Car Seats & Products Liability Lawsuits for Defects
In addition to seat belts and other safety features designed for all occupants of a vehicle, car seats can help keep children safe in the event of an accident. Parents should choose a car seat that is appropriate for the age and size of their child. After buying the car seat, they should carefully follow the instructions for how to install and use the seat. Once parents have found a car seat that meets the needs of their child, they should use that seat consistently.
A child should ride in the back seat at least until they turn 13.
There are three main types of car seats: rear-facing car seats, forward-facing car seats, and booster seats. A child under the age of 12 months should always use a rear-facing car seat. After that age, they should remain in a rear-facing seat until they reach the height or weight limit provided by the manufacturer. A child then should use a forward-facing car seat with a harness and tether until they reach the height or weight limit provided by the manufacturer. At that point, they should use a booster seat until they can fit in a seat belt properly. This means that the lap belt fits snugly across the upper thighs, while the shoulder belt fits snugly across the shoulder and chest. If the lap belt stretches across the stomach, or the shoulder belt stretches across the neck or face, the child is not ready to travel without a booster seat.
Defects in Car Seats
Although car seats are intended to enhance child safety, they can suffer from dangerous defects like other consumer products. Problems with car seats can include defective buckles or chest clips, defective base units for detachable car seats, or inadequate padding that does not cushion a child against an impact. These defects may involve either the manufacturing of a specific car seat or the design of an entire line of car seats. Another possible type of defect involves the instructions provided for installing and using the car seat. Inadequate instructions can cause parents to install a car seat incorrectly, preventing it from properly protecting a child.
A car seat manufacturer should issue a recall for the car seat if they discover safety hazards. To make sure that they get prompt information about recalls, parents should register their car seat with the manufacturer. They also can check the NHTSA website to find out whether their car seat has been recalled. If a recall has been issued, parents should immediately stop using the car seat. Rather than trying to fix it, they should contact the manufacturer for assistance with repairs or a replacement.
Legal Claims Based on Defective Car Seats
Children may suffer serious injuries from a defective car seat, such as brain trauma or spinal cord damage. Parents may have a claim against the manufacturer of the seat or any other entity in the chain of distribution. They may be able to recover damages for the medical bills arising from the child’s injuries, in addition to any other out-of-pocket costs. Parents also can pursue damages for intangible harm suffered by the child, such as pain and suffering and emotional distress.
Strict liability usually will apply in a case involving a defective car seat. This means that the degree of care used by the manufacturer in making or designing the car seat, or providing instructions and warnings, does not affect the liability of the manufacturer. As long as a defect existed and caused or contributed to the injuries, the manufacturer may be held accountable for damages. If a manufacturer failed to recall a car seat that it knew to be defective, punitive damages may be awarded as well as compensatory damages. Punitive damages are generally designed to punish defendants that engage in intentional misconduct or other serious wrongdoing.
Get a Free Consultation
If you suspect that a defective car seat may have caused or exacerbated your child’s injuries, you should consult a products liability lawyer about the possibility of bringing a claim. These attorneys often offer free consultations without any obligation to hire them moving forward.