Are you using the right car seat for your child?

A recent Court of Appeal case has highlighted the importance of using the correct type of car-seat for each individual child. A mother was found 25% liable for her daughter’s injuries because she used the wrong seat. Using the correct seat will in the case of an accident not only avoid liability on the parent’s part, but more importantly ensure that children have the maximum protection.

When travelling in a car children should be in a car seat until they are 12 years old or 135cm.  Parents need to take account of the weight of their child when deciding which car seat is appropriate:

Type of seat Weight range
Rear-facing baby seats Babies up to 13kg
Forward or rear-facing baby seats Children from 9 to 18kg
Forward-facing child car seats (booster seats) Children from 15 to 25kg
Booster cushions Children over 22kg

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The relevant case was Williams –v- The Estate of Dayne Joshua Williams, the Claimant, Emma Williams, a 3 year old girl, suffered very serious injuries, including a spinal cord injury which left her paralysed. Emma was in booster seat in the back of her mother’s car when it was hit by another car driven by the Defendant.  The Defendant, who died as a result of the accident, had consumed alcohol and drugs, and lost control of his car and swerved onto the wrong side of the road. There was nothing that Emma’s mother could have done to avoid the accident.

The Defendant’s Insurers admitted liability but argued that Emma’s mother had not used the correct type of car seat and that she should therefore be held 25% liable for Emma’s injuries. They said that if Emma had been in the correct type of car seat her injuries would have been less severe or avoided altogether.

Emma was sitting on a cushion booster seat, with no back, secured by the adult car seat-belt.  There was, however, another seat in the car which had been used for Emma until shortly before the accident.  This was a child’s car seat with a five-point harness. The Defendant’s insurer said that Emma was too young and too small to be placed on the booster seat and that the explicit warnings and instructions in the manual made that very clear.

Emma’s mother argued that she made a reasonable choice in using the booster cushion; although with hindsight it proved to be a mistake. She had read the manual and had not had any difficulty understanding it. The Judge decided that Emma’s mother should not have disregarded the warnings in the manual and she should have used the child seat which was appropriate for a child of Emma’s age and height.

The Court of Appeal found that Emma’s mother should be held 25% liable for her daughter’s injuries.

This case emphasises just how important it is for parents to make sure that the car seat that they are using for their child is the appropriate one for their height, age and weight. The right car seat will provide the maximum protection for a child.

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