Motor vehicle injuries are a leading cause of death among children in the United States. But many of these deaths can be prevented. Buckling children in age- and size-appropriate car seats, booster seats, and seat belts reduces serious and fatal injuries by more than half, according to the Center for Disease Control (CDC).
The driver of a Toyota slowed on a Texas highway to avoid hitting a vehicle with its hazards on. Suddenly, the Toyota was hit from behind, then struck by another vehicle from the side. The Toyota was totaled; first responders used the Jaws of Life to remove the female driver. Fortunately, no one was seriously injured, including a three-year-old child in the backseat of the Toyota. “In a crash that left a car completely unusable, a child safety seat may have saved [the child] from harm,” said a responding officer.
Every year thousands of children are seriously injured or die from auto accidents, despite laws requiring that children use child restraint car seats. However, statistics have shown that car seats, when installed and used correctly, are extremely effective in reducing injuries and saving lives.
While a car seat manufacturer is liable for a faulty product, parents need to do their part to keep kids safe. Granted, it may be time consuming, even frustrating, to strap little ones in a car seat, but not doing so leaves children vulnerable to serious injuries or death even in low-speed crashes.
Without proper restraint, a crash can force a child’s head into the windshield, dashboard, or the back of the front seat. The brain could be compressed toward the front of the skull, while other organs smash into bone. A car seat, on the other hand, cradles the child’s back, head and neck, spreading out the force. Instead of the child snapping his neck, for instance, the whole body and seat take on the force more evenly, resulting in less damage.
Don’t be tempted to put kids in a regular seat when they outgrow a car seat. Seat belts are designed for adults and do not offer enough protection for children. Children line up differently with the placement of the belt, to the point where an impact would be more likely to damage internal organs. A booster seat raises a child up so that the adult seatbelt fits as it should across the strongest parts of the skeleton.
When shopping for a car seat, choose one that fits your child’s age and size. Here is a car seat guide from the American Academy of Pediatrics:
Infants: Infant seats and rear facing convertible seats. All infants younger than 1 year and who weigh less than 20 pounds should always ride rear-facing.
Toddlers/Preschoolers: Convertible seats. Children 1 year of age and at least 20 pounds can ride forward-facing. Still, it is best to ride rear-facing as long as possible.
School-aged children: Booster seats. Booster seats are for older children who have outgrown their forward-facing car safety seats. Children should stay in a booster seat until adult belts fit correctly (usually when a child reaches about 4’9″ in height and is between 8 and 12 years of age)
Older children: Seat belts. Children who have outgrown their booster seats should ride in a lap and shoulder belt in the back seat until 13 years of age.
Proper installation is equally important. It is imperative to read the car seat manual and the vehicle manual for proper installation. Additionally, register your car seat to ensure that you are promptly notified about future recalls, replace car seats that have been in a crash or have broken parts and do not buy a used car seat unless you know its full crash history. The National Highway Transportation Safety Administration (NHTSA) states that a car seat must meet five criteria in order to be safely used after an auto accident:
- The vehicle was able to be driven away from the crash site
- The vehicle door nearest the car seat was undamaged
- There were no injuries to anyone in the vehicle
- The air bags did not deploy
- There is no visible damage to the car seat
One caveat is that some car seat manufacturers state in the user manual that a car seat should be replaced after any type of accident, no matter how minor. This is doubly important because if the car seat does not protect your child when the need arises, the manufacturer will not be liable if you did not follow the required instructions.
Lawsuit Financial urges all parents to make sure their car safety seats are properly installed and buckle up your bundles of love!
Attorney, certified civil mediator, and award-winning author of the Zachary Blake Betrayal Series—Mark Bello is also the CEO of Lawsuit Financial and the country’s leading expert in providing non-recourse lawsuit funding to plaintiffs involved in pending litigation. He is also a member of the State Bar of Michigan, a sustaining member of the Michigan Association for Justice, and a member of the American Association for Justice.