Baby walkers seem safe enough, after all, they are sold at your local infant store. So why would they be a safety hazard?
Companies making these devices advertise them as a fun, safe way for a child to play, get exercise, and even help with walking development. In reality, children are injured daily in infant walkers. And while the number has dropped over the years due to more awareness and safer practices, the numbers are still too high.
What Makes Baby Walkers Unsafe?
Baby walkers send children to the hospital each year, but what makes them so unsafe? If they are so dangerous, why are they still sold in children’s toy stores and baby outlets?
When an Infant Is in a Baby Walker, They Can:
- Roll down a flight of stairs: One of the more common reasons for injuries in small children is that, when a baby gets too close to a stairwell, they can accidentally roll down those stairs inside their walker. These can cause serious, if not fatal, injuries. Infants may suffer from broken bones and traumatic brain injuries (TBIs). Most of the injuries seen in emergency rooms from walkers come from this type of accident.
- Children may suffer from burn injuries: A walker lifts your child up higher and allows them to stand upright, which means they can reach items that you have not protected them from with baby-proofing. Children might reach and pull a tablecloth which brings hot food down on them, or they may be able to grab a pot handle from the stove. Likewise, children have access to fireplaces, space heaters, and radiators. If you are going to allow your child to use a walker, you will want them to do so in a safe space. That means babyproofing areas you may have left unprotected because they usually cannot reach them while crawling.
- Drowning: A child can use their walker to roll into a swimming pool. Likewise, they can reach a bathtub, and when trying to reach in, they may fall over into the tub.
- Poisoning: Children in walkers also can access areas of the house that they couldn’t when they crawl. They may reach the countertop and grab medication or soap, and this can lead to overdoses and poisoning.
Do Not Assume Accidents Only Happen When Parents Are Not Watching
Most parents think that, if they watch their child, they will not get injured. However, most of these accidents occur while under direct adult supervision. Unfortunately, adults just cannot react in time. Children can move quickly while they are in a walker – quicker than you would realize that they can. Therefore, even with an adult right next to them, they are at risk for serious injury.
Baby Walkers Serve No Developmental Benefit
While baby walkers are advertised as a way to help your child walk faster, there is no scientific research to prove this. Walkers will not teach your child how to walk or strengthen them for walking. Some studies believe that walkers will only delay a child from learning to walk without the device, and others claim that hip disorders can develop if a child uses a walker too frequently in their developing stages.
Discard Your Baby Walker
You may have purchased a baby walker for your child or as a gift for another, but you may want to reconsider using them in your home. You should also make sure that anyone caring for your child is not using a walker in their residence, including grandparents, family, or even babysitters.
There is a safer way to allow your child independent play time that does not risk their safety. These include:
- Use a stationary activity center over a walker. If you want to give your child some independence and even help them stay upright, then consider a stationary activity center. These have the same harness hold like a walker, but no wheels for your child to move around on them. Some even turn inside the activity center so your child can swing to different sides of the activity table and explore new things while they are there. They also bounce, which can give your child activity for hours.
- Use a play yard or playpen area where your child can play safely. If you need to cook dinner or do something where your child cannot be supervised 100 percent, set up a play yard or pen next to you while you work so that your child is gated safely away from any threats but still within eye distance and not able to move around freely inside your home. Just make sure that they cannot reach through any holes in the playpen where they could access wall sockets.
- Use the high chair for creative, supervised play time. Your child can have creative supervised time in their high chair. Younger children can remain supervised in their highchair but safely away from hazards. While you are cooking, your child can be nearby but out of reach of the stove or other dangerous objects. You can give them something to color, finger paints, or even sensory activities to work on.
The U.S. Is Behind – Other Countries Have Already Banned Baby Walkers
While baby walkers are still sold in the United States, realize that other countries have started to ban them. In fact, Canada’s Consumer Product Safety Act in 2004 banned any import, manufacture, and even the sale of baby walkers in their country.
Pediatricians in the United States have been asking for a ban on these walkers for some time. One study published in Pediatrics found that over 230,000 children under 15 months of age were seen in ERs for injuries from their baby walkers from 1990 to 2014. They suffered head and neck injuries, and 75 percent of them were injured in accidents where their walkers tumbled down a flight of stairs.
These suspended seats are commonly marketed for children ages five months up to 15 months – once a child can hold his or her head up without any difficulty. They let them scoot and glide wherever they want to go, but it becomes a babysitter for some parents, which is why pediatricians want them banned. Parents might use these walkers to distract their toddlers while they do other things, but while their toddler is busy, they have less supervision, and this leads to more injuries.
Parents may think that blocking off access to stairs would decrease their family’s risk. However, researchers found that the second common injury was when the child fell out of the walker themselves. Therefore, even if there is no risk of falling down a flight of stairs, there is a risk of a fall. Walkers can be over one foot from the ground, which is a large distance for a small child to fall and hit their head.
Also, babies can injure arms and legs, leading to fractures, scrapes, bruises, and entanglements.
More pediatric studies have been looking for the risks of these walkers, and why they should be banned. While the research is still pending, it is already apparent that they pose more of a threat than they are good for parents – and parents need to be aware of these risks before purchasing these products.
What If My Child Was Injured Already While Using a Baby Walker?
Was your child injured in a baby walker? In some instances, you may qualify for compensation.
Walkers put small children at risk for falls and tipping, and they can lead to catastrophic injuries. While walkers continue to sell in the U.S., their design is not heavily monitored. These can have faulty restraints, latches, and the product itself may have defects that make it even more unsafe than it is naturally.
Also, a walker may not have the proper warnings attached to it, letting parents know the risks of having their child use them. When a child is severely injured, you may want to explore your options for compensation – and we can help you with that.
It is possible to sue a manufacturer, designer, marketer, or retailer for the defective product that injured your child. In these cases, you would file a product liability lawsuit against them with the assistance of a defect attorney.
Our attorneys can file a lawsuit against the manufacturer and anyone in the distribution chain who can be held liable for your child’s injuries.
Baby walker lawsuits are based on multiple theories, depending on the cause of the injury or accident. Some theories that can be used in situations like these include:
- Product or strict liability
- Breach of warranty
Every theory requires that the plaintiff proves elements of their case to qualify for compensation. Therefore, while the defective product might fall onto the shoulders of the manufacturer, you still must prove that they were at-fault or negligent in some way.
With strict liability, you just must show a defect existed in the product and that defect was likely to cause your injuries. For example, with a strict liability claim, the manufacturer would be held liable when a baby walker leads to a tip over injury, especially when they had ineffective restraint devices inside that was determined to be a defect and the cause of the injury.
You Still Need an Attorney By Your Side
It can be challenging to navigate through product liability laws, but you still want to ensure that you get the compensation you and your family needs after a child is injured from a defective product. When you are dealing with manufacturers, you need an advocate by your side who is ready to help fight for you and protect your rights to compensation.
Get started by working with a law firm that has a history of positive outcomes for clients when they have product liability claims against manufacturers.
Contact Berkowitz Hanna today to schedule a no-obligation case evaluation.