When it comes to consumer safety, many people are aware that product liability laws set the boundaries for when a manufacturer or seller is liable for injuries, and when a consumer’s actions may negate liability. But when it comes to children’s toys, the parameters are different.
Kids lack the mental awareness to know when a product is defective, and even when a product is not physically defective they may use it or certain parts in an unsafe manner. The result can mean that a child suffers an injury that can cause them short or long-term harm. Here is a short guide to the most common hazards and injuries that come with children’s toys, and how this intersects with product liability law.
What are Some of the Most Common Dangerous Toys?
Some toys are dangerous due to a defect in the manufacturing or assembly process, while others may be dangerous by design, with no abnormality in the product itself. The younger the child is, the more likely that a toy may cause certain harms. Some of the most common dangers and defects in children’s toys include:
- Choking Hazards: The younger kids are, the more likely they are to put things, including toys, in the mouth. Small toys and toys with detachable parts are choking hazards if they are small enough for a child to fit it into their mouths.
- Toys with Projectiles: Older kids may play with BB guns, airsoft guns, or paintball guns, which come with obvious dangers. But even toys with softer projectiles like rubber or foam can still cause injury if used improperly, such as aiming at the face or eyes.
- Extreme Sports Gear: Dirtbikes, skateboards, scooters, and other sporting vehicles popular with younger people can cause dangerous falls and other injuries, which are only exacerbated if the product is poorly made.
- Strangulation Risks: Toys with cords, loops, or fabrics that can be undone can become wound around a child’s limbs or neck.
- Sharp and Pointed Objects: Toys with sharp edges or pointed parts can cause stab wounds or lacerations if the toy’s material is hard or durable.
- Toxic Materials: While not as common as it was in the past, if a company makes their product with a dangerous material like lead, ingestion can cause children to suffer poisoning.
Although these are common injury causes, there are many more ways that a dangerous toy can cause harm to a child.
How Does Product Liability Law Apply to Dangerous Toys?
Although every jurisdiction may classify and define terms differently, legally actionable defects usually fall into one of three general categories: manufacturing defect, design defect, or lack of (or ineffective) warning label.
Manufacturing defects occur during the making or assembly of a product, when for some reason the good (or a part of it) doesn’t adhere to the design and causes it to malfunction in some way. Design defects, on the other hand, address problems in how the product was meant to be manufactured. The latter addresses faulty blueprints, the former faulty materials.
The final category can be a little tricky. Knowing what warning labels are sufficient often depends on the type of toy and age category it is intended for. Many toy manufacturers now place recommended age ranges on their products to warn parents that some may be hazardous for younger kids. These labels are more for the parents than for the children, after all, it is the parents who buy and approve the toys their kids can play with.
Can I Collect Damages After a Dangerous Toy Injury?
To put a greater emphasis on consumer safety, the law allows a plaintiff to seek damages through a strict liability principle. In order to succeed, they need to prove:
- The product was unreasonably unsafe/dangerous when it was designed, made, or sold
- The retailer/seller expected and intended product to reach consumers unchanged, and
- The plaintiff was injured by the product.
No proof of a defendant’s negligent or reckless action needs to be shown. The sheer amount of work and expertise it would take to specify the unreasonable conduct that led to the injury would create a nearly unclimbable mountain for consumers. The strict liability approach is usually the best choice when it comes to seeking damages for toy injuries, but in a few states a negligence claim might fit better based on the facts. A lawyer will be able to tell you which claim would best fit your situation.
As for who to file the lawsuit against, products liability law holds the entire supply chain responsible for consumer harms. That means the retailer, distributor, assemblers, and the manufacturer can be held liable for damages. This allows the plaintiff to continue to seek damages even if one link in the chain goes bankrupt, for example.
Do I Need an Attorney for a Dangerous Toy Lawsuit?
If your child has suffered an injury due to a dangerous or defective toy, you are entitled to seek compensation for their medical bills and other losses. Every state has different laws on products liability and other personal injury claims, so seeking the expertise of a consumer lawyer is a key first step to recovery for you and your family. They will protect your rights and be your advocate every step of the way.