I am a Miami car accident lawyer and father; each day I blog about an issue or law in an effort to bring attention to ways we can protect our families from preventable accidents, injuries, and even deaths. Today’s blog I dedicate to my son Nory on his eleventh birthday by thanking him for being my son and by expressing my gratitude to all of the powers of the universe for having kept him alive and well. I wish him–as my Grandmother Rose would often say–“another hundred years.” Here’s to you, Nory-Happy Birthday-enjoy your sushi and I hope this post will help protect and save the lives of other parents’ children.
Therefore, in celebration of Nory’s birthday, if you have a child under the age of 10, or act as a caregiver to small children, I recommend you ask yourself the following four questions today:
(1) Is my car seat is correctly installed?
(2) Am I in compliance with our State’s law?
(3) Has my car seat been recalled?
(4) Can a car seat be reused after an accident?
Sadly, the leading killer of children in the United States is traffic accidents. According to Safe Kids, more than 70% those children’s deaths could have been avoided if a child safety seat had been used. Studies have found that nearly 3 out of 4 car seats are installed and used improperly, or not at all, and that Infants should always use rear-facing seats, as this is the safest possible method of transporting young children. Safety experts recommend continuing to use this seat as long as the child fits within the height and weight limits of the seat.
Most people do not know that there actually are technicians specifically trained and certified in child passenger seat safety, who can and should check your car seat’s installation. I urge you to consider contacting a safety technician because, going by the statistics, you have probably installed the seat correctly. To locate a technician near you, click here or call (866) SEAT-CHECK or click here. In addition, Safe Kids holds events across the country where they will happily check your seat’s installation for free.
Sadly, every state has different child car seat safety laws. As a pleasefixme-closing”children’s injury lawyer in Broward, I cannot understand why there is no unified national car seat law mandating a unified regulation on this important issue. Instead, each state has different requirements as to the child’s age as well as the location of the car seat in the vehicle. This poses a regulatory nightmare for families who intend to take road trips across state lines this summer. For example, you may be in compliance with Florida’s car seat law, but in violation of Mississippi’s laws since they are different. To check your particular state’s requirement, click here.
WHAT IS FLORIDA’S CAR SEAT LAW?
Florida Statutes Section 316.613, Florida’s car seat law, requires that every child five years or younger who is being transported on any road, street, or highway in the State of Florida be placed in a “crash-tested, federally approved child restraint device.” For children three years and younger, the device must be a separate carrier or a vehicle manufacturer’s integrated child seat, while for children aged four through five years, a separate carrier, an integrated child seat, or a seat belt may be used.
Driving with a child in Florida without a car seat should be a crime; instead, it is considered a moving violation that subjects violators to a three-point assessment against their driver licenses, or they may elect to attend a court-approved child safety program. Of course, like most laws in Florida that are designed to protect the profits of business–at the expense of the injured, elderly, and even children–no Florida child seat law applies to commercially driven taxis, vans, or buses. Instead, the law imposes the responsibility for the child’s wellbeing solely on the parent.
HAS MY CAR SEAT BEEN RECALLED?
I was terrified when I researched this blog and found the number of car seats that have been recently recalled but are most likely still in use by unknowing parents and caregivers. The National Highway Safety Administration (NHTSA) provides an exhaustive list of manufacturers with each model of currently recalled car seat. I randomly selected the DOREL JUVENILE GROUP, the maker of the Alpha Omega and Omega Elite systems.
These children’s seats and booster devices were sold as both stand-alone car seats and as combination stroller systems. All of these devices had to be recalled because the harness-locking and release buttons failed to return to the locked position, allowing the adjustment straps to slide back through the adjuster device, thus permitting a child to move and slip out of the seat.
As a lawyer who sues the makers of dangerous products, medications, and medical devices, I imagine few parents are aware of this recall. One of the few ways manufacturers can alert consumers to recalls is through the mail. That is why I always recommend that parents fill out the warranty cards and mail them back to the manufacturers when purchasing car seats, or even such typical household products as microwaves and laptops. If you have lost the information that came with your car seat, you can still register directly with the manufacturer of most car seats by clicking here.
Can I Use a Car Seat After the Car Has Been in an Accident?
I recommend replacing a car seat after a serious crash. I define a serious crash as one where . . .
• The vehicle was disabled and could not be driven away.
• The door nearest the car seat was damaged.
• Any passenger in the vehicle was injured.
• Airbags deployed.
• There was visible damage to the car seat or harness.
A car seat properly installed in mint condition can literally mean the difference between life and death for a child. For this reason, it makes no sense to try to save a few dollars by purchasing a second-hand car seat. Unless you are obtaining the car seat from a highly reliable source, I would recommend that you not purchase a car seat second hand from a garage sale or online.
If your child was injured in a traffic accident due to a potentially recalled or defective car seat or from a seat that failed to protect them from an injury; please email Spencer Aronfeld in call contact our South Florida accident lawyers toll free at 866597-4529 for a free initial legal consultation regarding your case.