In the past month, two Chicago lives have been claimed in a tragic accident involving a falling television. In the most recent incident, a 3-year-old girl was killed when she was struck by a falling TV in her South Chicago home. The other victim was a six-year-old boy who was struck by a 32-inch television in the basement of his home in Arlington Heights.
Both children sustained massive traumatic brain injuries, from which they died.
Sadly, this accident was not isolated. In fact, around 17,000 children are taken to emergency rooms each year in America because of heavy or unstable furniture – including televisions – falling on top of them. The current rate is a 41 percent increase over the rate two decades ago. And nearly half of all these injuries are from televisions.
Our law firm is no stranger to these type of injuries. In fact, Stephen M. Passen of Passen & Powell secured a $19 million jury verdict on behalf of a 9-year-old boy who sustained traumatic brain injuries when a TV fell onto his head in an unsupervised classroom of a private school in Chicago.
Unsurprisingly, the increase in this rate of injuries correlates perfectly with the increase in the popularity of larger and flat-screened televisions. At the same time, Americans moved towards narrower entertainment centers and stands to match the flatter televisions. But narrower stands and entertainment centers are also less stable.
In many cases, children escape from falling furniture with only minor injuries. But about 3 percent of victims require hospitalization. Many of those suffer head and neck injuries – often leaving them with permanent brain injuries or paralysis. And around 20 children die from these injuries each year.
The increase in the rate of injuries in recent years has been despite efforts by industry and regulators to combat the problem. In 2004, ASTM International (previously known as the American Society for Testing and Materials) issued new voluntary manufacturing standards designed to prevent furniture from tipping over. In 2005, Congress considered legislation setting standards for furniture that “poses a substantial risk of tipping” or which contains a glass pane or surface. It died in committee in 2005, then again in 2007. As of today, no government standards requiring testing, safety straps, or anchor mechanisms have been put in place.
But while certain designs are inherently flawed, in many cases there is only so much that even the best designs have accomplished. Researchers at the University of Pennsylvania found in 2006 that flat-panel televisions were weighing in at 100 pounds or more, but with a thin design that is inherently unstable. Americans then expect these devices to balance on lightweight stands, or hang from wall brackets.
How to Protect Your Children
How can you protect your children from this type of injury? First, use extra care, particularly when children are younger: three-quarters of the children injured by falling televisions and other furniture are under the age of six. According to the Center for Injury Research and Policy at Nationwide Children’s Hospital, children under six “simply don’t recognize the danger of climbing on furniture.”
Second, double-check your method of displaying your flat-screen. Use only stands rated for your television model and size, and choose a heavier, larger stand when possible. If you choose to wall-mount your flat-screen television, have the installation professionally done.
Parents and other caregivers can also take physical precautions to prevent injuries. Those with small children in the house should secure all heavy furniture, particularly top-heavy furniture and televisions. Other safety steps include:
- Place televisions close to the ground, and towards the back of any stand or supporting furniture.
- Use safety straps or L-brackets to secure televisions and other heavy furniture to the wall.
- Select only furniture with solid bases and wide legs.
- Install drawer stops, and place heavier items in lower drawers.
- Never place enticing items like toys, remote controls, etc., on top of heavy furniture or televisions: this only encourages children to climb.
And then there is the most important precaution of all: supervise young children at all times. If your child spends time in the care of others, inspect the premises and demand that televisions and other large items be secured. Televisions in day cares can fall just as easily as those at home – last year, an unsecured television in an Indiana day care broke the cheeks, nose, jaw, palate, and eye sockets of a two-year-old girl when it fell. She needed multiple reconstructive surgeries simply to regain a functional face.
If you have any questions about a possible serious injury or wrongful death claim, please give us a call us at 312-527-4500 or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org for a complimentary consultation. You can also learn more by following us on Twitter, reviewing our LinkedIn or Avvo.com pages, and by reviewing our website.