Motor vehicle crashes are a leading cause of death for children in the United States. The proper use of child safety seats, booster seats, and seat belts can reduce the likelihood of a child experiencing serious or fatal injuries if involved in a crash. A booster seat is a child safety seat that is designed to elevate the child so that the adult lap and shoulder belt will fit better. Booster seats are considered the last step prior to transitioning a child to using only an adult lap/shoulder combination seat belt.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) is the United States’ Federal agency responsible for setting and enforcing safety performance standards for motor vehicles and motor vehicle equipment such as child safety seats and booster seats. Their goal is to reduce the number of deaths, injuries, and economic losses associated with motor vehicle accidents.
The American Academy of Pediatrics and the NHTSA recommend that children continue to use forward facing child safety seats until they reach the maximum height or weight allowed by their specific seat manufacturer. Recent safety advancements have improved forward facing child seats, allowing them to accommodate children as big as 65 to 80 pounds.
Despite these recommendations, many booster seat manufacturers advertise that their seats offer an adequate level of safety for smaller children. In some cases, manufacturers claim that children as young as one-year-old and as small as 30 pounds can safely use their seats. This attempt to sell more of their product compromises the safety of the very children they claim to protect. Children who are too small to use booster seats are placed at risk of ejection or catastrophic injury in the event of a crash.
Booster seat manufacturers must be held responsible for the danger they impose on these small children. Holding them accountable will force them to market their seats in accordance with the safety regulations of the NHTSA and the American Academy of Pediatrics. By filing a child safety seat lawsuit against the seat manufacturers and/or retailers, we can hold these manufacturers accountable and keep our children safe.
The Facts About Child Safety Seats
When the NHTSA began requiring automakers to incorporate outboard rear passenger lap/shoulder combination seat belts in their vehicles, booster seats became a poplar choice for families with children who had outgrown their forward facing car seat. Prior to the introduction of booster seats, children used adult lap/shoulder combination belts that did not fit them. Studies have shown when children who have outgrown their forward facing car seat are placed in a booster seat, their likelihood of being injured in a crash is 45 percent less than children using a lap/shoulder combination belt alone.
Forward facing child restraint systems incorporate a five-point harness with straps that secure at the shoulders, across the upper thighs, and between the child’s legs. Forward facing car seats are attached to a motor vehicle using an upper tether and either internal latches or the vehicle’s lap and shoulder belt system. Unlike booster seats, forward facing car seats prevent forward movement in the event of a crash. The five-point harness also greatly reduces the likelihood that a child will be ejected and eliminates the possibility of a lap or shoulder belt injuring the child’s neck or abdomen.
The standards of safety of child car seats are regulated by NTHSA. However, booster seats are still not properly tested. Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Statute 213 (FMVSS 213) is the first federal standard for child safety seats adopted by NHTSA in 1971. Harnessed child restraint systems were added to FMVSS 213 in 1981. Booster seats were added in 1994, however booster seats are still tested to the same standards for harness seats that were added in 1981. There is no specific standard in FMVSS 213 to test what a belt positioning booster seat is supposed to do and no standard that ensures that the vehicle’s lap/shoulder belt is in the correct position. Manufacturers are aware of this. But most consumers are not.
Filing a Child Safety Seat Lawsuit May Be the Answer
In the United States in 2014, 603 children under the age of 12 were killed in motor vehicle accidents and 121,350 were injured. Children still small enough to use a forward facing car seat that are placed in a booster seat instead are at risk of suffering catastrophic injuries, and the likelihood of the child’s ejection from the vehicle is much greater.
This January in Princeton, KY, and father and his five-year-old son both experienced serious injury when their vehicle struck a deer that darted out in the road in front of them on Kentucky Highway 293. Their vehicle hit an embankment, rolled over, and landed right-side up in a driveway. The boy was buckled into a child safety seat in the backseat of the car. He was rushed by ambulance to the Caldwell County Hospital.
A car crash in Meade County, KY killed two small children on February 8, 2017. The car they were riding in went into a spin, crossed the center line, and collided with an SUV. The one-year-old was pronounced dead at the scene. The three-year-old and the woman driving the car were rushed to Harrison County Hospital where the three-year-old was pronounced dead.
It’s difficult to discern at this point if the above two accident injuries could have been avoided had the children been seated in safer car seats, but the fact that both children sustained injuries despite being in car seats points to one fact– child safety seats aren’t as safe as many parents and product manufacturers believe. Irresponsible marketing and defective car seats can leave children unprotected in the event of a dangerous motor vehicle crash. Child safety seat manufacturers can be held accountable for the damages that result from the risks they selfishly and carelessly impose on small children.
If your child was injured in a car accident while buckled safely in a car seat, contact Thomas Law Offices to find out if legal recourse is a possible option for your family. Tad Thomas and his team are dedicated to holding manufacturers responsible for their decisions that place innocent families at risk. Contact our experienced legal team today for a free, zero-obligation consultation of your case. Together we can work to ensure that every child riding in every vehicle is safe.