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Child Injury from a Shopping Cart? It Happens 66 Times Every Day!

If you are reading this, it's unfortunately likely because your child has fallen from a shopping cart resulting in an injury of some sort. The statistics say that if that's the case, the injury is likely a head injury, and if that's the case, it's likely a concussion. Well, as you read in the title of this blog entry, this occurrence happens consistently in the United States and Massachusetts is no exception. As reported by Yahoo this past week, the journal of Clinical Pediatrics published this information back in December, but for some reason, just announced it (bringing the world's attention to it) a week ago. I would imagine that Clinical Pediatrics thought the mere publishing of the information would garner attention to this very understandable form of injury, but apparently not. So, now you have our attention, and the numbers are really staggering.

According to the report, ever year there are 24,000 child injuries related to shopping carts. Yes, that's 66 a day. Even if your child has not been the victim of one of these injuries, you know exactly how they occur because anyone who has spent even a small fraction of their life in a supermarket has seen children attempting escape from their carts. Anyone who has tried to buckle a kid into the cart knows that the safety belts are often broken or simply inadequate. Some are so defectively designed that even when the parent completely follows the instructions (just kidding, there usually aren't any), the child is still able to wiggle out and extract him or herself from the cart.

I believe most every parent has experienced the following event. Parent checks to make sure child is secure in seat of cart. Parent, in the middle of an uncrowded isle, already pacing back and forth looking for something, decides lugging the cart around is unnecessary and that a short, independent venture a few feet away from the cart will save time and sanity. Parent then brings cart to complete stop, again checks belt of child. Fully secure - Check. Parent then averts eyes to shelving and takes 3 or 4 steps away from cart, mythotically yet feverishly scanning the shelving for said product of need. Three seconds pass and parent's conscious forces parent to check on the cart. Parent looks up to find child standing directly up in his or her seat, completely free of the belt. A mini Houdini standing there waiting for parent to observe and appreciate the child's art of escape. Yikes. Parent, lunges back, grabs child, puts him/her back in seat, re-secures belt and then reverts to cart dragging technique. We have all been there. The fact is, the child is almost always saved. At least in my experience. Not so much for 24,000 others each year.

What things can you do to best ensure your child remains safe? Go for the carts with the child seats close to the ground. The worst injuries occur when the child falls from a standard child seat hight, 4 feet or so. Clearly injuries will tend to be less severe when the fall is from only 6 inches, even when the seats seem less secure, like in the Home Depot race car carts. Next, make sure the seat belts work. These things take a ton of wear and tear and, because there are no enforceable standards, when one breaks, the cart stays in use. Next, make sure the belt is properly buckled and if your child knows how to unbuckle it, make sure to explain the rules to him or her and check to make sure they are still buckled in often. Lastly, don't leave your child unattended. It's a no brainer (if we're not at the end of our parental ropes). Things will be more difficult with an injured child, so suck it up and keep hold of that cart.

So, what kind of liability arises in these cases? Well, they are premises liability cases and so in Massachusetts (and many other states which follow the mode of operation standard) the question really is, is this type of danger foreseeable and did the retailer take reasonable steps to protect the customer? Before giving a subjective and impulsive response, consider this. There are countries all over the world with enforced standards for shopping cart safety. The U.S. is not one of those countries. There are designs available and in use in which people could do hand stands on the handle of shopping carts and they would not fall over. Meanwhile, most of us with little kids have to try two or three carts before we find one with a working (yet inadequate) seat belt. So the answer is that yes, there is liability for the retailers, but there may also be liability for the parent, resulting in potential comparative fault and reduced recovery for the party with the injury. A jury will likely be the decider of who has what share of fault and what the total recovery should be. That would likely be based on the behavior of the parent and the totality of the circumstances. That that end, consider your case as objectively as possible. How would you apportion fault if you were in the jury and the party injured was someone you don't know? In the end, to get an accurate sense of liability, you really need to speak with a competent personal injury attorney. As you likely know from reviewing the site, we are Boston personal injury lawyers exclusively handling personal injury matters across Massachusetts. If you'd like your case assessed, call us or another competent lawyer today.

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