An automobile accident can be a traumatic experience for all involved, especially if children were present in the car at the time of the collision. It is critical that children are protected while being transported in a vehicle through the proper use and installation of a child safety seat. If you have been involved in an automobile accident, you may wonder, can you use a child car safety seat after being involved in an accident?
California has passed a series of laws establishing requirements for the installation and use of child safety seats, along with whether child car seats used after an accident will comply with state regulations. It is important to ensure that your child car seats are safe, legal, and properly installed to protect your children.
California Child Car Seat Laws
California has a number of laws on the books regarding child car seats. Here are a few that you should know about.
Types of Child Car Seats
Under California law, a motorist can use various types of child safety seats as their child grows, depending on the age, weight, and height of their child. These include rear-facing seats, forward-facing seats, and booster seats. The different types of child car seats are designed to provide age-appropriate protection for your child through the various stages of their growth and development while traveling in a car.
Age and Height Requirements
According to the California Highway Patrol, California law categorizes the mandatory use of child safety seats based on the child’s age, weight, and height. These laws are based on guidelines that have been established from national studies by the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA).
Rear-Facing vs. Forward-Facing Seats
California Vehicle Code Section 27360 sets forth the requirements for child safety seats for young children. When a child is under the age of two years old, they must be to be secured in a rear-facing child car seat unless they are 40 pounds or more in weight or 40 inches or more in height. A rear-facing seat protects the child in the event of an accident from injuries to their head, neck, or spine.
When a child is over the age of two years old or they have grown beyond 40 pounds in weight or 40 inches in height, parents may place the child in a forward-facing child safety seat in a vehicle.
California Vehicle Code Section 27363 sets forth the requirements for children who have outgrown car seats. Once a child is over the age of 8 years old or above 4 feet 9 inches in height, the child may be placed in a booster seat secured by a seat belt.
All children are subject to California’s mandatory seat belt law, meaning that every car seat must be safely secured by a seat belt. Once a child has outgrown a child car seat, they must still utilize a seat belt while traveling in a vehicle. Failure to do so may result in fines and other penalties under the law.
Child Car Seat Installation and Use Guidelines
When you purchase a car safety seat for your vehicle, California law requires that the safety seat be installed in accordance with the manufacturer’s written instructions and the vehicle’s owner’s manual. Importantly, a car seat should never be placed in the front seat with an active airbag. Either place the seat in the back row or turn off the airbag feature in the vehicle. Parents can always take their vehicle to a local California Highway Patrol office for inspection and assistance with installation.
The seats should be secured tightly and properly harnessed. The harness straps should be adjusted to fit snugly over the child’s shoulders and across their hips, with the straps above the child’s shoulders for rear-facing seats and at or below the shoulders for forward-facing seats. As the child grows, remember to periodically check the fit of the harness to adjust for optimal fit.
An Experienced Attorney Can Fill You in on California Law
The proper use and installation of a child car safety seat is vital to protecting children involved in a car accident. California law mandates installing child car seats under many circumstances.
While California does not require replacing a car safety seat after an accident, national guidelines recommend it, and insurance may cover it. It is crucial to stay informed about the latest car safety seat guidelines to protect the safety of your child.
Contact Our Car Accident Law Firm in Los Angeles, CA
If you were injured in an accident in Los Angeles, CA or you lost a loved one and you need legal assistance, please contact us to schedule a free consultation. One of our Los Angeles car accident lawyers at M&Y Personal Injury Lawyers will get in touch with you soon.