The car seat manufacturer Graco has just been fined $10 million in civil penalty by the Department of Transportation for failing to give a timely notification of a child safety seat defect. The Harness Buckle Recall, announced last year, is the largest ever on a child safety seat, affecting more than 4 million car seats. The issue is with the harness buckle, which may become difficult to unbuckle or stuck in the latched position. If the buckle were to stick in an emergency it becomes a hazard or life threatening. In February 2014 the company recalled defective convertible and booster seats and in June 2014 an additional 2 million rear facing infant seats.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration's (NHTSA) investigation determined Graco did not meet its obligations to enact a timely recall. According to the National Traffic and Motor Vehicle Safety Act, after a manufacturer knows or should reasonably know of a safety related defect in automobile equipment they have a maximum of five business days to notify the agency and are then required to issue a recall. Graco must now pay $3 million immediately into the U.S. Treasury and an additional $7 million 5 years from now if they do not spend that amount in actions to improve child safety.
After you purchase a car or booster seat you should register it so that you can receive notices in the event of a recall. Only about 40% of Americans register their car seats according to the NHTSA. The NHTSA runs a website, Parents Central on its safecar.gov site that allows you to register your seat. The site also provides information on proper car seat installation, the types of car seats, and much more information on how to keep you child safe in the car.
Jay Ciulla is a personal injury and wrongful death lawyer.