Todd Carroll, a car accident attorney in San Francisco, is a parent himself.
In the late 1980s, his wife died in a car crash and his son, who was only eight at the time, was left with a leg amputated.
“My wife’s death was a horrible thing, and I couldn’t imagine being left without a leg,” Carroll said.
“I knew there were a lot of kids with their parents in the car when I was younger, and a lot have a leg, so I wanted to help.”
Carroll’s career has expanded since then, with clients like Disney, Target, and Subway.
He has also worked on cases for the National Association of Insurance Commissioners, which represents insurance companies that cover children and pregnant women, and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.
“For the first three or four years, I didn’t have much time to spend with my clients, so they were my family,” he said.
But in 2008, the National Labor Relations Board ruled in the company’s favor, and Carroll lost his job.
“It was an incredibly traumatic event that left me with a lot more anxiety than I should have,” he explained.
Carroll took the case to the California Labor Commissioner, who eventually awarded him a six-figure settlement, though Carroll still hasn’t gotten paid since.
Today, Carroll spends his days defending the safety of car seats and car owners, but he’s not the only one who has lost out.
“We’ve seen a lot in the last five years, that the market for car seats has grown exponentially and the market is flooded with car safety products,” said Andrew Reiser, an assistant professor of insurance and law at the University of California at Berkeley.
“A lot of those car seats are manufactured by companies that are not fully regulated by the federal government and are not subject to the kinds of labor laws that apply to the insurance industry.”
Consumer Reports ranked the top car safety companies in the United States in 2011, with more than 3,300 cars on their safety checklist.
And the company that received the most votes for best in class was the American Automobile Association, which won its second consecutive award in 2016.
But many car insurance companies do not require that all car manufacturers comply with the requirements of the National Automobile Dealers Association, the trade group for the automotive industry.
Reiser noted that there are other reasons why manufacturers may not want to comply with safety requirements, like to avoid a lawsuit from a third party. “
These provisions are intended to prevent automobile manufacturers and other manufacturers from marketing, advertising, or otherwise distributing vehicles that are substantially identical to those manufactured by the manufacturers of other vehicles.”
Reiser noted that there are other reasons why manufacturers may not want to comply with safety requirements, like to avoid a lawsuit from a third party.
“When you have an entire industry in California where manufacturers have an incentive to not comply with these rules, you end up with some really egregious violations,” he added.
The problem is not limited to the United Automobile Workers union, either.
Reiser said that even if the law were actually enforced, there is no way that automakers would be able to protect themselves from lawsuits from the United Car Workers.
In California, car companies that make car seats cannot claim liability for injuries to consumers.
“The car manufacturers are essentially saying, ‘We don’t need you to pay us any money, and we don’t want to have any liability, and therefore we’re not going to take a look at you,'” Reiser explained.
“If they don’t, then they’re not paying you to insure your children.”
If you or anyone you know needs help, call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 800-799-SAFE.