Child car seats are not designed to last forever. Manufacturers label each of their car seats, as well as related equipment like bases for removable bassinets, with expiration dates past which the car seat should no longer be used. Manufacturers do this for a variety of important reasons. Parents should take expiration dates seriously.
Why do car seats expire?
If a seat were to fail in an accident the potential for catastrophic injury to the child would expose the manufacturer to expensive products liability lawsuits, not to mention a loss of confidence in the marketplace. For that reason, manufacturers of car seats put their products through extensive safety testing before selling them to the public. Manufacturers also pay close attention to how their products perform in the field and will be quick to issue recalls if something isn’t working as intended. That is why registering car seats is recommended by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and every manufacturer.
There isn’t a hard and fast rule governing when a car seat has reached its expiration date. Instead, manufacturers determine expirations based on their safety testing procedures and engineering standards. There are a number of reasons why a car seat is given an expiration date:
- Safety standards are constantly changing, and older seats may no longer be compliant.
- Materials and safety technology are constantly getting better.
- Wear and tear can make straps, buckles, and safety padding more prone to breaking in an accident.
- Manufacturers do not test seats for an indefinite time and will stop evaluating expired seats for faults that might otherwise trigger a recall.
The risks of using an expired car seat
For all the reasons above, using an expired car seat places the child at greater risk of injury. A buckle that’s worn out could snap open in a collision, potentially eliminating the seat’s protections altogether. The seat’s impact foam could be brittle and cracked underneath the external padding, making it less able to absorb shocks. The possibilities are endless.
In the event of an accident an expired car seat that causes injuries could limit the parents’ ability to seek damages from the manufacturer on a products liability theory. In extreme circumstances where the responsible adult knew that the seat was defective but used it anyway, there may even be liability for the person who put the child in the seat. Using a seat that isn’t expired is one way to avoid making a tragic situation worse.
This advice is especially important to keep in mind when considering whether to buy or accept a used car seat from someone else. Most thrift stores don’t take used car seats because the risks are too great, but they are often available for sale or for free through channels like Facebook and Craigslist. Used car seats may have hidden defects, may have been subject to a recall, or may be past their expiration. When it comes to safety equipment, it’s always better to buy new.
GGRM is a Las Vegas car accident law firm
For more than 45 years the law firm of Greenman Goldberg Raby Martinez has represented clients in the Las Vegas area in auto accident and products liability cases. Contact us if you have questions about how your car seat may affect your legal rights. For a confidential, no-cost attorney consultation, call us today at 702-388-4476, or ask us to call you through our contact page.