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Holiday Shopping Safety Tips: A Guide to Children’s Toys

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What do a plush elephant pillow, a plastic hammer, and a slingshot-like device that shoots out balls of slime have in common? They all appeared, last holiday season, on a list of the year’s most dangerous toys compiled by the Boston-based group World Against Toys Causing Harm (WATCH).

The number of injuries associated with toys is alarmingly high. In a recent yearmore than 254,000 injuries related to toys were treated in  U.S. hospital emergency rooms.

Toy Safety Tips for Smart Holiday Shopping

People buying toys as Christmas or holiday gifts for kids this year should be careful to check out the toys they select. There are easy steps you can take to help keep the little ones safe. Start by doing research before you hit the mall or the online store. Check your naughty-but-nice list twice, say, “Ho, ho, ho” – and then Google for information about the toys, read reviews or look up the products in Consumer Reports, and check to see if there have been any recalls.

Holiday Shopping Safety Tips

1. Avoid buying second-hand items. Toys that were manufactured recently must meet current safety standards. Old toys are not held to the same rules. In addition to not having to comply with the latest – or perhaps any – toy safety regulations, a used toy could also be broken. Don’t take any chances. Buy your toys new.

2. Don’t shop from stores or websites you aren’t familiar with. Stick with stores and sites you trust because you know they have good reputations, you have bought things from them before, and you have been satisfied with your purchases and the store or site’s customer service. When you’re buying gifts for kids, this is not the time to take a chance on an unknown seller.

3. Pay close attention to the age recommendations on toys. Most people don’t. In fact, only 27 percent of parents pay attention to the recommended age printed on the package, according to the Toy Industry Association. The recommendations are there for safety guidance. They have nothing to do with how smart a particular child is, but are a reflection of the developmental abilities of children at a given age.

Toys should always be age-appropriate. Keep toys meant for older kids away from babies and toddlers. If possible, store and use them in separate areas. Toys with strings, cords, or ribbons should never be hung in cribs or playpens because young children can get tangled up in them – a serious problem that can cause injury or even death.

4. Don’t compromise on quality. Toys should feel sturdy and durable.

5. Watch out for dangerous features. Make sure there are no sharp points, edges, or corners. Toys with long cords or strings can create strangulation hazards. Toys with loose or small parts can be a choking hazard for small children.

6. Discard original package after opening. Packages may contain small pieces that are dangerous for curious toddlers. Don’t pack toys back up in the box they were sold in, unless the box was designed specifically for that kind of storage.

Make sure any containers you use are safe. Locking mechanisms can easily catch little fingers.

7. Read the instructions. When children get toys as gifts, they usually want to play with their new treasures right away. It’s important, though, to read the instructions to your children before they start using the toys, including any warnings or instructions printed on the box. You could even demonstrate how to play with the toys safely and appropriately.

How can you find out if a toy has been recalled?

Maybe you are buying a gift for a child. You’ve done the research, read reviews, and found the perfect toy. Great! Before clicking on “Buy” or taking the toy to the cash register, there’s one more thing to do: Check to see that it hasn’t been recalled. Or maybe you want to be sure that none of the toys your kids received this year have been recalled. Here’s what you can do:

Find recall information online.

  • You can search for information on recalls at the government’s Consumer Product Safety Commission’s site, or on recalls.gov, another government site that combines information from six different federal agencies.
  • Another useful site is WeMakeItSafer.com, which offers a free service to help parents find out if any products they own have been recalled. Checking for recalls is an important step that many people skip. The founder of WeMakeItSafe.com says that it’s important that people “do something and not take the ‘cross the fingers and hope it doesn’t happen’” approach.

What should you do if you find out you have a recalled toy or other product?

  • Read the government’s press release. The CPSC.gov site will post press releases containing information about product recalls, which usually include instructions on what you should do next.
  • Check the manufacturer’s website. Most manufacturers will provide additional information on their websites following a recall.
  • Don’t use the product. Always pay attention to the recall. If a product is dangerous, don’t use it. Don’t take any chances. The executive director of Kids In Danger urges anyone who has any doubts about a product to dispose of it.
  • Take it back to the store. If you find out that a toy is dangerous or has been recalled, you can return it to the store where you bought it. Most recalls do not have an expiration date, so you can return it even if you didn’t find out about the recall right away.

Understanding Product Liability Law

Unfortunately, toys and other products that are defective may cause injury and even death. If you or a loved one have been injured or harmed by a defective product, you may be able to file a lawsuit and get compensation from the product’s manufacturer or seller.

  •  “Product liability” is the legal term that refers to a manufacturer or seller being held responsible for making or selling a defective product. The law recognizes three types of claims – those based on design defects, manufacturing defects, and failure to warn.
  • design defect refers to a problem with the product’s design that makes the product inherently dangerous or useless, even if it was manufactured perfectly and was made using the best quality materials.
  • A manufacturing defect is a defect in a product that was not part of the original plan. When there is a manufacturing defect, the product differs from its intended design.
  • Failure to warn may apply when a product is dangerous in a way that is not obvious or that requires users to take special precautions – and consumers are not warned of the danger.
  • In New York, product liability claims may be based on negligence or on strict liability. In strict liability, you may receive compensation whether or not the manufacturer knew or should have known about the product defect. In a negligence claim, your lawyer must show that the manufacturer failed to use reasonable care to avoid the defect.

If you or a loved one have been harmed by a product, we invite you to contact us to schedule a free consultation with one of our skilled product liability attorneys.

Happy Holidays

Holidays are a magical time for children. We wish you and your family a wonderful and safe holiday from all of us at Raphaelson & Levine Law Firm.

By: Andrew Levine

Andrew J. Levine is co-owner at Raphaelson & Levine Law Firm, P.C. in New York, NY. A graduate of Maurice A. Deane School of Law at Hofstra University. For 15 years he has been widely trusted and respected as a formidable attorney but acknowledged as a reasonable and ethical collaborator who impresses clients, judges and jurors alike. Andrew has been featured in New York Magazine as one of New York’s “Top Personal Injury Litigators” and recognized by Super Lawyers as a “Top Rated Personal Injury Attorney in New York.” View all posts by Andrew Levine

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