Each year there is often a single gift that tops the lists of children in Pennsylvania and throughout the United States. In years past, toys like “Tickle-me-Elmo”, Furby, Slim-design scooters, and video game consoles have been the toy of the year. This year, the “hoverboard” is one of the top new toys for the 2015 holiday giving season. However, before parents rush out and purchase one of these “hoverboards,” they should educate themselves about the product and some of the risks and dangers associated with them. Unfortunately the risks presented by hoverboards go far beyond the routine risk of a fall during use.
If you, your child, or another loved one have suffered serious, life-altering injuries due to a hoverboard accident or fire, contact the personal injury and defective product attorneys of Reiff & Bily. For more than three decades we have fought for injury victims and their families.
What is a Hoverboard?
The term “hoverboard” likely summons up images of a teenager soaring or levitating through the air on a skateboard or surf board-like device. In reality, this term is something as a misnomer as the devices are undoubtedly tethered to the ground, roll on two wheels, and are subject to the same rules of gravity as all other things. In reality, a hoverboard is probably more accurately described as a self-balancing scooter.
Aside from the standard mechanical parts that make up most scooters, self-balancing scooters have several other components that allow them to maintain their pitch and balance. Inside all self-balancing scooters are a gyroscope, a number of microprocessors, and two or more independent motors that balance the board. This hardware is all powered by a lithium ion battery which is housed in the same unit. Aside from the regular and natural falling risk, it is these batteries that present the greatest risk for an accident that produces a significant and life threatening risk not only to the rider but also to others in the immediate area.
CPSC Issues Consumer Warning Regarding Hoverboards: “No Safety Standards in Place”
In a move to calm nervous consumers who may have purchased a hoverboard as a gift, the Chairman of the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) addressed the public regarding the risks. Chairman Kaye stated that he has directed the CPSC to “work non-stop” until the cause of the hoverboard fires is determined. The CPSC now recognizes that Hoverboards have caught fire during charging and use. The chairman also stated, “…I do not want to downplay the fall hazard. CPSC has received dozens of reports of injuries from hospital ERs that we have contracts with and they continue to feed us real-time data. Some of these injuries have been serious, including concussions, fractures, contusions/abrasions, and internal organ injuries.” He also confirmed that no safety standards are in place to protect consumers who choose to use toys and devices of this type.
What Injury Risks Are Presented by Hoverboards?
Hoverboards present a falling risk simply due to the inherent nature of the toy. However, because the user expects the board to balance itself, it is possible that more severe injuries will occur because the microprocessors, gyros, and motors can malfunction. When the device not only fails to stabilize itself but also unexpectedly bucks or malfunctions, the risk of falling is great. Furthermore, because the user believed that he or she did not have to balance him or herself, the surprise of falling may result in significantly more serious injuries. According to information provided to the CPSC from ERs nationwide, life altering injuries including TBIs, organ damage, concussions, and bone fractures have been reported when using these toys.
Unfortunately, the risk of falling from a self-balancing scooter is not the most pressing or serious risk presented by these devices. Reports from across the country have established that the lithium-ion batteries used to provide power to the boards are prone to fire and explosion – even when used as intended. This is likely due to the fact that a scooter is a child’s toy that is subjected to significantly more bumps, bruises, and jostles than the battery in the average smart phone. Consider that the child actually stands on the hoverboard housing which contains the battery. If the battery is not sufficiently protected, it is highly likely that regular routine use will cause damage leading to a catastrophic malfunction. Damaged batteries are much more likely to explode or catch fire whether they are in-use, at rest, or charging.
Reports of fires caused by the lithium batteries in self-balancing scooters includes:
Louisiana – An incident involving a spontaneously combusting battery has occurred in this state. The incident allegedly occurred when the hoverboard caught fire while being charged. According to the homeowner, the fire was so intense that the entire home was engulfed in flames after only a few minutes.
Westchester, New York – In a separate incident in New York, a hoverboard also caught fire while charging. In this instance, a family member was able to put the fire out before it spread.
Gulf Shores, Alabama – In an incident in Alabama, a man claims that his hoverboard malfunctioned, threw him off the board, and then it caught fire and exploded. This incident is particularly worrying because it occurred during actual use and combines the fall, fire, and explosion mechanisms of injury.
Thankfully, injuries due to hoverboard malfunctions and fires have been limited largely to property thus far. However, the multiple house fires that have occurred while these devices charges are significant and serious losses. Unfortunately, if there is an inherent flaw in these devices, it is highly likely that the lack of serious injuries and even fatalities will persist.
Injured by a Hoverboard Fall, Fire, or Explosion?
If you or a loved one have suffered serious injury due to a hoverboard malfunction that caused a serious fall or you are the victim lithium ion battery explosion, the experienced defective product lawyers of Reiff & Bily may be able to fight for you. To schedule a confidential, no-fee initial hoverboard accident and injury consultation call us at (215) 274-0072 or contact us online.