Traveling in your car with kids is inevitable. Whether you are grocery shopping or heading over to your parents’ for thanksgiving, you will have to travel with your kids.

And while you do not leave the house hoping to be in an accident, you have to keep them safe in the car to ensure that they are not at risk of injuries should an accident occur. Young children are particularly prone to restlessness and are unlikely to stay in the same position throughout your journey.

Most parents secure their children while traveling using harnesses or booster seats. These seats are designed to ensure children are protected from severe injuries in case of an accident.

However, some of these products fail to perform as expected, giving parents a false sense of security when using them.

Consumer Alert Now alerts consumers about defective products and helps you join a class action suit in case you are injured after using a defective product.

The Role of Booster Seats

Regular seats inside cars are designed for adult passengers. They are not safe for children since the seat belt cannot sufficiently hold them to the seat. The size and weight of the child make it impossible for them to fit in a regular seat. Children are also prone to restlessness during travel and are likely to get off their seats or sit in awkward positions that could be life-threatening if an accident occurs.

Children are smaller and shorter; therefore, they cannot be protected by these seats in case of an accident. Booster seats lift children so that the seat belt fits across the strong bones of the chest and pelvis.

If you were to place a child in a car without a car seat or a booster seat, the seat belt would go across the belly and neck, which places the child at a high risk of injury and death during a crash.

Booster seats come in various styles, including:

  • Belt-positioning boosters raise the height of the child so that your child can safely use the seat belt. These seats can be high-back boosters or backless depending on the child's size and the type of seat in your car.
  • Combination seats come with harnesses and can be used as belt-positioning seats or safety seats.

Car seats and booster seats come in different makes to serve children of different weight and height ranges.

Manufacturers of these products must design booster seats that meet the federal and state regulations for states where they intend to market their products.

However, some manufacturers misrepresent information about the safety of their booster seats, putting children at unnecessary risk of injury and death. 

Evenflo and Graco are two booster seat manufacturers whose products have come under scrutiny for the misrepresentation of these products' safety.

Evenflo Big Kid Booster Seat

Evenflo is one of the biggest manufacturers of booster seats for children that has come under scrutiny and been the subject of lawsuits for prioritizing profits over children's safety.

The Big kid booster seat is currently the subject of several lawsuits around the county, with the plaintiffs asserting that the company made misrepresentations to the product's safety.

An investigation report by ProPublica indicates that the Big Kid booster fails in several ways, including:

  • The company claims that the booster seat is safe for children weighing 30 pounds, while previous accidents and research indicate that the seats are suitable for children weighing at least 40 pounds.
  • Evenflo claims that its seats are passed through "rigorous" side-impact testing and are beyond the federal government's standards for booster seats. However, in this claim, the manufacturer fails to disclose that the federal government does not require booster seats to be tested for their protection in case of a side-impact collision. The tests used to test the protectiveness of these seats against side-impact collisions are substandard as well.
  • Evenflo rejected advice from their engineer, Eric Dahle, about the safety of their product.

The false claims from the company about their side-impact tests are misleading to parents, who strive to protect their children from the consequences of side-impact collisions. Side-impact collisions were responsible for more than 25% of children younger than 15 years who were killed in vehicle accidents.

Based on their tests, the seat is safe for side-impact accidents if the child-sized dummy does not fall off to the floor. During the tests, the child-sized dummy slips out of the shoulder belt onto the seat.

With such movement and the forces of a side-impact crash, the child could suffer severe neck, head, and spinal injuries. Decapitation is a likely result of such a movement. 

Reports by complainants indicate that Evenflo was aware of the risks their booster seat posed to small children. However, the company continued marketing this booster seat without recalling the defective product or informing customers of the risks associated with using the Big Kid booster seat.

Graco Booster Seats

Graco is also a top manufacturer of booster seats and a competitor of Evenflo. Like Evenflo, Graco marketed its TurboBooster and Affix booster seats as ideal for children under 40 pounds. The manufacturer also advertised these seats as capable of reducing the risk of injury or death from side-impact crashes.

Like Evenflo, Graco purports to have passed their seats through rigorous tests to ascertain that their seats protect children from the risk of severe injuries in side-impact crashes. What this company fails to tell parents is that the company itself designs the tests, and the pass bar is set too low for any of their products to fail. These tests are never publicized or shared with the public, who could analyze them to decide whether they could take the risk of purchasing these products.

Lawsuits against these companies point out the deceptive and manipulative marketing tactics used in promoting defective booster seats. As for Graco, their TurboBooster and Affix booster seats are deceptively labeled as ideal for children aged three and weighing 30 pounds, which contrasts with the federal regulations (the NHTSA recommends that children use rear-facing booster seats until they are four years or weigh at least 40 pounds or the maximum weight limit allowed by the rear-facing car seat).

Graco is also accused of withholding safety information from its American consumer after issuing a warning to its Canadian users about the weight limits for their TurboBooster and Affix booster seat.

Both companies are guilty of putting profits before children's safety by concealing vital safety information and using deceptive marketing tactics to sell their defective products.

