Defectively Designed Car Seat Leaves Child With Concussion

This case involves an allegedly defective child’s car seat. The plaintiff, a thirty-six-year-old male, was driving home with his five-year-old son and two-year-old daughter in a sedan. He took an unfamiliar, local route to avoid increased tolls. He came to a stop sign, stopped, and proceeded to go through. He was then hit by an SUV on the front (by the right bumper) of his car. Both cars sustained minor damage, but no one was severely hurt. When the plaintiff checked on his children, his daughter indicated that her head hurt and she was throwing up. After checking with a doctor, it was revealed that she was suffering from a concussion due to hitting her head on the protective shield plate of her car seat. Investigators say the car seat was properly secured by the plaintiff.

Question(s) For Expert Witness

  • 1. How can a protective shield plate on a child's car seat cause a concussion, and is this a reasonable danger in a minor car accident?

Expert Witness Response

Five point harness seats are generally considered the safety standard in motor vehicles; this design is even mandated in NASCAR vehicles. The five different straps hold young children securely to the seat, minimizing the risk of ejection in the event of a car accident. Despite the fact that the five-point harness is the safest design, some manufacturers continue to use outdated, unsafe child safety seats with one- and three-point restraints. In T-shield seats, the straps that go over the child’s shoulder and between their legs are attached to a hard plastic or molded rubber shield. The shield is not snug, but stays several inches in front of the body. In accidents, the space between the child and the shield actually allows for a gain in momentum before hitting the restraint. The shield’s positioning and material puts children in risk of trauma to the head, chest, and abdomen. In the case of a crash, the T-shield may also impact the top of the child’s throat and puts pressure on back tissue, possibly leading to back and spinal cord injury. I would need to examine the specifics of the car seat in question, but given the circumstances of the case (with it being a relatively minor car accident and the child being in a T-shelf seat), the associated harm was not reasonable and likely caused by the design of the seat. I am also aware of other cases where similar injuries have occurred from minor accidents. I have over thirty years of engineering experience, analyzing automobile accidents, the design of seating (for both adults and children), and seat belt placement.


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