woman choosing a safe carseat

Last Updated: June 4th, 2020

Five child car safety seats tested by Consumer Reports “raised safety concerns when parts of each broke during testing.” The failures occurred when CR tested five different seats with dummies near each seat’s passenger weight limit in simulated car accidents, according to the magazine.

Consumer Reports said it “knows of no injuries related to the structural failures revealed in our crash tests.”

The five car seats are:

  • Britax Frontier ClickTight
  • Britax Pioneer
  • Cosco Finale
  • Graco Atlas 65
  • Harmony Defender 360

Consumer Reports advises parents who have these models to continue using their child car seats unless they have one to replace it. Any car seat is better than no car seat, and these seats all provide a basic margin of safety.

If your child has been injured in a car accident due to the failure of a child safety seat, you should have a knowledgeable personal injury lawyer review the situation and discuss your legal options. Ryan Bisher Ryan & Simons represents Oklahomans who have been injured by faulty consumer products as well as those injured in car accidents caused by others’ negligence.

Contact the lawyers at Ryan Bisher Ryan & Simons today to schedule a free and confidential consultation.

Car Seats That Failed Consumer Reports’ Crash Test

Five car seats cited by Consumer Reports that are raising safety concerns are toddler-booster seats used for kids who have outgrown the height or weight limits of rear-facing seats. They are initially used facing forward with a five-point harness system. After the child outgrows the harness, the seat is used as a booster with the vehicle’s seat belts.

Consumer Reports’ testers found that the load-bearing components at the rear of the seats broke when tested with dummies whose weight was near the seat’s limits for its harness system.

“In real-world crashes that are as bad — or worse — as the ones simulated in our tests, these structural failures would increase the risk that a child’s head could come into contact with some part of the vehicle’s interior, or that the child might even be ejected from the car seat,” the report says. In those cases, defective infant car seats are the most dangerous.

Additionally, the structural failure of the Cosco Finale and the Graco Atlas 65 “resulted in pieces of sharp plastic in areas that may contact the child.”

Britax told Consumer Reports that its car seats “are safe when used as intended and in accordance with the instructions and warnings contained in the user guides.” The other manufacturers said their products meet car safety seat standards published by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA).

Consumer Reports states that its child car seat test methods are purposely more stringent than the federal government tests:

“Consumer Reports’ test setup is designed to be more representative of current vehicle interiors. We place a surface in front of the child car seat that simulates how the child and seat might interact with the back of a front-row seat. Our test is run at a higher speed than NHTSA’s (35 mph vs. 30 mph). Because of that, it transfers more energy to the car seat and test dummy than the government test does. These differences from the federal requirements are intended to better represent current vehicles and highlight car seats that provide a greater margin of safety by subjecting them to a more challenging test.”

Structural components of the seats broke in CR’s tests with dummies that simulate an average 6-year-old child and either a heavier 6-year-old or 10-year-old. These standardized crash-test dummies are the same size dummies used for NHTSA compliance testing of the seats, CR says.

A car seat’s overall score reflects performance in crash tests, assessments of how easy a seat is to use, and how easy it is to securely install, based on installation tests using five different vehicle types. Ratings for 23 toddler booster seats are available with a Consumer Reports membership.

Among the seats Consumer Reports recommends are:

  • Graco Nautilus Snuglock LX
  • Evenflo Maestro Sport
  • Chicco MyFit LE

What to Do If You Have a Faulty Car Seat

If you believe you have a faulty car seat, stop using it immediately. You can visit www.recalls.gov to find out whether the car seat has been recalled. If it has been recalled, contact the seat manufacturer to find out how you can get the seat replaced or fixed. If there has not been a recall, alert the manufacturer and NHTSA to report the issue and find out what steps to take next.

It’s important to note that new car seats come with registration cards. If you have a new seat, fill out the card and send it to the manufacturer. This way, if the car seat is ever recalled, the manufacturer will be able to automatically send you a notice.

Never use a car seat you suspect is faulty.

