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When Poorly Made or Installed Car Seats Lead to Severe Child Injury

Sep 20th, 2021

In June 2021, a mother and her 3-year-old child were tragically killed in a car accident in North Carolina after the mother fell asleep at the wheel. According to the State Troopers, the child died because the child’s car seat was not properly installed.

This heartbreaking story is just one of many underscoring the fact that child vehicle safety remains an ongoing issue. According to the NHTSA, an estimated 351 children under age 13 were injured in vehicle accidents in 2019, and an average of two children died per day. Car crashes are currently the number one cause of death among children under age 13. This disturbing trend recently prompted a coalition of 17 state Attorneys General to send a letter to the NHTSA calling for an improvement in child seat safety. Since September 19 to 25 is Child Passenger Safety Week, it’s a good time to explore the issue of child car seats, how children are still at risk, and how to keep them safer.

Common Causes for Child Passenger Injury

Child car seats are intended to keep our children safe in the car—but numerous variables must come into play to make sure that happens. When any of these factors is not right, it raises the risk for severe child injuries and even death. The common reasons for children getting injured include:

Improper Installation

According to the CDC, an average of 46 percent of child car seats and booster seats are installed incorrectly, sometimes with devastating results. It doesn’t even take a high-speed crash for children to get hurt. Just a minor bump or sudden stop in traffic can cause them to be injured if the seat is not properly installed.

Child Not Properly Restrained

If the child is not restrained in the car seat exactly according to the manufacturer’s instructions, the seat is not effective in protecting the child. Whether it is incorrectly fitted belts, loose harnesses, or simply leaving the buckle unfastened—these all put the child at risk.

Wrong Seat for the Child’s Size/Weight

Different car seats are specifically designed to restrain children of a certain weight and height. When adults use a car seat that is too big or small for a child, they cannot expect the seat to protect the child properly in an accident.

Defective Car Seat Designs/Defects

There’s a running list of recalls for child car seats that have been found to be flawed in their design or manufacturing. If you use a car seat that is defective, it may fail to protect your child. (See here for a list of current recalls.)

Side-Impact Crashes

At present, most car seats don’t offer sufficient protection for children from side-impact crashes. This makes these impacts the most likely causes of death for children. (This is one issue the Attorneys General are asking the NHTSA to address.)

Tips for Improving Child Passenger Safety

There’s never an absence of risk for children and other passengers in a car. However, you can take steps and precautions to improve the odds of keeping your child safe. Some tips that will help:

  • Use a car seat that is designated for your child’s age, size, and weight.
  • Make sure the car seat is properly installed, and that you know how to secure your child in it. Get instruction if necessary, and some local fire stations offer assistance with installation.
  • Check the recall lists regularly to make sure your car seat is not under recall. If it is, replace it.

Has your child suffered an injury in an accident due to the negligence or bad actions of another? You might be able to file a personal injury claim to obtain needed compensation for the costs of recovery as well as pain and suffering. If your child is injured due to an otherwise properly installed car seat, you may have a product liability claim against the maker of the car seat. Our personal injury and product liability attorneys will work on your child’s behalf to hold the responsible parties to account. Call our offices to discuss your case today.