A Florida District Court of Appeal recently ruled that a child under age five makes you a caretaker for the failure to use an approved child car seat. At the time of the accident, the child was 11 months old. His grandmother placed him in a child booster seat. Their car crashed and the child was thrown from the seat suffering devastating injuries. He was not in an approved child passenger restraint, in this case an infant safety seat. Booster seats are not approved for young children.
The child’s guardian successfully sued the grandmother on the child’s behalf, alleging a breach of a common-law duty of reasonable care for the child. A common-law duty is based on general principles of law found in court cases, as opposed to a specific statute imposing a duty of care.
The court determined that the intent of the statute was to prevent a third-party defendant, for example, from defending their own negligence in causing an accident, by claiming the injuries suffered by a child would have been prevented or reduced if the parents had used an approved child safety seat. That defense could not be used by the caretaker who caused the child’s injury, in this case, by failing to use an approved child safety seat. What makes this case more troubling, was the allegation that an approved infant seat had been available, but was simply not used by the grandmother.
Parents must be extremely vigilant when young children are entrusted into the care of friends and relatives. Parents should never assume that the caretaker understands the importance of how to place a child into a car seat, where to place a seat within the car, or how to secure the seat belt to maximize the child’s safety. All too often, well meaning friends and relatives simply do not use the same level of care toward young children and parents might assume they would receive.