We tend to think of the items in our household as being generally safe. We often do not give much thought to the potential dangers of household item use, misuse, or what could happen if those products are defective or malfunction.
At the risk of being dramatic, many of us keep a large piece of motorized equipment in our homes that whirls large, sharp metal blades at extraordinary speeds. We put ourselves right next to those blades on a regular basis. That could easily describe chainsaws or band saws, but those are items that we generally regard as dangerous, and towards which much media attention has been focused, reminding people of the necessity of safety when using them.
But what about the everyday-use lawnmower? The lawnmower almost has a reputation of being as safe as any other household item or appliance. While people will often exercise extraordinary caution and care using a chainsaw, they may whip around a lawnmower without thinking about it, and often, may even allow minors in the home to use it, something they would never consider doing with a chainsaw.
Lawnmowers also come in the “lawn car” variety, where the user sits and rides on it. Although it may look like a fun amusement park ride, or an automated toy, the lawn car is anything but.
Nebraska Girl Injured
Sadly, a Nebraska family learned just this lesson the hard way, when a 2-year old’s foot was amputated after she fell below a lawn car. The accident was immediate and catastrophic; the power of the blades immediately amputated the foot.
It is not known whether the girl was riding the lawn car, or in front of it when someone else was riding it.
This is unfortunately not an isolated incident; there are about 800 children who are run over by lawn mowers or tractors every year. Of them, about 600 lose limbs to amputation. Most accidents happen when children are either on, or playing around, lawn mowers. Lawn mower accidents can be devastating, often requiring multiple surgeries and extended rehabilitation for the devastation that moving blades can cause to a person’s limbs, and particularly the small limbs of minors.
The American Academy of Pediatrics suggests that children should be at least 12 to walk next to an operational mower, and at least 16 to actually operate one, although those numbers should be adjusted to account for each child’s individual maturity and physical stature.
Although many mowers have protective covers protecting the blades, the covers are not sufficient to avoid limbs from reaching the blades, and in many cases, the covers may even conceal the danger from young children who are unaware the danger that lurks beneath them.
Common Sense Safety
Common sense safety precautions can avoid accidents. Before using mowers, any debris should be cleared from the mowing area. Stray rocks and even small toys or coins, can be flung by mower blades, becoming dangerous projectiles. Safety goggles should also always be worn when operating a lawnmower.
Experts say that mowing should never be done on wet grass, on inclement weather, or in the dark.
Mowing on hills or slopes also can create problems because mowers can tip over, particularly lawn cars. When mowing on an incline, mowers should go up and down the incline, not across it.
Stop mowing immediately any time you are on a surface that makes the lawn car seem unstable.
Importantly, remember that your child may see the lawn mower—and especially the lawn car—as a toy. It is loud, it throws stuff around, and you can ride on it. But kids should be taught how dangerous the items are, and should never be permitted to ride it until they are old enough.
Nobody should ever ride as a passenger in a lawn car, and users should power off the mowers completely before touching or even going near any part of the blade area. This seems obvious, but inexperienced riders and children may reach down to pick up an object on the grass next to the blades without thinking, or may even try to dislodge items from the mower before being sure it is completely powered off. Some mowers have features that automatically shut off the mower when the handle is released.
When the Product Fails
Although there are a number of safety precautions you should take, do not assume that when a mower accident happens, that you did something wrong. Like any item, a lawn mower can malfunction even when properly used. Defects in manufacturing, improper design features, or inadequate warnings or instructions can all result in injuries. Cheaper-made mowers may not have the safety features that they should, or may have incomplete warning labels.
A manufacturer of a lawn car is liable for injuries that are caused by a defective mower, and the retailer may be liable, as well. In many cases, you may not immediately know if an injury was caused by a defect in design or manufacturing. Even attorneys may need to retain experts to examine the mower.
This is why it is important to remember to preserve (and not alter) any mower that causes you injury, so that it can be inspected later on for any defects.
Safety is important when using any heavy machinery, especially when it comes to children. If you or someone you know has been injured while using a lawn mower or similar device, call the injury attorneys of Brill & Rinaldi today for a free consultation to discuss your case.