With the toy industry worth £3.2 billion in the UK, Britain has the largest toy market in Europe and it is estimated that 58,000 new toys are released in a single year.
While the vast majority of these toys will be safe for children and will provide countless hours of fun, there are a number of dangerous or defective toys that can cause significant injury and harm to children.
Despite an expectation that companies involved in the supply chain of toys face higher safety standards, it is estimated that 35,000 British children are injured in accidents involving toys every year. In instances where a manufacturer, importer, or retailer has failed in their health and safety duties a compensation claim could be made to highlight the defect and minimise the damage done by the dangerous toy.
What Makes A Toy Dangerous Or Defective?
It is assumed that manufacturers will never intentionally create a dangerous or defective product. Often, defects and dangers can only become clear once a product is released and is in the hands of a consumer.
Unfortunately, in the instance of toys the consumers are vulnerable children who are especially susceptible to undue harm and injury from an oversight of a manufacturer.
Generally speaking, the most dangerous toys include small choking hazards that are not outlined on packaging. All items that are sold with small parts should feature age restrictions and should make it absolutely clear that the item contains choking hazards that means it should not be used without adult supervision.
The main defect that could cause harm to children is weak or poorly produced toys, which can break easily and cause small shards to break off; these shards can then either pose a risk by puncturing skin or could become a choking hazard.
In recent years, there have been a number of toys that have been produced by manufacturers that seemingly have no consideration of the dangers these pose children, two of the more shocking examples are as follows:
The World Against Toys Causing Harm (W.A.T.C.H) organisation publish a yearly list of the most dangerous toys released in the previous 12 months, which highlights some common hazards, such as:
- Choking hazards without proper age restrictions or warnings on packaging
- Cuddly toys posing suffocation risks amongst infants
- Potential eye and face injuries due to projectiles
- Puncture injuries from sharp points
What Regulations Relate To Toys?
Consumers are protected under the Consumer Protection Act 1987 against defective and unsafe products.
Due to the vulnerability of children and the likelihood that they will face harm from defective and dangerous products, the Toy (Safety) Regulations 2011 provide additional stringent safety requirements in the case of toys.
The Toy (Safety) Regulations 2011 apply to manufacturers, importers, distributors, and authorised representatives of toys. The regulations are designed to ensure that all toys:
- Are of a certain level of safety, the requirements for which are outlined in the full regulations
- Are properly marked, so that manufacturers can be traced in the event of safety concerns
- Bear the CE mark
- Are accompanied with clear instructions for safe use, with safety warnings where necessary
Are All Toys Covered By Specific Toy Regulations?
Not all items that would typically be considered as toys – especially in the eyes of children – are covered by the specific Toy (Safety) Regulations.
Technically speaking, toys are described as any products that are designed or intended (whether exclusively or not) for use in play by children under 14 years old.
There are a number of products that would match this description, but are not protected by specific safety regulations, some these include:
- Playground equipment intended for public use
- Toy vehicles equipped with combustion engines
- Toy steam engines
- Slings and catapults
On top of this, there are a number of products that may find their way into the hands of children that are not considered as toys; as such they are not covered by specific regulations.
This list of these types of products is extensive and includes the likes of decorative objects; models; sports equipment, including roller skates and skateboards; functional educational products, such as electric ovens and; products and games using sharp-pointed projectiles, such as a dart set.
While it may seem that many of these products would be considered as toys by children and parents, they are not covered by the more stringent safety regulations.
Despite this, it is important to note that these items will still be covered by the Consumer Protection Act and that if you, or your child, have been injured as a consequence of one of these items its exclusion from the Toy (Safety) Regulations does not prevent you from being able to pursue a claim.
Claims based on toys outside of the Toy (Safety) Regulations are slightly more complex than those included in the list and may require additional steps to achieve a settlement; as such, if your child does come into harm because of an item that is not included in the stricter regulations, it is vital that you seek immediate legal advice.
Who Can I Claim Against?
The most difficult part of any liability claim is establishing who is to blame for a product fault. In relation to defective and dangerous toys – depending on the nature of the fault – claims could be made against the manufacturer, the authorised representative, the importer, or the distributor.
If any of the parties with responsibility for a toy's safety fails in their dutiful checks, then they could be liable in any subsequent compensation claim.
The manufacturer has the most responsibilities when it comes to product safety, as they must ensure that all toys comply with safety requirements during their foreseeable and reasonable period of use.
