor vehicle safety.

Their regulations ensure that every car seat meets all government standards. The agency evaluates the safety of child seats and conducts investigations when there is a possible safety defect in the design or function of a car seat. NHTSA also issues recalls when companies don’t voluntarily remedy the problem.

At the state level, each state has unique laws specific to that state. For example, some states have laws requiring a child to be in a booster seat until they are eight or 4’9″ tall, while others only require a booster safety seat until the child is seven years old or 4’5″ tall.

Selecting the Safest Child Car Seat

When choosing detachable car seats for your child, you should always check the car seat’s label to see if it meets the standards of NHTSA. You should also check your state’s laws to ensure compliance.

A complex and comprehensive set of minimum safety requirements must be met by every child’s car seat sold in the United States by law. Booster and car seats must meet the following requirements in materials and design, including:

  • A stable, strong seat back that does not recline excessively
  • An adjustable harness system with a crotch strap and shoulder straps that can be tightened to keep the occupant securely in place
  • A label on the seat that specifies the manufacturer’s name and address, the model number, and date of manufacture
  • In general, car seats must also meet the following crash performance requirements:
    • Withstand a frontal impact crash test at 30 mph without causing excessive head excursion or neck loading on a 3-year-old dummy
    • Withstand a side impact crash test into a rigid barrier at 20 mph without causing excessive abdominal or chest deflection on either a 3-year-old or 6-year-old dummy

While all car seats must meet these minimum requirements, there is a wide range of seat designs and features on the market. Most car seats have features that may provide extra protection in a crash, such as side-impact airbags or energy-absorbing foam lining the seat shell.

When choosing a child car seat, always select one appropriate for your child’s age, weight, and height, and make sure it is properly installed in your vehicle according to the manufacturer’s instructions. You can report the car seat defect to the manufacturer, the United States Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) [2], or the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

Common Mistakes People Make Installing and Using Child Car Seats

Installing the Car Seat Improperly

Even though many car seats may appear simple to install, doing so effectively can be challenging. A few frequent mistakes include placing the seat at an awkward angle in the rear seat, using the incorrect belt, and not attaching the seat tightly enough.

Be sure to follow the manual for proper installation. If there are any questions, the National Highway Transportation Safety Association (NHTSA) [3] maintains a list of local spots where you can check a car seat.

Turning The Rear Facing Car Seats Too Soon

Some children are too small for a regular car seat and have to use booster seats to make the seat belt fit better. These children can be injured more if their car seat is not installed properly in the rear seat.

You should always follow the instructions in the child safety seat manual for proper installation and wait until the child’s weight and height match the minimum requirements defined by the manufacturer’s instructions.

Leaving the Car Seat Shoulder Harnesses Too Loose

One common mistake parents make when installing a child safety seat is leaving the shoulder harnesses loose. A loose harness can be dangerous in a crash, as it can cause the child to be thrown from the seat or cause the seat to fly out of the car.

Be sure to tighten the shoulder harnesses properly, so they fit snugly against the child’s body. You should not be able to fit more than one finger between the harness and the child’s chest.

Not Sending in the Car Seat’s Registration Card or Checking For Car Seat Recalls

NHTSA tracks every car seat recalled in the US in a live online database. However, unless you check the website or turn in the registration card for your safety seat, you won’t know if your seat is on the recall list.

Who Is Responsible for an Accident Due to a Defective Car Part?

After a comprehensive investigation has been conducted, one of the following parties may be held liable if it is found that a defective part in the vehicle was the origin of an accident:

  • Manufacturer of the Vehicle or Car Part: Auto parts manufacturers must test and guarantee the security of their products. These businesses may be held accountable for the accident if a flaw caused the component’s failure in the manufacturing process or it was established that the appropriate safety or quality assurance checks were not carried out.
  • Designers of the Auto Part: Design flaws in products are particularly dangerous because they will have an impact on multiple people. Any poorly designed auto part identified as the cause of an accident could hold the design or manufacturer legally accountable.
  • Part Marketer or Distributor: Any marketer who promotes, sells, or distributes defective components that lead to accidents can be held legally accountable for failing to provide the necessary warning or usage guidelines.
  • Dealership or the Mechanic Who Has Recently Worked on the Car: Any repair shop or mechanic working on the car that installed the parts incorrectly or used the wrong part could be held legally accountable. Possible defendants in a civil lawsuit include the mechanic, dealership, or others who provided inappropriate service.

Injuries Caused by a Defective Car Seat

Common injuries associated with defective car seats include:

  • Brain injuries
  • Spinal cord injuries
  • Ruptured appendix
  • Internal injuries from faulty chest clips
  • Facial lacerations
  • Ruptured spleen
  • Bowel injuries from harness straps
  • Scarring and disfigurement
  • Contusions
  • Concussions
  • Neck injury
  • Fractures
  • Death

Damages in Product-Liability Cases

Compensatory damages that can be recovered in an accident involving defective car seats, defective base units, defective carry handles, and other parts that may not have been properly installed include:

  • Costs of past and future medical expenses
  • Lifelong care
  • Modifications made to automobiles and residences to accommodate paralysis injuries
  • Pain and suffering
  • Rehabilitation
  • Lost wages

Punitive damages are often warranted when new car seat manufacturers knew or reasonably should have known of a fault and took no action to correct the problems before they caused harm or death.

Hire a Defective Car Seat Lawyer

The dedicated legal team at our law office can help you investigate personal injury cases and identify which parties are responsible for the defective car seat that injured your child. Whether this is the manufacturer, the marketer, the dealership, the mechanic, or the designer, your defective car seat attorney can find the evidence to hold them accountable for damages.

Our defective car seat attorneys are committed to aggressively fighting for your family’s rights, mainly when the accident results in severe injuries due to using inadequate safety padding, cheap materials, unclear instructions on child seats, inadequate installation instructions, and defective chest clips, among others.

Contact a personal injury attorney from our law firm to schedule a defective car seat case review through a no-obligation, free consultation.

All confidential or sensitive information you share with a defective car seat attorney remains private through an attorney-client relationship. Contact an experienced attorney at (888) 424-5757 or the contact form to send information about your personal injury claim, and we will get in touch.

Your defective car seat lawyer provides immediate legal representation, legal help, and counsel without upfront fees. All our legal services are paid after your defective car seat attorney negotiates an acceptable out-of-court settlement or wins your case at trial.

Resources: [1] NHTSA, [2] United States Consumer Product Safety Commission, [3] NHTSA

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