Were you or your child involved in an accident in which your child was without proper child restraints? Major concerns after these accidents include: How will this affect my case? Can I still recover for my damages? Will I be able to recover damages for my child? The stress of a car accident is magnified when a child is involved so it is important to be aware of the laws and regulations in place that may impact your Indiana personal injury case.
The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends children should stay in a rear-facing car seat as long as possible, until they reach the maximum height or weight. This recommendation applies to forward facing car seats as well. When a child is moved into a booster seat, the AAP suggests the child remain in the booster seat until they reach 8-12 years (4 feet 9 inches). The appropriate car seat should be used for every trip as they can reduce the risk of fatal injuries by 70%.
Additionally, Indiana Code 9-19-11 provides that a person commits a Class D infraction if they operate a vehicle with a child less than 8 years old who do not have proper child restraints. If a child is at least 8 years old but less than 16 and is not properly fasted by a child restraint system or safety belt, the operator of the vehicle commits a class D infraction.
How will your case be affected?
In cases like this the Indiana Comparative Fault Act applies, which reduces the injured party’s damages by the percentage of fault they contributed to causing the injuries. However, IC 9-19-11-8, which addresses child restraint requirements, states “failure to comply with this chapter does not constitute contributory negligence.” In Burge v. Teter, parents filed a lawsuit on their behalf as well as their children’s behalf. The court held that “the statutory prohibition against using evidence of a failure to restrain a child in a moving vehicle to prove contributory fault necessarily prohibits using that evidence to prove a failure to mitigate damages.” Thus, defendants cannot use evidence of a failure to properly restrain your child to decrease the amount of damages awarded for injuries suffered by you and your children.
Although this fact will not impact your recovery in your personal injury case, it is important to ensure your child is always properly restrained. Car crashes remain the leading cause of death for children and proper car seat safety can drastically reduce those risks.