Child Car Seat Defects

When buying a new car, it is advised that a customer asks what safety features his/her choice car is equipped with, besides the mandated seat belt, airbag and child safety seat. These three are crash-safety devices and manufacturers have long been required by the federal government to make sure that cars are equipped with these features which are meant to keep vehicle occupants from sustaining serious or fatal injuries during crashes.

A car that has a defective design or part is always a threat, first to the safety of its driver and occupants and, second to everyone else on the road. Unfortunately, despite the minimum performance requirements for car parts that are laid down by the Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards (FMVSS), the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s (NHTSA’s) duty to ensure that car manufacturers comply with federal standards on vehicle safety and excellence, and car manufacturers’ legal duty to make sure that every unit of vehicle that leaves their plant is safe and can keep drivers and occupants safe, so many cars with defects continue to be sold and purchased by unsuspecting buyers. Due to the threats presented by these defects, recalls have been ordered by the NHTSA since 1966 which affected more than 390 million mopeds, motorcycles, recreational vehicles, buses, trucks and cars; 66 million pieces of motor vehicle parts; 46 million tires; and, 42 million child safety seats.

In 2013 alone, NHTSA records show 22 million vehicles recalled by more than 10 car manufacturers due to defective parts; these specifically included seat belts, tires, steering wheel, brake pads, wipers, child seats and air bags that deploy despite the vehicle not crashing; there was also a case in which gas leaked from the engine, increasing risk of fire. These 22 million vehicle recalls in 2013 was still lower, however, compared to 30.8 million recalls made by NHTSA in 2004.

One specific car part that can probably cause the worst harm, if defective, is child car-seat. In 2003, after receiving 2,700 reports of malfunctioning car seats and more than 200 reports of related injuries, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) and the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) decided on recalling four million infant car seats/carriers: the defect was on the product’s handles, which could fail to properly lock or break during ordinary use. In 2014, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 602 children aged 12 or below died as occupants in motor vehicle crashes,while more than 121,350 were injured.

While child car seats have generally saved millions of infants from injury or death, some have actually been causes of injuries and/or death too. This, according to Chicago auto accident attorneys, is because car defects aren’t detected until the time of a crash, allowing for a greater risk of an unanticipated, life-threatening injury. The presence of defects, however, only means that a manufacturer has failed to uphold the safety regulations aimed at protecting consumers. This renders him/her liable for the harm that results from his/her defective product.

The family of a child, who is injured because of a defective child safety seat, may grounds for a product liability claim. Filing a claim, however, more so, proving that the injury was due to a defective part is not easy. This will definitely require expert opinion from forensics scientists, mechanical experts and a highly-skilled attorney to prove that the family has a valid product liability claim.

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