As a parent, ensuring your small child is safe whenever you hit the road is often a primary concern. To accomplish that goal, it is important to make sure that the car seat you’re using is completely safe and appropriate for your child’s size. Sometimes, though, the safety hazard comes not from your car seat but from your vehicle itself. If your child has been seriously injured (or worse) in a vehicle crash, it’s possible that an improper restraint was part of the problem. If that’s the case, then your situation may entitle you to seek justice through legal action. An experienced Portland child injury lawyer can provide you with crucial answers to your questions and advise you about possible next steps.
Currently, the industry standard for attaching car seats to vehicles is the LATCH (a/k/a Lower, Anchors & Tethers for Children) system. The system involves connecting the car seat to a set of metal anchors (built into the vehicle’s seats and seat backs) using tethers and clips attached to the car seat.
LATCH has now been in existence for more than two decades (dating back to the latter half of 2002,) yet issues with LATCH car seats remain. In late May, a product recall targeted some of Baby Trend’s hybrid child seats. According to the recall, the LATCH “assembly webbing that secures the child restraint system to the lower anchorages may fray, which can reduce the strength of the webbing and fail to properly restrain a child in a crash.” Due to that lack of strength, the seats failed to meet the requirements of two Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards: “Child Restraint Systems” (number 213) and “Seat Belt Assemblies” (number 209).
Car seat makers aren’t the only ones whose products can place children at risk. Recently, General Motors issued a recall of more than 660,000 SUVs because they weren’t sufficiently safe for use with LATCH car seats, according to Kelley Blue Book. The recall indicated that some GMC and Chevrolet SUVs came off the assembly line with too much powder coating on the LATCH anchors. That excess potentially made the anchors too thick to allow a car seat to attach properly to them.
Correcting the problem involves removing and replacing the powder coat finish on the problematic anchors. GM stated that, to its knowledge, no accidents or injuries involving the defective anchors had occurred.
The Many Possible Permutations of a Product Liability Lawsuit
If you (or a loved one) suffered catastrophic harm because a product failed to function as it should, the law in Oregon allows you to pursue a product liability lawsuit. These cases can focus on negligent design, negligent manufacturing, or negligence related to labels and instructions (or some combination of the above.) These lawsuits potentially can name multiple responsible parties, including the manufacturer of the defective part, the manufacturer of the whole product, a wholesaler, or possibly even a retailer.
The law in Oregon gives injured people only a limited time to file a product liability lawsuit. In some cases, that period is two years from the point when you discovered (or should have discovered) the injury and the defective product’s role in causing the harm.
There are other factors, however, that can alter the length of the limitations period. If, for example, the defect caused a fatality, then your product liability action for death has a deadline of the earliest of (a) three years after the discovery of “the causal relationship between the death and the product, or the causal relationship between the death and the conduct of the” negligent party, or three years after the causal relationship should have been discovered, (b) 10 years “after the date on which the product was first purchased for use or consumption,” or (c) the “expiration of any statute of repose for an equivalent civil action” arising from the law of the state where the manufacturer made the product (or the law of the foreign country if the product was imported. (Statutes of repose are laws that impose additional bases upon which a lawsuit may be declared untimely. For example, Iowa has a product liability statute of limitations that says that you only have two years from the date you discovered (or should have discovered) that you had a claim and a statute of repose that says that you cannot pursue a product liability claim more than 15 years after the date the product was first purchased, leased, or installed for use by the manufacturer, regardless of the date of discovery.)
Two years or three years may sound like a long time. In the context of civil lawsuits, though, it’s actually not. If you think your child was hurt by a defective product, you shouldn’t wait to get the information you need. The experienced Oregon child injury attorneys at Kaplan Law LLC are here to provide you with essential knowledge about your legal issues and, if legal action is needed, to advocate zealously for you. Call us today at (503) 226-3844 or contact us online to set up your free consultation.