They have to carry out safety assessments, draw up paperwork to achieve the CE marking, and ensure that all production runs comply with the same standards.
If a safety concern is raised, manufacturers must record details of the complaint and investigate any possible safety concerns.
A manufacturer may appoint a third party to act as an authorised representative of their toy. The authorised representative takes on the responsibility for paperwork and must ensure that the technical documentation and the Declaration of Conformity are both held for 10 years.
Authorised representatives are also required to bring defective products in line with compliance and must inform relevant authorities of any safety risks that arise.
Importers are required to ensure that manufacturers have complied with their safety requirements before they push an item to the market.
They must also ensure that a product is packaged and transported safely during importing, as a toy's compliance with safety regulations could be compromised during storage and transport.
As a last line of defence against the sale of defective or dangerous toys, the distributor must ensure that the importer and manufacturer have fulfilled their obligations, especially in regards to identifying information that can be used if they receive reports of a toy being unsafe.
What Can I Do To Reduce The Risk Of Accidents Involving Toys?
The Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents (ROSPA) provides a lot of useful guidance on this point.
Their recommendations for toy safety are as follows:
- Look for a CE mark on toys, which should mean that the toy meets the requirements of the latest EC Toy Safety Directive – which was brought into law by the aforementioned Toy (Safety) Regulations 2011
- Look for the Lion Mark, which shows that the manufacturer is a member of the British Toy & Hobby Association and is generally seen as a mark of safety and quality
- Only buy from reputable retailers with a trusted reputation
- Make sure that the toy is suitable for the child in terms of the product's age range and their abilities
- Check toys regularly for wear and tear and dispose of any damaged toys
- When not in use store toys safety – tripping over toys is a frequent cause of injuries in the home
- Correctly install batteries and replace batteries when they stop working
- Take particular care if you buy toys second hand, for example from charity shops or car boot sales
What Should I Do If My Child's Been Injured By A Toy?
If the worst does happen and your child is injured by a defective or dangerous toy then you should seek immediate medical attention where required; after this you can increase your chances of being able to recover the compensation that you’re entitled to by:
- Keeping the receipt for the toy, along with any other documentation (such as instruction leaflets received with the item)
- Keeping the product and packaging (if you still have it) and take photographs of it
- Taking photographs of the injury and any other damage caused
- If you contact the manufacturer or retailer, keeping a record of who you speak to and what they say
- Keeping a list of all expenses you incur
- Contacting Simpson Millar, so that we can assist you and guide you through the process of bringing a claim
How Much Compensation Could I Receive?
Compensation claims are always broken down into two parts:
- Damages for personal injury, pain, suffering, and loss of amenity
- Recuperating financial losses sustained as a consequence of the accident, for example, travel expenses associated with treatment and medication
Cases are always valued on an individual basis after obtaining an opinion from an independent medical expert as to the extent of the injuries and the impact of the accident and injuries on you and/or your child.
In the case of children, compensation claims cannot be settled until the child has made a full recovery from their injuries, claims can therefore take many months or years, but having a dedicated and compassionate team – such as those in Simpson Millar's personal injury department – will help you throughout the period of recovery and rehabilitation.
When valuing a compensation claim, judges may refer to JC Guidelines, which are a useful reference point on the amount of damages that can be awarded for a variety of injuries.
It is important to note that JC Guidelines should only be used as a reference point and in no way guarantees compensation amounts. When you first get in touch, we may use the guidelines to search for a specific type of injury, so that we can provide a general snapshot of the amount that a claim could be worth.
Time limits apply to compensation claims and as a general rule of thumb adults have three years from the date of their injury to make a claim. For minors – those under the age of 18 – who suffer injuries, claims must be made before their 21st birthday.
As minors are the most likely to be injured by defective or dangerous toys, it is advisable to bring a claim as soon as an injury is sustained, as waiting until just before their 21st birthday can make it difficult, as gathering evidence retrospectively can be troublesome. The sooner you reach out and begin the process of a claim, the sooner your child can receive the best treatment that can help their recovery and rehabilitation.
Please also bear in mind that the law requires anyone under the age of 18 to be represented by a Litigation Friend, usually a parent or guardian.
Any compensation payments need to be approved by a Judge and compensation monies will normally be passed over to the Court Funds Office to be managed until your child reaches the age of 18. If you have any queries about this please contact us for further information.
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