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Two-Year-Old Suffers Brain Injury in Minivan Accident After Defective Car Seat Breaks

Drivers place a massive amount of trust in auto manufacturers to keep them safe during a collision. They expect that car companies engineered their vehicles to minimize injuries both to themselves and their passengers. However, a minivan manufacturer failed to keep its riders safe during a low-speed fender bender. The driver’s seat broke and snapped backward during the rear-end crash, sending the driver’s head careening into a two-year-old passenger’s skull. As a result, the young child’s life was forever changed.

 On the day of the collision, the toddler riding with his babysitter, belted in his car seat directly behind the driver. The babysitter stopped at a stop sign and was hit from behind by another car going about 35 miles per hour. Upon impact, the driver’s seat broke and flew backward, resulting in head-to-head contact between the babysitter and the child. The babysitter walked away with a bruise and a scratch, but the child suffered a skull fracture and a brain bleed.

 Brian Chase, managing partner and senior trial attorney at Bisnar Chase in Newport Beach, California, took the case after a referral by another attorney. A 25-year veteran of personal injury and product defect cases, Chase knew that because of the gravity of the child’s injuries, their best bet would be to file a product liability lawsuit. However, he anticipated facing two obstacles from the Defense: first, they could deny liability by claiming that the seat wasn’t actually defective; second, the Defense could also say that the boy’s injuries weren’t as serious as the family claimed.

 Chase knew it would be difficult to establish the severity of brain injuries on children so young. The effects are often difficult to distinguish in adults, let alone a two-year-old. Moreover, the child involved in the accident seemed to have made a strong recovery. However, the invisible injuries remained, and Chase had to show that the brain bleed the boy suffered was, in fact, detrimental enough that he would need care indefinitely.

 Early in the case, the Defense argued that the car seat could not have moved back quickly enough for the heads to make contact and that the car seat probably moved forward. They also argued that the child had a pre-existing condition, which is why he would need lifelong care — not because of the brain bleed he suffered in the accident.

 After assembling a team of doctors, surgeons, and neuropsychologists to explain the child’s injury, Chase also put together a team to argue the liability side, including an accident reconstructionist, biomechanic, seatbelt expert, and defect experts. This team of experts worked collaboratively with DK Global to create an animation that showed how the driver’s seat collapsed, shot backward, and facilitated head-to-head contact between the babysitter and the child. DK Global also created an animation with visual splices showing the extent of the child’s brain bleed with images and scans showing his brain and the exact areas affected by the injury. While Chase’s legal team had a strategy for arguing the case, DK Global also offered input on how to use visuals to argue in favor of the child and his family to deflect the curveballs the Defense was throwing.

 The lawsuit was very close to going to trial, but the animations DK Global produced showing the crash and the extent of the child’s injuries were devastating to the Defense’s arguments. As a result, Brian and his team resolved the case with a significantly higher settlement than what the Defense initially offered.

Brian Chase is a managing partner and senior trial attorney at Bisnar Chase in Newport Beach, California, who specializes in personal injury and auto defect cases. He has been named Litigator of the Year and is the 2023 Chair of the Orange County Bar Association’s Tort & Trial section.He is also a member of theBrain Society of California and authored “Still Unsafe At Any Speed”, a book about defective vehicles and the auto industry.

"When it comes time to start putting the package together for trial, I'm going to have the testing by the engineers, I'm going to have the animations done by DK Global, and they're going to know they're in for a big fight."
Brian Chase — Bisnar Chase Personal Injury Attorneys, LLP
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