Recently, a three-year-old girl, who was not in a car seat or wearing a seat belt, was left behind on the floor of a crumpled vehicle after a serious crash. The girl was riding in the back of the vehicle driven by a 28-year-old man who lost control of the vehicle due to his speed, rear-ending one car and sideswiping another. He and another passenger, a 12-year-old boy, both told responders there were no other passengers in the vehicle.
The Odessa Fire Rescue, the Ector County Sheriff’s Office, and the Texas Department of Public Safety all responded to the scene and failed to notice the little girl on the floor of the vehicle. The little girl was found by a tow truck driver three hours later. She was immediately taken to the hospital, but family reports that she suffered bleeding in her brain and partial paralysis.
The injured girl’s situation is a clear reminder of the importance of children riding in the appropriate safety seat. Her injuries may have been prevented or mitigated had she been buckled into a car seat. Emergency personnel, who checked the child safety seat in the back of the vehicle, would also have found her quicker and been able to give her immediate medical attention. If your child was hurt because a babysitter or guardian did not properly buckle him or her into a car seat, you may have a personal injury claim against that adult.
Texas Safety Seat Law
Under Texas law, all children younger than eight-years-old, unless they are taller than 4’9”, must ride in the appropriate child safety seat whenever they are passengers in a vehicle. The safety seat should be the appropriate size for the child and installed per the manufacturer’s instructions. In almost all situations, this will require the car seat to be installed in the back of a vehicle. However, some safety systems can be properly used in a front passenger seat with the airbags turned off.
Once a child turns eight, parents and other adults are allowed to use the seat belts in the car to secure a child passenger. However, it is crucial that parents and adults follow the American Academy of Pediatrics’ recommendations for child passengers. Just because a child is old enough to ride in the car with a seatbelt by law that does not mean this is the safest practice.
The AAP recommends that children up to the age of two-years-old or 35 pounds ride in a rear-facing safety seat. Adults should utilize rear-facing safety seats for their children as long as possible. Once a child becomes too large for this system, adults should use a forward-facing safety seat. This can be used until the child is up to 80 pounds, which is about four-years-old. Once a child is four or outgrows the forward-facing seat, he or she moves to a booster seat. Booster seats can be used with the lap and shoulder seat belts within the vehicle. Children should stay in a booster seat until they are between 10- or 12-years-old and the adult seat belts can fit them properly.
Contact a Personal Injury Attorney for Help
If another adult driver did not use the proper safety seat for your child or had a seat but did not buckle your child in, that adult may be held responsible for your child’s injuries in a car accident. With the help of an experienced New Braunfels personal injury attorney from The Bettersworth Law Firm, you may be able to prove that the driver was negligent in not buckling your child in. Additionally, if your child was younger than eight, the driver may have broken Texas law.