Child Car Accidents & the Law

According to the AA around 5,000 children under the age of 16 die or are seriously injured in car accidents in Britain each year, with nearly two in three road accidents involving children happening when children are walking or playing near roads.

This means that around one in three of these road accidents involves children who are passengers in vehicles.

Although there are scant statistics documenting the full extent of the problem, a number of these incidents will involve injuries suffered by children who, by law, should have been restrained in a car seat but were not. This is a significant problem: if a car accident occurs, a child who is unrestrained can be thrown out of the car or thrown forward with a force that is 30 to 60 times their weight, greatly increasing the risk of serious or fatal injury.

Child car seat law

Car drivers are legally bound to make sure that any child in their car under the age of 12 or less than 135 cm in height is properly restrained in a seat that is suitable for their size, age and weight. Only EU-approved child car seats can be used in the UK. These have a label showing a capital ‘E' in a circle.

Children with disabilities or medical conditions are also subject to the same rules. However, they can use a disabled person's seat belt or a child restraint that is adapted to their needs. Children with certain medical conditions may be given an exemption certificate if they are unable to use a restraint or seat belt.

If complied with, this law should significantly reduce the risk of the child being killed or injured, should they be involved in a car accident.

Using the correct car seat for your child

The car seat you choose will be based either on your child's height or weight.

Height based seats, or "i-Size" seats will be rear facing until your child is over 15 months old. Using your child's height to determine the right size of car seat can be easier to establish than by weight. These seats must conform to EU safety regulation ECE R129, and are designed to offer greater protection in side impacts than forward facing car seats.

Rear-facing i-Size car seats must be fitted to an ISOFIX fitting so that the seat is securely fitted to your vehicle's frame. There are some cars which are not suitable for i-Size seats, so you will need to check before you make a purchase.

 

Car seat recommendations based on child's height.

 

Weight-based seats must conform to EU safety regulation ECE R44 and come in various "groups" which cover a spread of different weights and ways of securing your child.

 

Car seat recommendations based on child's weight.

 

For more information on child car seats and the law relating to their use, visit the Gov.UK website. RoSPA also has a really useful guide on Choosing and Using Child Car Seats.

Replacing a Child Car Seat After an Accident

A child car seat that that has been involved in a crash involving high impacts should be replaced, even if you can see no sign of damage. This is because the forces which occur in collisions can weaken a car seat to such an extent that it may not provide adequate protection in the event of a further collision.

You should also check seat belts and any attachments to be sure there is no sign of stress or any damage. If a car seat needs replacing, your insurer should do this as a matter of course.

There are some incidences when it may not be necessary to replace place a child's car seat following an accident, for example:

  • The car suffered little or no damage
  • It was a very low speed collision
  • The car seat was empty at the time of the accident

Regular checks of a car seat's integrity should be undertaken, even when no accidents have occurred. If you have any uncertainty at all about whether the car seat needs replacing, you should always err on the side of caution.

Thompsons, a Leading Personal Injury Firm in Scotland

You should be able to include the cost of a replacement car seat as one of the items in your car accident compensation claim. In fact, you don't need to wait until the compensation claim is completed – speak to us. We can usually get you a new one straight away, and claim the cost from the insurance company involved.

How much could you claim? Call 0800 0891331 for free legal advice.

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