Car Seat Recall Lawsuits

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 What Are Car Seat Recalls?

Car seat recalls may occur when there is some sort of defect in an infant or child car seat. In such cases, the manufacturer or distributor of the car seat may issue a notice to consumers that the car seat is to be pulled off of shelves and taken out of distribution. They may offer a refund or replacement for products that are returned.

All states have laws requiring that children use car seats when they are riding in cars. All U.S. territories and states require that children fitting certain criteria including weight, height, and age ranges ride in certain car seats.

Most state laws require car seats for children under a certain age and then seat belts for older children, sometimes depending on their height or their weight. No two states’ laws are the same. So each person has to inform themselves about the requirements of the law in their state.

Some experts recommend that while a person should follow the law in their state so as not to get into trouble with law enforcement, as well as to protect the safety of their child, the requirements of state law are not necessarily best practice when it comes to child seat safety.

Some experts recommend that whether or not state law requires it, a child should always ride facing the rear of the car until they are two, then forward facing with a harness until age 6 and then in a booster seat until they cross the weight limit. This is best practice.

Reportedly, the recommendations of the National Highway Transport Safety Administration and the American Academy of Pediatrics as most recently updated are the recommendations to follow.

Most states require that a person use the car seat according to the guidelines provided by the seat’s manufacturer in what is referred to as the “proper use” clause of the directions for use. Car seats produced by about 32 manufacturers are sold in the United States.

When Do Car Seat Recalls Occur?

Car seat recalls may occur when consumers report problems with the car seats for a variety of different reasons, such as:

  • A design defect in the buckle of the harness that makes it difficult to unlatch;
  • A defective harness adjuster button sticks and becomes inoperable, allowing the shoulder harness to loosen,
  • The webbing of a car seat is defective. For example, it may fail to meet minimum standards for breaking strength;
  • The information on labels, directions for use and instruction manuals may be Inaccurate;
  • Defective harness adjusters can allow the child in the seat to loosen the harness,
  • Screws and washers in the base joint connector can become loose,
  • The center tab on the chest clip can poses a choking hazard to child,
  • The button on vehicle belt webbing can interfere with lock-off,
  • Defective chest clips can cause a child to suffer chest injury in car accident,
  • Reach and release button loosening child seat harness,
  • Defective baby car seat base.

These are just some examples of possible defects. There are differences between the car seats depending on the age and size of the child for which they are intended, as well as how they are supposed to be used. For example, infant child seats have different requirements and specifications than seats intended for use with older, larger toddlers.

As the child gets older and grows larger, the type of seat required often becomes less restraining and may eventually just be a simple “booster” seat to help prop the child up higher. These different types of car seats can exhibit different types of defects and construction issues.

Experts recommend that consumers check their car seat regularly and keep up with recalls. One way to do this is to check the website of the federal Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC). It is a good idea to check the CPSC website regarding the many kinds of products intended for use with infants and children, e.g. cribs, toys, bassinets and other items as well.

An example of a defect recall is the case of the infant car seat/carrier manufactured by Dorel Juvenile Group, Inc. Reports were made to the effect that when used as a carrier, the plastic handle locks could unexpectedly break or release from the carrying position, causing the seat to unlatch or flip forward. When this happened, an infant could fall to the ground and suffer injuries.

The manufacturer received 416 reports of the handle locks on their car seats/carriers breaking or unlatching, resulting in injuries to 9 children. The injuries reported included bruises and scratches to the children’s heads and faces. According to the reports, some children restrained in the seat were injured.

The manufacturer made the recall in cooperation with the federal CPSC and the federal National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). In 1999, the two federal agencies and the manufacturer announced the recall of about 2 million infant car seats/carriers.

Because of the recall, the car seats/carriers are no longer on the market. Consumers who have already bought them are advised that it can be used as a car seat but not as a carrier. Consumers can obtain a free repair kit from the manufacturer.

Who Can Be Liable for Injuries Caused by a Defective Car Seat?

Generally, the manufacturer of a defective car seat can be held liable for injuries caused by a car seat if it is defective. In order for liability to be found, the car seat must have been used in the manner intended by the manufacturer, and its condition must not have been altered after it left the factory. In other words, it must be clear that the defect in the product was caused by the manufacturer and not something that was done to it by the consumer after they purchased it.

The manufacturer and distributors of a defective product can be sued for compensatory damages if the defect in their product causes serious injury or death to a consumer. These defendants would be sued on a theory of strict product liability.

A lawsuit against manufacturers and distributors might not be successful if there was an overall failure to use a child safety seat properly on the part of the consumer. There may be an exception to this, however, where the manufacturer and distributor failed to provide adequate instructions or warnings. Selling a product with inadequate instructions on how to use it safely or a lack of necessary warnings can lead to a lawsuit for a warning label defect, or marketing defect.

In a successful lawsuit for strict product liability, a person can recover money to compensate them for losses from the cost of medical treatment for injuries, wages lost due to an inability to work, the costs of rehabilitation, and the costs of future medical treatment and future lost wages. If a child were to die as a result of a defect in a child car seat, their family could sue for wrongful death.

Another option is a lawsuit for negligence. In addition, a person whose child has been injured by a defective car seat should report the incident to the manufacturer, the retailer where the car seat was purchased and the federal CPSC and any agency that concerns itself with consumer product safety in the state in which they live..

Do I Need a Lawyer for Help with Car Seat Recall Issues?

Car seats are very important for the safety of children and infants. You want to consult a qualified defective products lawyer if your child has suffered injuries because of a malfunctioning car seat.

Your attorney can help you file a lawsuit and can provide you with legal advice and guidance for your case. Also,your lawyer is familiar with the process and can represent you in negotiations and in a trial, if that should become necessary.

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