Parents across the country have lost their children or are nursing children with permanent injuries such as paralysis after being injured while using these defective booster seats. If you are one of these parents, you can sue the company individually or through a class action suit with similar parents.

Federal Regulations

Both Graco and Evenflo claim that their booster seats go above the federal government laws on car restraint systems, including incorporating side-impact testing to ensure that their booster seats are as safe as they can be for children. However, they fail to mention that federal regulations do not have any tests for side-impact protection of booster seats; therefore, they create their tests that are too cheap to fail.

Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard 213 provides the requirements that child restraint systems must meet for the seats to be used in cars.

The legislation has been subject to modifications over the years, with the most recent being in 2003. Federal laws on booster seats include:

  • Booster seat manufacturers shall not recommend booster seats for children weighing less than 13.6 kg (30 pounds). The manufacturer must also provide the minimum and maximum weight and height restrictions for their booster seats.
  • The manufacturer shall provide information on the recommended type of vehicle where the parent or caregiver can use the booster seat.
  • The manufacturer must provide information about the placement of the belt, depending on the car type. For example, the manufacturer should inform caregivers whether to use both the shoulder and lap belt or position the shoulder belt behind the child.

These laws also provide regulations on the types of dummies manufacturers should use and the labeling instructions.

While there are recommendations to include side-impact testing for booster seats, laws have yet to include them as part of the legislation that manufacturers should obey. 

Booster Seat Recommendations

The American Academy of Pediatrics is a body of family physicians who offer parents and caregivers important information to help them prevent injury to their children. The AAP identifies the risks children face when traveling in passenger vehicles. Some of the recommendations include:

  • Parents should keep infants and toddlers in rear-facing car seats until they reach the maximum weight or height recommended by the manufacturer
  • Children who outgrow a car safety seat should use a forward-facing car seat with harnesses until they reach the maximum weight or height the manufacturer recommends.
  • Children should use a booster seat until the vehicle lap and shoulder belt fits properly, usually at 4 ft. 9 In. and is aged between 8 and 12.
  • Children who are old and large enough to use the seat belt without needing a booster should use both a lap and shoulder belt for added protection.
  • Children under 13 should travel in the rear seat while restrained for safety.

Injuries Due to Defective Booster Seats

The concept behind booster seats is that they lift a child high enough, so the vehicle’s shoulder and lap belts protect the child.

Well-designed booster seats, which consider the safety of children, save many children every year. However, defective booster seats are disastrous to their safety, exposing them to long-term injuries and death. Some of the common defects in booster seats include:

  • Inadequate padding
  • Weak base units
  • Weak frames
  • Flammable materials

The defects arise due to one or more of the following:

  • Design flaws, for example, where the booster seat uses poor quality materials in the assembly of the final product.
  • Manufacturing defects occur during the assembly of the product or marketing flaws where the manufacturer conceals or misinterprets critical safety information and warnings about the possible risks of using the product.

These defects are a threat to the safety of children whose parents purchase these seats, hoping to protect their children from harm in case of an accident.

However, these products fail, leaving children dead or with permanent and life-threatening injuries. Some of these injuries include:

1.      Traumatic Brain Injuries

Booster seats with high backs cushion the child's head, thus protecting the head and neck from injury. When the seat is defective, the child is at risk of sustaining serious neck and head injuries.

Pediatric traumatic brain injury occurs when the head receives a blow, jolt, penetrating injury, or bump. Traumatic brain injury to a child might not be apparent immediately, but the symptoms and complications continue to evolve as that child’s brain develops.

The signs and symptoms will also vary depending on the severity of the injury. The common signs of traumatic brain injury include:

  • Problems with bladder and bowel function and control
  • Changes in consciousness where the child might lose consciousness briefly or slip into a coma
  • Fatigue
  • Headaches
  • Dizziness
  • Problems with movement, balance, and coordination\dyspraxia or apraxia
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Reduced muscle strength
  • Pain
  • Seizures
  • Problems with hearing, hypersensitivity to sounds, tinnitus, or permanent hearing loss
  • Changes in visual perception including visual acuity, double vision, and light sensitivity
  • Loss of sensory perception including loss of taster, sensitivity to touch, and the inability to recognize smells
  • Cognitive problems such as shifting attention, short attention spans, issues with decision-making and problems solving, and impaired executive functioning
  • Problems with information processing, memory, and learning
  • Problems with pragmatic and social communication including taking turns during a conversation, impaired use and decoding of non-verbal communication, problems with word-retrieval, difficulties starting or holding conversations, following directions, or decoding written information
  • Behavioral and emotional changes such as agitation, anxiety, apathy, disorientation, excessive drowsiness, sleep problems, depression, mood changes, and irritability

Traumatic brain injuries in children manifest as a chronic illness. It is something that will affect the child throughout its life. While some children could cope well, especially those with mild cases of the injury, the rest might have physical, psychological, and social difficulties when interacting with their environment.

