Child car seats are absolutely essential safety gear for small children. Ordinary built-in seatbelts are designed with average adult proportions in mind, so they don’t work well for people who are less than about five feet tall. They also can’t provide the level of protection that younger children’s delicate necks require.
Many new parents go to extremes to make sure every aspect of their child’s environment is safe. The process of anticipating everything that could go wrong is stressful and exhausting, but the scariest part of all is eventually having to trust others — including for-profit companies — to put that same level of care into ensuring the child’s safety. A parent can do their homework, follow every rule and recommendation, and still see their child become a victim of someone else’s carelessness, incompetence, or greed.
Defective children’s car seats are the kind of nightmare no family should ever have to face in real life, but they’re also a serious problem in the industry. While a well-designed car seat can keep a child as safe as, if not safer than, an adult wearing a seatbelt, many car seats sold to U.S parents have later been found to pose choking or laceration hazards, or fall apart on impact.
If you’re in the sudden and horrible position of needing a defective car seat attorney, the first thing you need to know is that you are not alone, you were not unreasonable for expecting your child’s safety gear to function as advertised, and you are not wrong for wanting to hold the company that hurt your child accountable, even if they can never truly repair the damage.
Below, we’ll go over some children’s car seat laws and regulations, common types of defective car seats, and the legal rights of parents and children affected by defective car seat accidents. If you’d rather speak directly with a defective car seat lawyer in Georgia, reach out by phone or chat at any time.
Riding in a Car Carries Risk for Everyone, but Children Are Especially Vulnerable
Car accidents are the leading cause of death for people between the ages of 1 and 13, and the inability to use standard seatbelts comfortably and effectively is a major part of why. Well-made, age-appropriate car seats used correctly every time are the best tool available to combat this problem and keep kids safe on the road.
Children who are not properly secured in a car seat are about 350% more likely to be seriously injured if an accident occurs. According to one 2018 survey performed by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), about one third of the children under 13 who died in car accidents that year were not wearing restraints at all.
Too often, the responsibility to protect children from car accidents is placed solely on parents, but the companies who provide car seats also have a responsibility to make sure their products work and, ideally, are intuitive to use.
Child Car Seats Are Subject to Federal and State Safety Regulations
All children’s car seats sold in the U.S are legally required to meet a complex and detailed set of minimum safety standards. In terms of design, car seats must, among other criteria:
- Support the passenger’s head
- Include belts over the lap, both shoulders, and for some weight ranges, both legs
- Have abrasion-resistant straps and webbing that meet minimum strength requirements for their purposes
- Fit any child within the seat’s recommended age/weight range snugly and securely
- Carry permanent labels with instructions, warnings, the manufacturer’s name and location, the unit’s model number, and the weight range it is intended for
Before receiving safety certification, car seats must also be able to withstand crash testing without:
- Load-bearing parts becoming separated
- Adjustable parts changing position
- Openings or gaps suddenly closing, potentially on a child’s fingers
- The seat and backrest folding the passenger into a sitting angle of less than 45 degrees
- Subjecting the passenger to more than 60 Gs of force for three milliseconds
Beyond manufacture and testing, there are also laws governing the use of car seats, though these vary at the state level. Georgia requires all children to ride in car seats until they reach the age of eight or a height of 4’9”, whichever comes first.
Making sure children are well-protected within vehicles is a matter of life and death on a massive scale. Companies that claim to help with this effort but in fact do the opposite by ignoring federal regulations deserve to have their ill-gotten profits returned to the families they’ve wronged.
The Child Car Seat Industry Has a Serious Counterfeiting Problem
Although it’s illegal to sell a car seat in the U.S that has not been properly tested and certified, the shift from bricks and mortar stores to online shopping has unfortunately made it much easier for noncompliant seats to reach consumers.
Unlike physical stores, online marketplace platforms, such as Amazon, are not required to vet the products they carry and are not usually liable for the harm they cause. Many of the manufacturers who use these platforms are located overseas and do not adhere to U.S safety standards.
This isn’t just an issue of substandard brands becoming available to unsuspecting U.S consumers who haven’t thoroughly researched the pros and cons and reputations of every possible option. Some of these sellers deliberately impersonate legitimate brands and imitate the appearance of their products, but not the quality. Companies can typically report fraudulent product listings and have them taken down, but as soon as one ad is removed, another will usually take its place.
