Your home may feel like the safest place in the world for your children. At home, you are in control of your environment. When your kids are out of your house, you worry that they could be hit by a car, injured on the playground, or the victim of a predatory stranger. But your home feels like a haven from all of the uncertainties in the outside world.
Parents educate themselves about the many household dangers that can affect children, and we are careful to childproof our homes in a variety of ways. Baby gates, electrical outlet guards, latches, monitors — there is an entire industry built around protecting children from household danger. However, one important safety measure is often overlooked: furniture anchors. Many families are completely unaware of the dangers of TV and furniture tip-over accidents. Unfortunately, ignoring the risks can prove deadly.
Statistics for Furniture Tip-Over Injuries
Here are some sobering statistics concerning furniture tip-over accidents in the United States:
71 children are injured or killed every day when a piece of furniture, a TV, or an appliance falls on them
A child is rushed to the emergency room every 45 minutes because a TV has fallen on them
Two to four children die every month in the United States from a tip-over accident
More than half of the 38,000 annual emergency room visits from tip-over accidents involve children, many of whom are under the age of five
Unfortunately, these accidents are on the rise every year. Many experts believe that this is because older, heavier TVs are being replaced by wall-mounted flat screens and the old sets are being stored on furniture that was not intended to carry their weight, often in a den or play room that puts playing children at risk. The saddest thing about these accidents is that they are 100% preventable.
Protecting Your Family from a Furniture Tip-Over Disaster
Anchoring bookcases, dressers, and TVs is as important as childproofing electrical outlets or putting latches or locks on cupboards where dangerous chemicals are stored. The good news is that you can prevent tip-over accidents in your home if you are informed about the dangers and diligent about anchoring every piece of furniture that could pose a risk.
Remember that even relatively small pieces of furniture can be deadly if they topple over onto a child. Children are playful and curious by nature and won’t think twice before climbing or hanging on bookcases, chests of drawers, or TVs.
It is absolutely imperative to secure every piece of potentially dangerous furniture in your home. Don’t be lulled into a false sense of security — all chests of drawers and bookcases need to be secured, not just those in playrooms or children’s bedrooms.
The Consumer Product Safety Commission
(CPSC) recommends taking several measures to avoid tip-over accidents in the home:
All new and existing furniture should be immediately fitted with anti-tip brackets
Any objects that may tempt children should be removed from the tops of furniture or shelves
TVs are a major safety concern. Older model TVs should only be placed on stands with adequate support and should be anchored to the wall regardless of how sturdy they may seem on the stand
Flat-screen TVs should be securely mounted to the wall, and all manufacturers’ instructions should be carefully followed
Tip-Over Tragedies Strike
A tragic accident involving a tip-over accident occurred in our area in January of 2005. Three-year-old Katie Lambert’s family had recently moved to a home in Huntingdon Valley, PA. Following a carpet installation, a large IKEA wardrobe was slightly offset and later crushed Katie as she was playing.
The Lamberts sued IKEA, claiming that the product was prone to tipping due to its front-heavy design that could not be properly supported by its lighter back side and that the safety kit that came with the unit was inadequate to protect against injuries. While IKEA claimed that the unit was built with adequate safety features, they eventually settled the lawsuit for $2.3 million.
More recently in 2014, Curren Collas — a two-year-old from West Chester, Pennsylvania — was killed when an IKEA dresser fell on him. While that suit is yet to be resolved (and others are also pending), IKEA has begun offering free mounting kits to all customers. However, IKEA is not the only retailer to face lawsuits from injured customers; as tip-over injuries become increasingly common, so do the associated personal injury lawsuits.
Furniture Tip-Overs and the Law
At the time, the Lamberts convinced then-Congresswoman Allyson Schwartz to sponsor two bills that would have required manufacturers to provide anchors with potentially dangerous furniture. Congresswoman Schwartz’s two attempts were not successful. Her cause is currently being taken up by Pennsylvania Senator Robert Casey, who has been vocal recently about the need to address the growing incidences of tip-over accidents with legislation. The senator has been working with the Consumer Product Safety Commission to flesh out a plan to require manufacturers to make changes that would drastically reduce accidents involving tipping furniture.
In the meantime, Senator Casey has called on seven of the nation’s top retailers to provide more information about the risks of tip-over accidents to their customers and to offer anchor kits alongside of potentially dangerous furniture. The Senator believes that these measures could prevent deaths and serious injuries before the law catches up to reality. You can read more about Senator Casey’s proposed legislation in this article posted on Philly.com: http://articles.philly.com/2016-02-05/news/70347513_1_ikea-legislation-retailers
Proving Liability for Tip-Over Accidents
Despite the daily tragic injuries that result from tip-over accidents, there are still many furniture retailers that do no stock tip-over restraint kits, which forces their customers to purchase the kits elsewhere — if they are even aware of the need for them. Stores do not routinely advertise that tip-overs are a danger, nor are salespeople adequately trained to inform customers about the risks and safety measures that are available. All of these factors create potential liability for retailers.
Children are not the only ones who are affected by furniture that tips over. Adults, especially elderly or handicapped individuals, can also suffer when furniture that was built improperly or not secured causes an injury.
If you or a loved on is in the very unfortunate situation of having been injured in a tip-over accident, it is important to seek legal representation from competent and experienced attorneys who know the law and who will aggressively pursue damages on your behalf. You may be entitled to compensation stemming from medical expenses, pain and suffering, emotional distress, and more. If a loved one has tragically died in a tip over accident, you are entitled to file a wrongful death suit. Please call the attorneys at Donaghue & Labrum for a free consultation with a lawyer who is experienced in litigating personal injury accident cases.