The symptoms of the injuries might also take time before they manifest due to the brain's elastic nature and the fact that it is still developing in children and young adults (up to about 21 years).

The treatment plan for pediatric traumatic brain injury depends on the age, previous levels of function, and the developmental level of the child. Treatment could focus on helping the child develop new skills to cope in the home, school, and work environment.

2.      Internal Decapitation

Internal decapitation occurs when the ligaments of the spinal column separate from the skull base. This injury occurs mostly on children whose heads are relatively heavier in comparison to their bodies.

Internal decapitation could be of different types, including vertical, posterior, lateral, rotatory, or mixed displacement.

Internal decapitation occurs through the same motion that causes whiplash in adults where the crash impact jolts the head suddenly to the front, side, or back. When the head and neck are not supported, the motion will cause injuries whose severity will depend on the crash's impact.

Internal decapitation kills 70% of its victims immediately, and another 15% die during their subsequent hospital stay (usually after emergency treatment). Survivors often have to deal with complications that arise from the injury. These complications include:

  • Damage to the lower cranial nerves
  • Damage to the cerebellum
  • Neurological conditions such as tetraplegia
  • Recurrent cardiac and respiratory attacks

3.      Spinal Injuries

Motor vehicle accidents are a leading cause of spinal cord injuries in children. Defective booster seats will throw the child off the seat, causing spinal injuries, especially to the cervical column.

Most children who sustain spinal injuries develop paraplegia or tetraplegia. Spinal injuries could be complete or incomplete, depending on whether the child loses partial or complete sensation below the injury point. Some of the symptoms of spinal injuries include:

  • Muscle weakness
  • Difficulty in breathing
  • Partial or complete loss of muscle movement or feeling in the arms, legs, and chest
  • Loss of function and control in the bowels or bladder
  • Abnormal autonomic control including poor regulation or blood pressure shivering and abnormal stomach and intestine function

Recovery from spinal injuries takes time and could involve rehabilitation to help with managing:

  • Pain
  • Heart function
  • Body temperature
  • Blood pressure
  • Bladder and bowel function
  • Spasticity
  • Nutritional status

Your child could experience complications such as:

  • Pressure sores
  • Lung infections, especially pneumonia
  • Mental health issues such as depression

4.      Abdominal Injuries

A child could sustain abdominal injuries while traveling in a booster seat if the vehicle is in an accident. These injuries occur when the seat belt presses against the child's abdomen, increasing the risk of causing internal injuries.

Children have a higher risk of developing severe abdominal injuries since their abdomen is still soft and underdeveloped.

Booster seats contribute to abdominal injuries if they are a poor fit for the child, especially where they are too small or light for the seat. In this case, the seat belt lies across the abdomen instead of supporting the stronger shoulder, chest, and hip of the child.

In accidents such as side-impact collisions, the child will be forced sideways out of the booster seat, and the belt will press against the abdomen, increasing the risk of internal injuries. Some of the common injuries related to abdominal injuries include:

  • Damage to the abdominal wall
  • Injuries to organs such as the liver, kidneys, spleen, and pancreas
  • Injuries to the stomach, small intestines, colon, ureters, bladder

These injuries can be fatal, especially when not detected early. Some of the symptoms of abdominal injuries include:

  • Abdominal distention
  • Abdominal tenderness
  • Pelvic instability
  • Tenderness in the pelvis
  • Blood in urine or bowel movements
  • Marks, bruises, and wounds to the abdomen
  • Difficulties in breathing
  • Dizziness and vomiting
  • Pain
  • Fever

Treatment of abdominal injuries involves the stabilization of the victim to facilitate breathing and circulation. Doctors also aim at preventing additional complications such as bleeding and infection, which could lead to the death of the victim.

Joining a Booster Seat Class Action Suit

Most class-action suits in the US are opt-out suits. This means that you do not need to do anything to be included in the lawsuit. However, you have the choice to opt-out of the lawsuit or participate in it.

In most cases, you will receive a class action suit notice in your mail indicating your legal rights in the lawsuit, and the effects of the lawsuit on your other rights.

You might receive this notice based on the demographic the class action suit covers, for example, parents in California or in the country whose children were injured by Evenflo’s Big Kid Booster seat.

If you receive the notice before the case ends, you can choose to remain in the suit or opt-out. Being a part of a class action means you cannot file an individual lawsuit against the defendant.

You will also receive a notification after the case settles with information on how you can receive your part of the settlement. You might have to send a form online or through email to qualify for collecting part of the settlement.

Joining a class action suit is free. The attorneys working on the case receive their fee upon obtaining a favorable settlement.

Find a Booster Seat Class Action Suit Near Me

Knowing that your child has been using a defective product, which does not meet the standards of professional bodies such as the American Academy of Pediatrics, can be shocking. It is even worse if you learn through first-hand experience when your child is injured or killed in an accident due to a defective product.

At Consumer Alert Now, we inform you about defective products in the market and the process of joining a lawsuit against the manufacturer if the product injures you or a loved one.

Contact us today at 800-511-0747 for more information about how you can join a booster seat class-action suit