Consumer Reports offers a guide on what a genuine safety-certified car seat’s label should look like, but some forgeries can be quite convincing, especially to someone unfamiliar with standard labeling.
No company that chooses to distribute in the U.S is exempt from U.S law, but these overseas companies can be quite a bit more difficult to track down and hold accountable in court. If your child was hurt by an uncertified or counterfeit car seat, you’ll need to look specifically for a defective car seat attorney who understands the process for suing internationally and isn’t intimidated by the extra steps or barriers involved. The Stoddard Firm has experience with international investigations and suits, and is familiar with the relevant local laws in the most common countries of origin for counterfeit products.
Even Brand-Name Car Seats Don’t Always Meet Necessary Standards
The U.S safety certification process for car seats is one of the more rigorous in the world, but problems still slip past it on a fairly regular basis. Parents can go to a physical store, pay hundreds of dollars, take home a genuine product from a trusted major brand, and still not be sure that their child is getting adequate protection on the road.
In March of 2021, Diono recalled a batch of booster seats that were prone to cracking between the headrest and backrest. Four years earlier, the same company also recalled over half a million car seats for potentially failing to protect children if used in one possible configuration.
Britax issued three recalls in the course of three years (2015-2017), once for straps that could loosen unintentionally, once for a defective handle that could cause fall accidents when children were being carried outside of a vehicle, and once for a buckle with small pieces that could break off and pose a choking hazard.
Other recall reasons by various companies over the last ten years have included:
- Missing or incomplete instructions
- Straps and rivets that break under the stress of normal use, or are not securely attached
- Buckles that don’t engage completely and can open under stress
- Buckles that jam shut, making it difficult to remove the child from the vehicle in an emergency
Many of these defects made the seats noncompliant with federal regulations, but were still not discovered until after testing. Thankfully, most car seat recalls are issued before any serious injuries actually take place, but the danger still exists every moment that a family uses a car seat with a flaw that hasn’t been discovered or announced.
If your child was injured by an overlooked defect in a major brand’s car seat, the manufacturer is still responsible for putting an unsafe product on the market, even briefly, and even if it passed all mandatory testing.
Car Seat Manufacturers Have a Duty to Make Sure Their Products Are Compliant and Safe
As extensive as federal car seat standards are, sometimes flaws come up in new products that aren’t explicitly covered in the rules. This doesn’t mean, however, that the company is immune to liability until the standards are updated.
All manufacturers are legally responsible for making sure their products are effective for their advertised purpose, and as safe to use as reasonably possible. Regardless of any specific regulations, if someone gets hurt in a way that could have been foreseen, because of a flawed product that could have been corrected, the company selling the product is liable for the damages.
Wherever your defective car seat came from, whether or not it was properly certified, whether its defect was similar to others before it or something completely new, the bottom line is, if a car seat injured your child or failed to protect them as intended, you almost certainly have a case.
The Stoddard Firm Has Defective Car Seat Attorneys Who Can Help You Get the Compensation You Deserve
Selecting the right lawyer to sue a defective car seat manufacturer is a decision that could affect your child’s entire medical and financial future, or in the case of a fatal accident, your family’s freedom to grieve in peace. It’s crucial to find someone who understands the car seat industry and its regulations, and who cares deeply about finding justice for victims of commercial apathy and greed.
The Stoddard Firm advocates for victims of defective car seats passionately and knowledgeably. We’re experts in personal injury and product liability, and we have experience pursuing cases across borders and oceans if that’s what it takes. We’ll investigate exactly how your child was injured, who could have prevented it, and how, so we can explain the manufacturer’s liability in terms judges and juries respect. We’ll also work to make sure the full consequences of the injury are understood and accounted for in your final compensation. Whether your child is facing a short but painful recovery or a lifelong disability, you shouldn’t have to worry about your settlement running out while your costs continue.
We’re also experienced in wrongful death cases. We know how disheartening it is to try to put a dollar value on the most irreparable kind of loss, and how hard it can be to manage the pressure of legal proceedings at the same time as unimaginable grief. During these cases, we focus on keeping the work of litigation on our shoulders instead of our clients’, winning them the resources they need to mourn in their own time with as few additional burdens as possible, and bringing negligent companies to justice.
If you’d like to speak with a defective car seat attorney in Georgia right now to learn more about your rights and options, just call 678-RESULT or reach out through our online chat function for a free consultation.