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Child safety - important decision on car seats

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A case has caught my eye this morning as I’m a mum myself to two small children, aged 6 and 4.

Like most mums, the move from a child car seat to a booster seat is a great relief. It allows more flexibility and comfort. However, the case of Hughes v Estate of Dayne Joshua Williams Deceased & Williams determined the issue of whether a mother can be negligent in using a booster seat instead of a child seat where the injuries would have been largely avoided if a more appropriate child seat had been used.

The case involved a road traffic accident. The child in question was three years and two months old at the time of the accident and suffered serious injuries. The child had been restrained in a booster seat and the mother’s evidence was that she had bought the booster seat just shortly before the accident as she did not feel that the child was comfortable in the car seat. Both the old car seat and the booster seat were in the car at the time of the accident as the mother described that it was a “transitional stage”.

The child weighed approximately 15kg at a height estimated to be 93 centimetres. The booster seat was designed to carry a child weighing between 15kgs and 36kgs, aged between 4 and 10 years, or 101cm to 145cm in height.

The child met the weight criteria but didn’t fit the age and height criteria. The mother was found to be negligent. I just wonder how many other mums would have thought the booster seat would have been suitable. Most parents will know that the law requires all children travelling in cars to use the correct seat until they are either 135 cm in height or the age of 12 (which ever they reach first). The Motor Vehicles (Wearing of Seat Belts) (Amendment) Regulations 2006, SI 2006 No. 1892 came into force in September 2006 and I remember them well as my children were very young at the time. But where a child is between 3 and 11 years of age the appropriate car restraint is determinable upon different variables.

This case highlights the need for parents to check the instructions and to seek advice from specialist car seat manufacturers before purchasing and fitting a booster seat.

By personal injury solicitor, Jennifer Holt