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Kids Without Seatbelts What You Need to Know

All parents should know that at certain ages their children need to be in proper child safety seats when riding in a vehicle but also that everyone needs to be in a seat belt at all times. A recent incident that could have easily resulted in a tragedy highlights the importance of this commonsense safety measure.

On February 3, 2018, a Weymouth, Massachusetts, man was arrested after police found a third party tending to his 3-year son who was found lying in the breakdown lane on Route 3 North. Shortly after police arrived, the father appeared with another son. Officers noticed the peculiar behavior of the man and after his unsteady performance on field sobriety tests arrested him on suspicion of driving under the influence.

The man’s pickup truck was found a quarter of a mile from the scene and had been in an accident. The suspect stated that his son had asked to use a cellphone and then had rolled down a window but that his son had then disappeared. At some point, the man lost control of his vehicle and struck a guardrail. He could not account for why it took so long for him to return to where his son was found. A search of the truck found several bottles of drugs, a marijuana cigarette, and a bag with a powdery substance. No child safety seat was found.

Although the boy suffered severe road rash injuries, he did not suffer critical or life-threatening injuries. The father faces multiple charges including DUI, various road violation charges and child neglect. A single father, he was ordered to undergo random drug testing and to have supervised visits with his children.

In an earlier incident in February, 2018, a Louisiana man carrying 2 adults and 3 children rolled his vehicle after passing several vehicles at a high rate of speed. All but one of the vehicle occupants sustained minor injuries–an 11-year old girl who was unrestrained was ejected from the car and died at the scene.

In a 2016 incident in Methuen, a woman ran a red traffic signal at the intersection of Berkeley Street and East Brook Place and was broadsided by a van. The force of the collision caused her 6-year old son, who was apparently unrestrained since no child booster or safety seat was found in the car, to be ejected from the car and was run over by the van. He later died from his injuries.

Any of these incidents could have been easily prevented if the parents had complied with the law and had their children properly restrained.

Child Seat Belt Laws

Every state has laws requiring children to be restrained in vehicles, including our sister state New Hampshire that has no seat belt law for adults. In Massachusetts, children up to the age of 8 must be in a federally approved child passenger restraint. After that age or height, they must be in a seat belt that is properly adjusted and fastened according to the manufacturer’s instructions until the age of 13.

If properly restrained, a collision should not result in the ejection of a child or anyone else from a car. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, seat belts reduce the incidence of fatal injuries to front seat occupants by 45% and moderate to serious injuries by 50%. For properly restrained rear-seat passengers, the incidence of fatal injuries is reduced by 73%.

More tellingly, about 3 of every 4 people who are ejected from a car sustain fatal injuries. The Department of Transportation and other studies have reported that 95% to 99% of occupants who were ejected from a vehicle were unrestrained. Further, you are 30 times more likely to be ejected from a car if you are unrestrained, according to the at the Centers for Disease Control Injury Center.

Parents set examples for their children and wearing a seat belt is an essential one. In previous blogs, I have highlighted the poor practice of Massachusetts motorists who fail to buckle up. Our state ranks 46th in seat belt usage at 78%, far below the national average of 90%. The lesson from all these tragedies is clear. Always wear a seat belt and most importantly, be sure your child is properly restrained.

Damages in a Child Car Accident Claim

If your child was injured in a car accident, you will need an experienced car accident lawyer. You have enough emotions to deal with and an injury claim or lawsuit is secondary to your child’s recovery. But if another party was at fault, your child is entitled to compensation for any damages sustained.

Children are more susceptible to serious injuries in car accidents. Head, brain and spine injuries are the most common serious injuries to children in a car collision. Children up to the age of 7 suffer more base skull injuries than children in other age groups. Accordingly, the damages suffered by a child can be substantial.

Damages in a child injury case can include:

  • Past and future medical expenses
  • Emotional trauma
  • Physical therapy costs
  • Vocational therapy costs
  • Diminished quality of life
  • Reduced future income earning capacity
  • Permanent disability or disfigurement

There is no rush to settle a child’s injury claim. For an adult, the statute of limitations for filing an injury claim in Massachusetts is three years. For a minor, the claim does not begin to run until the child reaches the age of 18, with some exceptions. However, waiting too long can jeopardize your claim in some cases and if you handle the claim alone, you could further damage your child’s entitlement to reasonable compensation. Statistics consistently show that injured claimants with legal representation recover substantially more compensation than those who handle their own claim, even accounting for legal fees.

Retain the Law Offices of Burns and Jain

Injuries to any family member can be emotionally wrenching, especially if it is a child. Have an experienced car accident lawyer from the Law Offices of Burns and Jain handle your child’s injury claim from start to finish. With decades of experience and success in handling such claims, you can be assured of quality representation and the best opportunity for obtaining the most compensation for your child.