Childproofing a Home & Lawsuits Based on Failed Childproofing Devices
Once a child is old enough to move around, parents should consider taking precautions to “childproof” their home. This will make it safer for children during times when parents cannot monitor them constantly. A need for childproofing may arise when a baby reaches the age of six months. Although each parent will need to devise their own strategy, a common form of childproofing involves putting locks on cabinets and drawers that contain items that a child should not access, such as medicines, chemicals, detergents, and sharp objects. However, some smart children may figure out how to work around these locks, or a parent may forget to lock a drawer each time after opening it. As an extra precaution, parents may want to store especially hazardous items out of reach of a small child to the extent possible.
Additional forms of childproofing may include:
Window safety devices, such as guards, fall prevention screens, and wedges that prevent a window from opening more than a certain height or width
Blinds or drapes that do not have cords that dangle freely, which can create a risk of strangulation
Devices that anchor furniture to a wall, preventing it from falling onto a child
Plastic covers over electrical outlets to reduce the risk of electric shock
Fences or barriers preventing a child from accessing a swimming pool or other water
Childproofing generally applies to small children who do not understand the risks involved in certain behaviors or situations. However, parents still may want to look out for the safety of their older children in other ways. They should keep firearms locked and unloaded when not in use, and ammunition should be stored separately. Parents also may want to keep alcohol and prescription medications in places that are not easily accessible to their teenager without a parent knowing. This can help avert the risk of a tragic accident or of a poor decision by a teenager dealing with depression or interested in experimenting with drugs or alcohol.
Claims Based on Failures of Childproofing Devices
Even when parents take all of the appropriate precautions, a childproofing device may fail to fulfill its intended function, causing injuries to a child. Sometimes this occurs when a business tasked with installing the device in a home performs its work improperly. Parents might have a claim against the business based on a theory of negligence, which means that it failed to use reasonable care during the installation.
In other cases, a device fails because of a defect for which the manufacturer was responsible. Rather than negligence, strict liability usually applies to these products liability cases. This theory does not require parents to prove that a manufacturer failed to use reasonable care. Defects may come in three forms: manufacturing defects, design defects, and marketing defects. A manufacturing defect involves an error in the production process, while a design defect involves a safety problem in the blueprint for the product. A marketing defect means that the manufacturer did not provide adequate safety warnings or instructions with the product.
Compensation for Defects
Common types of compensation include:
Costs of future treatment
Expenses associated with a permanent disability, such as home modifications
Pain and suffering
Products liability cases tend to be more complex than many personal injury lawsuits. If parents suspect that a defective product caused their child’s injuries, they may want to consult an attorney early in the process. An attorney who is experienced in these cases can assist with critical tasks such as gathering evidence, securing expert witnesses, and complying with deadlines and other procedural rules that may apply. Parents concerned about the cost of an attorney should know that they probably will not need to pay their fees upfront. Most products liability lawyers use contingency fee arrangements, under which they collect a percentage of the compensation recovered for a client.