We all know that wearing a seat belt saves lives and can minimize the risk of sustaining a serious injury in an auto accident. Despite this obvious and well-known fact, car accidents are the number one killer of children ages 3-14 in the US and many of these fatalities stem from lack of seat belt use as well as the improper restraining of children in child safety or booster seats.
If the current rate of children killed in auto accidents who were either unrestrained or improperly restrained was reduced by 10%, it would save 1,100 children over a 5-year period. Statistics from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration shows that of the 20% of children killed in auto accidents each year, 13% were in the front seat, a practice that is illegal for children under age 8.
Older children in the range of 8-12 years of age were more unlikely to be unbuckled. Nearly 40% of children found with no restraints were riding with adults who were also unbuckled. It is always the responsibility of motorists to see that their passengers are using a seat belt or are properly restrained, regardless of age.
Most Parents are Clueless on Child Seat Safety
Seat belt safety is part of sound parental responsibility and many parents congratulate themselves on this practice. However, the overwhelming majority of children are either in the wrong type of seat for the child’s age and weight or the car seat was improperly installed. An examination of vehicle child restraints showed that 74% to 84% of them were not properly installed or the restraints used incorrectly. An astounding 96% of parents surveyed believe that they had properly installed these seats.
Massachusetts laws requires that only federally approved car seats be used and that children up to the age of 8 or until they are over 57 inches tall must be in such seats. Older and taller children must then use seat belts.
Seat belt safety also includes keeping children in the back seats. The injury risk is reduced by 64% for newborn to 8-year old’s and by 31% for 9-12 year old’s by simply having them in the rear seats. You also increase the chances of your child being restrained if you also buckle up. Unfortunately, Massachusetts has consistently ranked among the worst states for seat belt usage overall. About 78.2% of our drivers consistently use seat belts. The national average is 88.5 %. Our sister state, New Hampshire, is dead last at around 70%.
The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends for toddlers and preschoolers that once your child has reached the maximum height and weight for rear-facing seats, children should ride in a forward-facing seat with harness until they outgrow it. At that point, they should be in a booster seat with higher weight limits.
Before you purchase a child booster or safety seat, be sure it is federally-approved. Also, be sure this seat is the right one for your child’s age and weight. The tag or manual that accompanies the seat should give you this information. Then, practice installing it and restraining your child.
To be sure the seat is properly installed and you are correctly restraining your child, see if the police department in your town or area has a safety technician who can examine the seat and your method of restraint. You should bring your child with you and know his or her weight and height.
Damages in Auto Accidents Involving Children
Damages for anyone injured in a car accident may be awarded if a party is found responsible for causing the accident. The amount of compensation to be awarded depends on the nature and extent of the injuries. For injured minors, a guardian ad litem is sometimes appointed to represent the interests of the child, usually a parent, and most settlements must be approved by the court.
If your child was injured or tragically killed in a car accident, one consideration is if the child was properly restrained and if the child safety or booster seat was defective. Many seats are flawed in some fashion. The seat will have to be examined by an expert to see if the seat was designed or manufactured according to certain standards or contained a manufacturing defect that led the child to suffer a serious injury or fatality.
Damages in car accidents involving children may include:
- Past and future medical expenses
- Pain and suffering
- Emotional or psychological damages
- Diminished quality or enjoyment of life
- Parental claim for loss of consortium
If a fatality, an executor or administrator for the decedent brings the claim on behalf of the immediate family. Damages may include:
- Medical expenses for final treatment, if any
- Burial and funeral expenses
- Pain and suffering if the child was observed to have consciously suffered before succumbing
- Parental loss of consortium
- Punitive damages if defendant exhibited gross negligence or a willful indifference to the safety of others
Consult the Law Office of Burns & Jain
Neil Burns has been a personal injury lawyer for over 25-years who has provided counsel on seat belt safety to the parents of children injured or killed in auto accidents. Neil Burns will aggressively pursue the rights of victims and victims’ families and obtain the compensation to which they are entitled.