Every year, hundreds of children suffer injuries as a result of riding lawn mower accidents that continue to mow while in reverse. This problem has been identified and criticized since the early 1960’s. Despite the number of annual serious injuries suffered by children as a result of this design defect, the industry has been slow to address the problem. There are simple design solutions that would prevent lawn mowers from reversing while the mowing blades are engaged. The design alternatives to prevent this hazardous situation are an anti-lock system wherein the blades stop turning if the lawn mower is put into reverse, the lawn mower cannot be put in reverse if the blades are engaged, or it simply shuts off if it is placed in reverse while the blades are engaged.
Morris, King & Hodge, P.C.’s attorneys have represented several children injured or killed as a result of defectively designed lawn mowers. In 2007, Morris, King & Hodge, P.C. attorney David J. Hodge started and chaired the Lawnmower Litigation support group through the American Association of Justice to assist attorneys prosecuting these cases. 
In addition to chairing this group, Mr. Hodge has spoken on this defect at the 2007 American Trial Lawyers Association Summer Convention in Chicago, the 2008 American Trial Lawyers Association Summer Convention in Philadelphia and the 2014 American Association for Justice Winter Convention in New Orleans, Louisiana. Mr. Hodge has been interviewed on this subject for various American Association for Justice periodicals and by Lawyers USA. 
Each year approximately 560 children are injured as a result of a back over incident with a riding lawn mower.  Riding lawn mowers provide an annual injury rate of 2.6 injuries per 1,000 ride-on mowers. “This injury rate is more than three times greater than that for walk behind power mowers.”  The overall injury rate for all lawn mowers and children was an average of 9,400 annual injuries or 11.1 injuries per 100,000 U.S. children per year. The injury rates are particularly troubling in light of the infrequent and seasonal use of this product.
Coupled with the high injury rate is the fact that lawn mower injuries are severe. The lawn mower blade has an extreme amount of power when it is engaged. The kinetic energy of an average blade at 3,000 RPM is 2,100 ft/lb.  Placed in perspective, the wounding capacity of a rotary blade is the same as the power generated by dropping a 211 lb object from the height of 100 ft or three times the power of a .357 Magnum gun.
No-mow-in-reverse system has been in use for over twenty years, however some manufacturers still refuse to utilize the safety feature. In 1981, the Consumer Product Safety Commission identified the hazard pattern of a child being backed over by a riding lawn mower.  In that same report, the Consumer Product Safety Commission suggested a requirement that “during the time that the mower is in reverse gear the propulsion engine is running, the blades shall be stopped and there shall be an intermittent sound signal of specified characteristics.” 
Manufacturers as early as 1981 began producing riding lawn mowers with no-mow-in-reverse features. Several manufacturers in the early 1980s advertised lawn mowers with this feature. Despite competitors utilizing and advertising this safety feature and recommendations by the Consumer Product Safety Commission, some manufactures continue to fail to install such safety devices.
The medical community has consistently called for the implementation of no-mow in-reverse design and has affirmatively stated that such devices will prevent severe back-over injuries. For example, the American Academy of Pediatrics has called on manufacturers to “design ride-on lawn mowers that will not mow in reverse, with a manual override option if adequate levels of safety cannot be achieved voluntarily, a mandatory federal safety standard may be necessary.”  The American Academy of Pediatrics Committee on Injury and Poison Prevention has reported no-mow-in-reverse feature “could help reduce the number of injuries from back-overs involving blade contact.”  A ten year study of lawn mower injuries in children concluded that if no-mow-in-reverse feature were mandatory, “the majority of severe injuries in children would be prevented.” 
A 2005 study entitled “Characteristics of Pediatric Traumatic Amputations Treated in Hospital Emergency Departments: United States”, was the first to use a nationally representative sample to evaluate amputation injuries among children.  The study analyzed data from children with amputation injuries treated in NEISS participating hospitals from January 1, 1990 through December 31, 2002. This study found that “lawnmowers were associated with more severe injuries than any other product in [the] study period. They caused the largest number of toe and foot amputations and had the highest proportion (51.9%) of injuries requiring hospitalization.”  “Of all pediatric mower-related injuries, more than 7% require hospitalization, roughly two times the hospital admission rate for consumer product-related injuries overall.”  “Ride-on mowers were the leading cause of amputation injuries among children admitted to one regional level I trauma center.” 
If you or a loved one has been injured in a riding lawn mower accident, our attorneys can advise you on how to seek compensation for your injuries and to hold the product manufacturer responsible. We are a leader in lawn mower injury cases and will put our 75 plus years of combined legal experience to work for you. Though our office is located in Alabama, we can help victims throughout the country. To speak with a firm partner about your lawn mower accident claim, call us for a free consultation locally at (256) 536-0588 or toll free at (888) 321-8353. You may also send us a secure online message.