Monday, January 08, 2007

Car Seat Blues

Pasted at the bottom is an article about parents being held liable for their child's injury because they incorrectly strapped in his car seat. Ironically, in this case the parents are hoping they ARE held liable because they want their insurance company to pay their son a settlement. While I certainly would like this family to get the money they need for the child's longterm care, I'm disturbed by the precedent this would set in holding parents responsible for car seat injuries, especially in light of this, which I came across this morning.

Car seats are so difficult to install properly that it's estimated 80 percent are in wrong. Is it responsible for the government to require us to buy a product, for manufacturers to sell a product, that is THAT difficult to use safely? And according to the article I linked to, most car seats fail in crashes well below freeway speeds anyway. So how could parents possibly be held legally responsible for injuries a child incurs in a car seat that may well have happened even if the thing was installed correctly?

Safe seats for infants and children need to be built into cars, so parents aren't left with the nearly impossible task of installing them. The only good thing I can see coming out of this case -- if insurance companies are going to be stuck paying when their customers incorrectly install car seats, maybe they'll put up money toward subsidizing built-in seats to avoid some of these injury settlements.,1,2052251.story
It's son, 8, vs. parents in court
In legal gambit, mom and dad of child seriously injured in crash are hoping that they lose case over improperly installed car seat

From Tribune news services

January 8, 2007

MINNEAPOLIS -- On one side is an 8-year-old boy, grievously injured five years ago in a traffic accident.

On the other are his parents, who have been sued by the boy in the hopes of forcing the family's insurance company to pay off a $100,000 policy.

The lawsuit reached the Minnesota Supreme Court last week, and the court's ruling, expected later this year, could have a ripple effect on anyone in the state who straps a child into a car seat.

Amy and Ted Harrison Sr. are being sued over a car crash that left their son permanently disabled, and they hope they lose the case now before the high court.

The plaintiff is their son, Teddy Harrison, who was 3 years old when he was thrown from his mother's SUV during an accident in 2001. His car seat wasn't buckled properly. He suffered brain damage and is now confined to a wheelchair.

Teddy's lawsuit was filed by his grandmother on his behalf.

The case could make it easier for parents of injured children to collect from insurance companies in certain instances, but caregivers and insurers could find themselves facing financial responsibility if a child gets hurt while riding in an improperly installed car seat.

And motorists involved in wrecks with child-carrying drivers could try to skirt financial responsibility by pointing to a parent's negligent car-seat use.

"It's not just a case about the Harrisons and Teddy. This is a case that could affect all other drivers going forward," said attorney William Davidson, who was hired by Progressive insurance company to represent the parents.

The case turns on how the high court interprets Minnesota's so-called "gag rule," which bars evidence about the use of seat belts and child seats in personal-injury lawsuits.

That law was amended to allow evidence "that involves a defectively designed, manufactured, installed or operating ... child passenger restraint system."

The gag rule was enacted in 1963 to encourage carmakers to install seat belts by protecting them against liability claims concerning defective belts. At that time, the effectiveness of seat belts was still unproven.

Attorneys for Teddy Harrison argue that exception should make it possible for him to sue his parentsand by extension, their insurance company.

Attorneys for the Harrisons and the Progressive insurance firm counter that the exception applies only to car seat manufacturers.

According to Kay Hunt, the lawyer representing Teddy Harrison, "if we win, it means these kinds of lawsuits can go forward. If he loses, Teddy gets nothing."

Although the lawsuit would appear to pit parents against their son, an undisclosed settlement already has been reached by both sides, the size of which will be determined based on how the high court rules.

During oral arguments before the Supreme Court on Thursday, Davidson argued that the Minnesota Safety Council estimates that more than 80 percent of child car seats in the state aren't correctly installed.

Copyright © 2007, Chicago Tribune

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

As I am 36.5 weeks pregnant, I have been paying much attention to the car seat debate lately... Note that in the Consumer Report re: car seats, they tested using the LATCH system. Many of the seats ARE considered safe when used with the car's seatbelts... the LATCH system was supposed to make it 'easier' to install the seats. Not so much. Oh, and the report was for the rear facing infant seats. The convertible seats (infant-toddler) are, I believe, still considered safe.

As for the injured boy... the parents are to blame so they should be compensated??? huh. interesting.

~Rae-Anne in Maine