Is Your Child’s Car Seat Safe?
The law in Florida, as in most other states, requires children, either of a specified weight and/or height, when travelling in an automobile, be in a car seat. As a result, a car seat is a necessary purchase for a parent, and the parent must rely on the car seat to keep the child safe and have faith that the manufacturer of the car seat has constructed and/or designed the seat in such a way so that it will not compromise the safety of the child. Amidst extensive testing, most car seats do pass muster. However, there are some that are defective – either in design or as a result of a malfunction. In such cases, retaining the services of an attorney experienced with products liability, while it can never replace the anguish caused by seeing one’s child in pain, can help to alleviate the expenses associated with the child’s recovery.
Recently, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) published updated recommendations on the use of car seats, as it relates to the weight and height of the child. The AAP now recommends children remain in a rear-facing car seat until they reach the highest weight or height allowed by their seat. Previously, the AAP specified children should remain in rear-facing seats to at least age 2; however, the new recommendation removes the age milestone. After growing out of the rear-facing seat, children should use a forward-facing cars seat with a harness until they reach the height and weight limits for those seats. When children exceed these limits, they should use a belt-positioning booster seat until the automobile’s seat belt fits properly.
A discussion of the legal theory of products liability, and common issues concerning car seat defects, will follow below.
Matters such as defective car seats rely on the legal theory of products liability law, which is a special type of negligence. Essentially, in this context, a products liability claim may be brought against a manufacturer of a car seat if the car seat has a design defect, a manufacturing defect, or a marketing defect. A design defect occurs when there is a defect in the design of a product. As such, all products are defective. A manufacturing defect is a defect that occurs in the assembly of a product. Unlike design defects, a manufacturing defect results in a single product that deviates from others. Finally, a marketing defect refer to aspects of the marketing of the product, such as instructions or warnings, providing confusion to consumers, or failing to warn consumers of the risks associated with using the product.
Generally, liability for a defective car seat will reside with the manufacturer, although the designer or retailer may be liable in some cases. Further, unlike other forms of liability, it does not matter whether the consumer was aware of the defect. This type of liability is referred to as strict liability, which means that any injured plaintiffs need only show that the defect was present in the product at the time of the accident, and that the defect was the direct cause of the child’s injury. Thus, it is important to provide evidence that the injury was caused by the defect, and retaining an experienced products liability attorney will help ensure this link is made.
Common Car Seat Injuries
While it may seem that the most obvious result of a car seat defect would be safety belt (or harness) failure, resulting in the child being thrown from the car seat, there are actually many other possible causes of a child’s injuries. Other types of car seat defects include the following:
- Low chest clips, causing the belt to dig into the child;
- Sudden release of the car seat from its moorings to the regular seat of the automobile;
- Separation of the various parts of the car seat;
- Flammable construction material;
- Easily breakable parts, which can lead to choking hazards; and
- Weak construction, not able to sustain normal use.
Seek Legal Advice
If your child was injured in an automobile accident, and you have come to learn that the car seat was defective, you may have a viable products liability lawsuit to file. Contact the experienced products liability attorneys at Pita Weber & Del Prado as soon as possible. We have experience in asserting products liability claims. We will analyze your specific circumstances to ascertain whether the construction and/or design of the car seat by the manufacturer is the direct cause of your child’s injuries, and, if so, we will work to get you the compensation you deserve. Contact our Miami office today for an initial consultation.