Auto accidents in Massachusetts and throughout the U.S. are a leading cause of death for children to age 18. Many of these fatalities and serious injuries can be prevented for smaller children if they are safely and appropriately restrained in the proper child safety seat.
All children under the age of 8 are required to be in a child safety seat such as a booster seat that is in the rear of the vehicle and is front or rear-facing with a harness system. Children who are at least 57 inches tall may be in a regular seat belt.
Massachusetts averages about 3 child fatalities in motor vehicle accidents each year for those age 0 to 7. This age group also experiences about 2,100 nonfatal injuries annually in our state. Although a severe collision may not be able to fully protect your child, proper restraint can certainly minimize the chances that your child will suffer either life threatening or fatal injuries.
Massachusetts Kids Car Accident Lawyer
To get the proper seat for your child, be aware of your child’s height and weight and carefully review the manufacturer’s instructions before purchasing the seat. Some guidelines are:
- For children up to 20 pounds or aged 2 to 4, they should be in a rear-facing seat in the back seat with a harness
- Toddler convertible seats with harness are for those who are 20 to 40-pounds and are to be placed in a forward-facing seat in the back
- Booster seats are for children 40 to 80 pounds and are front facing
A seat belt is fastened properly when the lap belt is across the upper thighs and the shoulder belt is across the center of the shoulder and chest, and not on the neck or face or off the shoulder. Use a regular seat belt when your child reaches 9-years of age unless they are below the manufacturer’s guidelines, or if they are still under 57 inches in height. Do not allow children to sit in the front passenger seat until age 12.
According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), use of a child safety seat reduces the risk for serious injury by 71% to 82% for children when compared to regular seat belt use. For children aged 4 to 8, booster seat use reduces serious injury risk by 45% when compared to regular seat belt use.
Putting a child under age 12 in the front seat exposes them to serious injury even if the airbag is deployed, which can result in serious injury to a small child. In any event, never place a rear-facing seat in front of an airbag.
If you are unsure if your child is being properly restrained, you can visit a fire station or police station where they can check the seat and instruct you on how to restrain your child.
Liability in Child Safety Seat Cases
In an auto accident where a child has been injured or killed, investigators will determine if the child was properly restrained. Despite the fault of another driver, a common defense is that the injury or fatality could have been prevented if the child was properly restrained or if the child was not in an age and weight appropriate seat, was not securely restrained or in the proper position, or the seat failed to perform.
In these cases, the insurer or defense lawyer for the at-fault driver can argue that the parent was comparatively negligent in not properly restraining the child. Massachusetts’ comparative fault statute allows plaintiffs to recover damages so long as their degree of fault does not exceed 50%.
Often, an expert is required to show that the child would have either suffered injuries or death regardless of whether they were properly restrained given the severity of the collision or where the impact occurred, or that they child would have likely survived or not suffered an injury or to a certain extent if properly restrained.
For any injury involving a child and especially where an issue of improper seat belt or safety seat is alleged, or if there was a defect in the seat system itself, you will need the experience of a seasoned car accident attorney to handle your claim.
Damages in Car Accidents Involving Children
Damages in a car accident where a child has been injured may include:
- Past and future medical expenses
- Loss of earnings if working
- Loss of earning capacity or loss of future career opportunities
- Pain and suffering
- Diminished quality of life
- Loss of consortium claim by parents for child dependent on parents
A forensic economist is usually needed if a child suffered serious or permanent injuries that has affected the child’s ability to earn a certain income or to engage in certain careers.
Retain a Car Accident Attorney from Burns and Jain
Serious injuries involving children can present difficult and complex issues of liability and damages that only a skilled and resourceful car accident attorney from the law office of Burns and Jain can handle. Call our office at (617) 227-7423 for a free consultation about your injury claim.