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Understanding Car Seat Violations in Virginia

Motor vehicle accidents are the leading cause of death for children between the ages of 3 and 14, according to saferide4kids.com.  In 2011 alone, over 148,000 children were seriously injured in car accidents and 650 were killed. Of the fatalities in that year, about 33 percent were not in a proper child restraint device (car seat).  The research is overwhelming; child seats save lives. Yet, thousands of children continue to be seriously injured or killed every year, due to not being properly fastened in their car seats and boosters. This is leading many states to toughen their laws on car seat use. Citations are becoming on par with other serious violations and can even result in license suspensions.

What is a proper child restraint?

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), car seats reduce the chance of death by 71 percent for infants and 54 percent for toddlers. This is no small figure.  But seat belt use is not just isolated to children; parents set the tone for future use. The CDC also reports that about 40 percent of children who ride without a car seat are riding with an unrestrained driver. Likewise, from 2001 to 2010, the CDC estimates that about one in five child fatalities under the age of 15 involved drinking and driving. Similarly, in 65 percent of these situations, the driver of the child’s vehicle was intoxicated. Therefore, the failure to use car seats and improper child restraint is a behavioral problem that is both generational and determined by lifestyle. But this does not mean it is acceptable.

Some states are ramping up penalties

At this time, Virginia law allows officers to use the standard uniform traffic citation summons, which allows for a simple $20 fine for first-time offenders who allow children to ride unrestrained. However, a look at other states around the country indicates a growing trend to increase penalties. In New Jersey, a three-year battle to pass legislation ended last year, when, on May 1, 2015, the new car seat law passed. There, each violation is between $50 and $75. This includes multiple passengers. Further, states like California are including misdemeanor charges for some drivers, where children are injured or killed while not restrained.

If a child is injured by in an accident, does the fact that he or she was not in a car seat mean the child’s injuries cannot be compensated?

Absolutely not. It would be unthinkable to leave a child unprotected legally just because a driver left him unprotected physically.  In fact, Virginia law specifically carves out an exemption, stating that failure to use a proper child restraint cannot be used as evidence to mitigate liability or damages in a civil suit.

Getting help after an accident

While an injured child may still recover for injuries that result from another’s negligence, the best measure is to prevent the injuries in the first place. Nevertheless, if you or someone you love suffers an injury in a Virginia motor vehicle crash, you need knowledgeable and aggressive legal representation to protect your rights. Do not assume an insurance company will look out for you, and never assume you have given up your chance of recovering just because of something like failing to use a car seat. Personal injury laws are complex and have many exceptions. Contact Simms Showers, LLP, serving clients in Leesburg, Loudoun county, Prince William county and throughout northern Virginia, to speak with an experienced auto accident lawyer today.

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