We all want our children to be happy and when they find a toy they just don’t want to put down, it’s normal for us as parents to let them have it. We should be able to trust that the manufacturers of the product knew what they were doing when they designed and created the product. We, in good faith, purchased age-appropriate toys according to the package. And then we let our most cherished possessions play with them because that’s what they were intended for.
Unfortunately for some parents, those toys or other children’s products then became dangerous, even when used correctly. With millions of other concerns in the world to be on the alert for, we don’t need our child’s toys to be added to that list, but many of them have been. Safety recalls don’t help when the danger has already happened.
Choking hazard lawsuits have been around for decades. Laws have been enacted that have required manufacturers to improve their safety guidelines, yet accidents happen. Violations occur. Safety regulations are overlooked or ignored, and your child may be the one at risk.
The attorneys at Hershey Law are here to protect your rights if your innocent child was a victim of a toy choking hazard, but we don’t want it to get to that point. We know it’s impossible to protect your children from every danger. Knowledge can help prevent choking hazards, though, so we have compiled a resource for you to help you understand exactly what to look for and what laws protect your child.
What is a Choking Hazard, Anyway?
Choking hazard claims are personal injuries that fall under the category of products liability. These are typically brought about by parents or guardians who have a child who was severely or fatally injured because of a toy that was supposed to be fun and ended up dangerous.
Most products now come with warnings not to put them in your mouth, but children are notorious for taste testing everything. Previous lawsuits have been consequential enough to have created strict guidelines for warnings. Obviously, manufacturers don’t want to be sued, so in general they try to ensure their products meet these guidelines and aren’t dangerous, especially to children. But some makers focus more on their bottom line than on safety and efficacy.
Small parts regulations are intended to prevent death and injuries to children, particularly those under the age of three. By regulating the children’s products industry, little ones may be prevented from choking on small parts, inhaling toxic chemicals, or swallowing small objects.
Products that fall into this category of regulation include those that are intended to be used by children under three years old. Anything from toys to baby bouncers is included. These items are analyzed for the inclusion of small parts, which are defined as any object that fits completely into a test cylinder specially designed to mimic the dimensions of a fully expanded throat of a child three and under. This cylinder is 2.25 inches long x 1.25 inches wide.
Small parts aren’t just items used by the children for the toy. They can include the toy or product, separate pieces that come apart – like in board games, – or pieces of the product that don’t hold up to the testing process and break under the simulation of a young child’s use. Any small part that meets these criteria and is intended for those under three is not allowed to be sold and the product is banned.
Exceptions to this include balloons, books, and anything made of paper, as well as items like writing utensils and materials, paints, grooming or feeding products, rattles, and pacifiers. These products still have to meet strict requirements, but they are exempt from this specific regulation.
Improvements in Safety Guidelines for Toys
Hundreds of thousands of children show up in emergency rooms annually for treatment of toy-related injuries. Some of these children get to go home with a funny story to tell in the future and a first-hand reminder of the importance of being careful, but others aren’t so lucky.
Sadly, it took enough children being severely or fatally injured for laws to be enacted creating federal guidelines for toy safety. But the past four decades have brought about big changes for the good and ever-increasing momentum to continue advocating for children’s rights.
Manufacturers of children’s products are now federally mandated to provide warnings of potential choking hazards if the product meets federal requirements. Anyone who sells or distributes these products must also adhere to those standards.
Products that require warnings, according to the U.S. Consumer Products Safety Commission, are covered under the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act of 2008 and the Federal Hazardous Substances Act. The regulations are different for those under the age of three – they must be very specific. Over the age of three still have to have warnings, but they can be more generalized.
California’s product liability laws have strict penalties for any manufacturer, seller, or distributor that doesn’t provide warning labels or lacks detailed instructions on their product. These companies can be held responsible for any injuries that are incurred due to their product.
Legally, attorneys can sue those in the chain of custody of the defective product under the following acts:
- The Child Safety Protection Act – Choke hazard warning label laws weren’t officially in effect until 1993, when Connecticut, thanks to a group of child safety advocates and consumer groups, enacted the first law. This then led to the federal standard, the Child Safety Protection Act, or CSPA, which began in January 1995.
Choke hazard warning labels are now required on everything from balloons to marbles. Any toy with small parts that was geared towards children under six had to have a warning label on it. This act was a huge victory for child safety advocates everywhere.
- The Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act – Choking hazards had been successfully reduced, but after an astounding amount of toy recalls were announced in 2008 due to the presence of lead in them, another safety concern had to be addressed. Not only were the size of the parts in a toy a potential danger, but so was the material the toy was comprised of.
Continuing to ride on the momentum of the CSPA, Congress passed another safety act, the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act (CPSIA). This act allowed the CPSC to expedite any recalls that may harm children. It also upped the stakes, holding toy manufacturers more liable for their products. Certain toxic chemicals were banned from being used in children’s products, although overseas imports still use some of them.
In addition to these acts, stronger guidelines were placed on potentially hazardous chemicals that weren’t considered toxic, like phthalates. Phthalates are used in everything from children’s toys to cosmetic products. They have many benefits to manufacturers, including cost-effectiveness. They also have many negative consequences to the consumers who use them.
Studies have shown that phthalates have been found to mess up normal stages of growth. They can hamper the onset of puberty, interfere with the male reproductive system, and possibly even cause cancer. Three types of phthalates were banned at certain levels in children’s products. Three other types were temporarily banned, pending further studies.
But more and more chemicals are being analyzed every day for the possibility of hidden health hazards. New information coming to light doesn’t help those who have been injured or damaged by the chemicals before they were understood.
Choking Hazards and Your Child: Your Next Steps After an Injury
Your first priority is always your child’s safety, of course, so if your child has had a choking incident, seek emergency treatment. Follow the emergency physician’s orders and follow up with your child’s pediatrician if it is recommended.
In many cases, the injury will heal quickly without any long-term consequences. But if your child suffered significant injuries and trauma, you should consider consulting with an attorney as soon as possible to discuss the potential for filing a product liability claim. This is a crucial first step to ensuring that other children are not harmed by the same product.
Whether your child was using the product as intended or not, the fact that it was able to cause harm means that it needs to be removed from the shelves and other parents need to be aware of the potential for choking hazards.
Your family’s rights need to be protected, as well. Taking care of your injured child or dealing with a wrongful death caused by a child’s product are stressful both financially and mentally. The attorneys at Hershey Law know that this is a difficult time for you, and we want to help you focus on healing and moving forward while we defend your rights and get you the compensation you deserve.
Children have rights, too, and those rights are defended under federal regulations for product safety. If your child was injured due to a defective product, call us today for your free consultation to see how we can help you through this difficult time.