In July 2019, the state of Virginia enacted a new car seat law that requires children to remain rear-facing in their car seats until age 2 or the minimum weight limit called for by the car seat manufacturer. This was in response to the recommendations from the American Academy of Pediatrics that rear-facing car seats are safer for young children because infants and toddlers are “head-heavy” and this is a better way to support the head, neck, and spine of young children. It is estimated that 75 percent of children less likely to die or get seriously injured in an accident when their seat is rear-facing.
The new law is a primary offense, which means that law enforcement can pull a driver over and issue a citation without a separate violation. The fine for a first offense is $50. Second and subsequent violations will be fined up to $500.
The state of Virginia is dedicated to ensuring children are safe. Parents can take set up appointments with a specialist to learn the proper installation and use for their car seats. Specialists are located throughout the state. The state also has a low-income safety seat program that supplies free child safety and booster seats for those who qualify.
Factors in Using Car Seats Correctly
The following factors should be considered when using car or booster seats to protect your child:
- Your child’s size: Keep in mind that although the law created an age cutoff, parents should not assume that when their child turns 2, they are ready for a car seat that faces front. Safety experts say it is the child’s weight and height that determines what type of seat they should be in and recommend waiting until the child weighs more than 40 pounds and is taller than 40 inches.
- Dressing your child: Parents may not realize that the clothing they wrap their child in to keep them warm can interfere with how firmly the straps used to keep the child are. Bulky clothing can compress in a crash and this can loosen up the straps, creating a very dangerous situation. Parents should dress their child in thin layers of clothing and place a blanket or coat on top of the seat.
- Back seat passengers: Multiple studies have concluded that children should always sit in the back seat until they are 12 years of age. A deployed airbag in the front can cause severe injury to a child. When a child is in the back, the front seat also offers a layer of protection for them in the event of an accident.
- Car or booster seats required until child turns 8: The new Virginia law requires that all children under the age 8 be in a child safety seat. Once a child outgrows a front-facing seat, they should be in a booster seat, in the back seat, until they are big enough to fit the seat belts in the vehicle. This is when the child reaches 4’9” and the seat belt fits correctly across the child’s upper thighs and the shoulder belt fits across the chest.
Call a Virginia Car Accident Attorney
If your child has been injured in a car accident caused by another driver’s negligence, you are likely facing high medical bills and missed time from work while you care for your child during recovery. This can put quite a strain on a family’s physical, emotional, and financial wellbeing.
When an accident is caused by another party who behaved recklessly or negligently, Virginia allows victims to take legal action in order to be financially compensated for all of these financial expenses. Victims can also pursue damages for losses that are not economic, such as pain and suffering, scarring emotional anguish, and more.
There are certain legal requirements that need to be addressed when the accident victim is a child, including when the lawsuit should be filed and what damages may be compensated. This is why you should always consult with a car accident attorney before having any discussions with the at-fault driver’s insurance company.
If you would like to discuss your situation, contact our office to speak with a seasoned Virginia Beach accident attorney. Shapiro, Appleton & Washburn has been advocating for accident victims for more than three decades and will work diligently to get you the compensation you deserve.