Unsafe cars can lead to dead children. Laws requiring seat belts and child seats have reduced child injuries and fatalities, but there is still a lot of work that automakers have to do to make cars safe for kids.
According to C.H. Taft et al., Child Passengers at Risk in America: A National Study of Car Seat Misuse National Safe Kids Campaign (February 1999), up to 90% of child seats were installed improperly. Because of the danger of airbags, children usually sit in the rear seats. If not seated properly, a child can end up dead if a frontal collision causes trunk cargo to collapse the rear seatback forward. The reason for the improper installations of child seats included poor instructions, compatibility with the cars, and complexity. There was no standard equipment in the US, as compared to other countries in the world like Canada and Europe.
A priority carmakers need to investigate is making seatbelts fit and perform well in the event of a crash. The consequences of poor fit are serious to the manufacturer and retailers who can be sued for products liability. Uncomfortable belts may not be worn by the child. The child is a foreseeable plaintiff of a manufacturer or retailer though the child may not be the owner or purchaser of a car. An improperly fit belt can also present a danger to a child. Some carmakers advise parents if the shoulder belt cuts across a child’s neck to place it behind the back. However, safety experts suggest shoulder belts should never be placed behind the back.
Belt effectiveness depends on the seatbelt remaining on the hard bones of the body, such as the hip bone and shoulder bones. This transfers accident forces to the bones to avoid vulnerable parts like the head and abdomen. A seatbelt that does not work properly could result in a child suffering brain injuries, organ damage, or death.
Cars can pose dangers to children even when not on the road. For example, automatic windows can leave a child strangled. Window switches should be designed like garage door openers to make it accidentally difficult to close the window when there is an object in the way.
It is up to parents, drivers, and automakers to protect children in cars. When a child dies in a car, each party who plays a role in keeping the child safe may be held accountable for any wrongful death of the child.
To learn more about what to you or a loved one can recover in a wrongful death claim, contact an experienced Hawaii personal injury attorney.