Personal Injury Liability: Failure to Use Child Safety Seat

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 What is a Child Car Seat?

A car seat, also called a safety seat, is a special seat a child must sit in or on when riding in a vehicle. Car seat laws are regulated by each individual state. Car seat standards, however, are regulated by the federal government.

Car seats are different from safety belts. A car seat can range from an infant car seat to a booster seat used by older children.

It is also important to note that safety belt laws vary by state, similar to car seat laws. It is important to always check the local state car seat laws when using this type of seat.

Most states require children to ride in a properly-used car seat or booster seat when in a vehicle. The instructions provided on a car seat are referred to as the proper use clause. This means that when an individual uses the seat for their child, they are acknowledging they read those instructions.

Proper car seat installation may be tricky. Because of this, most fire and police stations will perform a car seat inspection to ensure it is properly installed in the vehicle. To avoid an airbag injury to a child, a car seat should be used in the back seat. In the event of an auto accident, an improperly installed car seat may cause injury or death to the child.

What Types of Car Seats are There and When Should They Be Used?

Car seats are made to be used according to the child’s age and physical measurements. As children grow, their car seat needs will change. Parents are required to comply with state laws through each stage of the child’s growth. It is important to note that most states have requirements for car seats that are joined by the word and, meaning all requirements listed must be met.

If the requirements are separated by the word or, it means one of the requirements must be met. This is more common phrasing when it comes to booster seats.

The following are general guidelines for various types of car seats, although every state will have its own unique set of rules:

  • Newborns and infants must be in a rear-facing car seat in the back seat of the vehicle. Rear-facing car seats are usually required for children under one year of age or under 20 pounds. Certain states require a child to use this type of car seat until two years of age;
  • Children ages 1 to 4 years and who weigh less than 40 pounds should be in forward-facing seats placed in the back seat of the vehicle;
  • Booster seats should be used for children until the age of 8 and over 4’9” in height in the rear of the vehicle;. A booster seat lifts the child so as to safely fit into an adult seat belt; and
  • Children may use seat belts or safety belts after growing past all stages mentioned in the law. It is best for the child to continue to sit in the back seat of the vehicle for as long as possible, as it is the safest area in the vehicle.

An individual’s specific state laws may vary from those above. It is essential to check the laws of the individual’s state or visit a nearby police station or fire station for a safety inspection.

What if I Cannot Afford a Car Seat?

If an individual cannot afford a car seat, there may be some options available. It may be possible to find a car seat donation at a local Safe Kids Coalition, fire departments or police department. These establishments may have donations, reduced-cost car seats, or may be able to direct an individual to similar resources.

Second-hand stores or thrift stores may also have car seats. If purchased at one of these locations, it is important to have the seat checked by a fire department or police department. The purchaser should also call the car seat manufacturer to ensure the seat has not been recalled.

A court will not excuse a parent or child guardian from breaking the law because of their inability to purchase a car seat. It is important for an individual to do whatever they can to avoid a child safety seat violation. They are in place to save children’s lives.

Does Failure to Use a Child Safety Seat Affect Personal Injury Liability to a Child?

In most cases, no. Many states have specific laws requiring infants and young children to ride in a child safety seat whenever they are riding in a vehicle.

However, a lot of these same laws will not limit full recovery from personal injury, even if a child fails to use a child safety seat. This means, if a child is injured in a car accident while not riding in a child safety seat, the child can still receive compensation for the costs of all injuries and other damages.

How Does This Affect Someone Who Has Injured a Child in a Car Accident?

In many cases, an individual responsible for a car crash or injury will claim contributory negligence of the other driver as a defense. In other words, the driver who caused the accident will argue that the other driver is also responsible for the child’s injury because the child was not riding securely in a car seat. The driver at fault will argue, because of this, they should not have to pay all of the damages, since the injuries were not all their fault.

As noted above, however, if a driver fails to put an infant passenger in a child safety seat, it is typically not held against them as far as compensation for the child’s injuries. Many states do not permit a driver’s failure to utilize a child safety seat as evidence in court. As a result, the individual responsible for the crash will usually be required to pay all damages resulting from the child’s injury.

What Other Types of Defenses Does This Affect?

In addition to contributory negligence, there are other defenses that may be negatively affected by child safety seat laws. These may include negligent supervision, as well as mitigation of damages, which means the injuries to the child could have been lessened or avoided if they were riding in a car seat.

Are There Any Exceptions to This General Rule?

There are exceptions to this general rule. These exceptions only apply in cases where the state law does not specifically allow full recovery despite the failure to put the child in a car seat.

Generally, the laws will not provide any guidance regarding whether or not the failure to put the child in a safety seat can limit recovery for the child’s injuries. In these cases, a court will usually allow a defense such as comparative negligence to be examined.

How Can a Lawyer Help Me with My Car Seat Issues?

An experienced personal injury attorney can help you with any car seat related issues you may have. If your child was injured in an automobile accident, even if they were not riding in a car seat, you may still have a good chance to recover for their injuries. You should contact an attorney as soon as possible. An attorney can review your case, advise you on the possible recovery of damages, and represent you during any court proceedings, if necessary.


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