What to Do If Your Child Is Injured Due to a Defective Car Seat

If your child suffered an injury from a defective car seat, you should contact a product liability attorney as soon as possible. You may be entitled to compensation for past and future medical bills, pain and suffering, and other losses.

If your child was injured by a faulty car seat, you may have a case against the manufacturer, supplier, distributor, or the retailer if they:

  • Failed to inspect or test car seats before putting them on the market.
  • Created a design flaw in the seat.
  • Failed to discover that flaw.
  • Failed to discover that the seat could be dangerous.
  • Failed to warn consumers of the risks of using the seat.

When you meet with a product liability attorney, they will ask you about circumstances surrounding your purchase and use of the car seat. A lawyer will also likely need to inspect the seat as well. An expert witness may be needed to testify as to whether the seat was manufactured or designed improperly. A skilled attorney will be able to find experts who can testify on your behalf.

How to Select the Right Car Seat for Your Child or Infant

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) says 625 children ages 12 years and younger in the United States died in motor vehicle crashes during a single recent year. More than 116,000 children were injured. Among those who died, 35% were not properly buckled up.

Correctly used child safety seats can reduce the risk of death in a crash by as much as 71% among infants, 54% among toddlers, and 45% among children ages 4 to 8, the CDC says.

NHTSA provides comprehensive consumer information about car seats and booster seats and their use. The three types of child safety seats are:

  • Rear-facing car seat. Infants and toddlers should be restrained in a rear-facing car seat until they reach the weight and height limits set by the manufacturer for the seat.
  • Forward-facing car seat. Toddlers and children up to age 5 should be restrained in a forward-facing car seat with a harness until they reach the weight and height limits set by the manufacturer for the seat. Some toddler seats convert into booster seats.
  • Booster seat. Children who have outgrown their forward-facing car seats should be restrained in a booster seat that properly positions the seatbelt for buckling until they reach the weight and height limits set by the manufacturer for the booster seat. Use a booster seat if the child can bend his knees comfortably over the front of the booster seat. The seat belt should fit so it is centered on the shoulder and low across the hips.

Once a child is big enough for the seatbelt to lay properly over the lap and shoulder without the use of a booster seat, the child should then be restrained with a seatbelt in the back seat.

NHTSA also suggests that you:

  • Select a car seat based on your child’s age and size, and make sure it fits in your vehicle properly. Test the car seat you plan to buy to make sure it fits well in your vehicle.
  • Always refer to your specific car seat manufacturer’s instructions (including height and weight limits) and read the vehicle owner’s manual to install the car seat using the seat belt or lower anchors and a tether, if available.
  • Use a car seat for as long as the child meets the manufacturer’s height and weight limitations.
  • Keep your child in the back seat at least through age 12.

How a Products Liability Attorney Can Help

A child who is in a car seat that fails during a crash can be injured in many ways. A young child may be injured by being thrown into structural elements of the vehicle.

Blunt force trauma may result in head injuries, including traumatic brain injury (TBI), as well as facial injuries, broken bones, and internal organ injuries. Broken glass and shorn metal in a serious crash can cause severe lacerations. A child who is not properly secured in a car seat or who is in a seat that has failed may be ejected from the vehicle in a crash, which can result in catastrophic injury or death.

In Oklahoma, the manufacturer, seller, or distributor is strictly liable for any injuries caused by a defective product, even if reasonable care was used in the product’s preparation and sale. Therefore, a parent needs to only prove that a defect in a child safety seat made it “unreasonably dangerous,” and that the defect caused their child’s injury.

Our Oklahoma City personal injury law firm has the experience and resources to pursue the maximum allowable compensation for injuries your child has suffered because of a faulty child safety seat. Products liability defendants are usually large corporations, like Graco, Costco, and Britax, with teams of defense lawyers. Our attorneys have the litigation experience to stand up to large corporations when their disregard for safety causes injuries to others.

Schedule a free consultation with Ryan Bisher Ryan & Simons today by calling us or contacting us online.

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