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Defective Child Car Seats

Car seat manufacturers enjoy a rare advantage in the world of commerce. They make the one and only product parents must use by law.

However, it’s wrong to assume all car seats are created equally and are thus equally safe. In fact, many parents simply choose a car seat based on how much they can afford or whether the seat matches the interior of their vehicle.

At Associates and Bruce L. Scheiner, Attorneys for the Injured, our child injury attorneys know car seat executives have seized on these advantages, designing seats that may be sleeker but not necessarily safer. In fact, there has been evidence in recent years that some companies have ignored potential hazards to which they were alerted.

Such actions seem so callous in light of the entire purpose of car seats, which is to protect children.

But take for example the case of the Cosco Touriva, produced by Doral Juvenile Group – the largest car seat manufacturer in the U.S. A nurse examined one of the seats in 2000, after a child suffered a skull fracture following a low-impact crash. She noticed a hard plastic notch hidden behind the cloth near where a child’s head would rest. She notified the company of the potential danger immediately. However, it was five years before the firm removed the pieces from all versions of the seats. To this day, the company insists the seat was not defective.

Crashes Top Cause of Child Death

These kinds of reports are not especially unique, and they are gravely troubling in light of what we know about the dangers of motor vehicle travel involving children.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report motor vehicle injuries are the No. 1 cause of death among U.S. children. In a recent reporting year, more than 650 children under 12 were killed and 148,000 were injured as passengers in vehicle crashes.

We trust car seats to greatly reduce the risk of child deaths – and they do. For infants, proper use of a seat slashes the risk by 71 percent. For toddlers, the risk is more than halved. Children who use a booster seat (ages 4 to 8) are at 45 percent less risk than those who do not use one. Similarly, older children and adults see their risk for death and serious injury decline by about 50 percent when they use appropriate restraints.

Of those children who die in crashes, about one-third weren’t buckled up properly or at all.

Traffic safety officials recommend children ride in a rear-facing car seat until age 2, a forward-facing car seat until age 5 and in a booster seat until they can properly fit into a regular-sized seat belt restraint system.

Florida legislators recently strengthened the state car seat safety law, requiring children under 6 to be strapped into a booster seat. Previously, children as young as 4 and 5 could wear just a seat belt. AAA has advocated for a law change in the Sunshine State for years, and finally, in 2014, we became the 49th state in the country to pass such a measure.

F.S. 316.613 details Florida’s child restraint requirements.

Car seats are the best line of defense we have in protecting kids from the risk of serious injury and death – which is why we should expect manufacturers to be held to a high safety standard.

Car Seat Safety

Car seats are essentially plastic shells that are designed to redistribute the force of a crash in a way that will protect small bodies. While people might assume car seats will shield their child from serious injury in all crashes, the reality is, most only provide protection for head-on collisions.

It is difficult to ascertain exactly how many child deaths might be attributed to failing car seats. Crash scene investigators are first responders whose concerns typically focus on getting victims the necessary medical intervention and ascertaining what caused the crash. They usually don’t make a determination regarding whether a car seat was faulty or whether it caused or exacerbated a child’s serious injuries.

Administrators with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, the agency responsible for car seat regulation, assert that while car seats are generally a very safe and effective product, additional testing is needed to further bolster that safety and weed out potentially defective elements. It was noted that companies have “resist(ed) mightily” such testing, but that shouldn’t be reason enough for safety advocates to avoid it.

What’s especially troubling is that even when seats fail the NHTSA’s own safety tests, regulators don’t always issue a recall. Between 2003 and 2005, 7 of the 10 car seats that failed in crash tests were not removed from the market. If a company is able to convince the agency the testing doesn’t match the company’s own results, a recall might be avoided.

The bottom line for consumers is that just because a seat hasn’t been recalled doesn’t mean it wasn’t defective. And further, even if a recall has been issued, it doesn’t mean the company can skirt liability.

If you have suspicions that your child’s crash-related injuries might have been caused or exacerbated by a child restraint system, contact an experienced Fort Myers injury lawyer as soon as possible.

If you or a loved one has been injured in Southwest Florida, contact Associates and Bruce L. Scheiner, Attorneys for the Injured, for a free and confidential consultation to discuss your rights. There are no fees or costs unless we win. Offices in Fort Myers, Cape Coral, Naples and Port Charlotte.

Call 800-646-1210 for a Free Consultation.

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