Car seats can't always prevent child injuries. A child under five years old and/or weighing less than 40 pounds must be secured in a child safety seat when traveling in a vehicle. A child too big for a car seat but still too small for an adult safety belt can use a booster seat, which makes a seat belt fit more snugly. Children under 13 should always ride in the back seat. 

Although most parents are conscientious about using car seats to protect small children from injury, a child in a safety seat can still be hurt in an accident. It’s important for parents to use car seats properly and know what to do if kids are involved in an accident. 

What to Do for Your Child After an Accident

If you’re in a collision with a child in your car, move your vehicle to safety if possible and call 911. You should not move an injured child before EMTs arrive. Doing so could aggravate serious injuries. If there’s the slightest possibility of injury, try to comfort and reassure your child verbally and wait for medical help before touching or moving them. You should also:

  • Note your child’s symptoms, especially breathing problems or bleeding from the mouth/nose.
  • Report symptoms to EMTs.
  • Even if your child shows no signs of injury, you should agree to an exam by EMTs or an ER doctor.
  • Request medical records of your child’s injury/treatment be forwarded to your pediatrician.
  • Schedule a follow-up appointment.
  • If your child appears uninjured and doesn’t see an ER physician, schedule a doctor’s appointment as soon as possible after the wreck. Explain details of the accident to your pediatrician and follow all treatment advice/referrals. Even if you don’t see external evidence of injury, your child could have sustained internal damage in the crash.
  • After seeing your pediatrician, be vigilant for delayed signs of injury and report them to the doctor:
    • Headaches
    • Swelling/inflammation
    • Fatigue
    • Pain
    • Crying
    • Lack of interest in toys or games
    • Loss of appetite
    • Speech problems

You should make relatives and babysitters aware of the accident. Ask them to be vigilant and report any of the symptoms above to you right away. 

It’s also a good idea to buy a new car seat since the previous one may be damaged and no longer safe. Secondhand or recalled seats might not be adequate. The South Dakota Department of Social Services (DSS) has published guidelines for buying/using child safety seats. They also offer a child safety seat distribution program for parents who need assistance getting a new seat.

Compensation for Your Child’s Damages

Although your injured minor child cannot file an insurance claim for damages or a lawsuit, you can take action on their behalf. If the injuries were caused by a negligent driver, that driver is responsible for your damages, as well as your child’s. You may file a claim with the at-fault driver’s insurance company for:

  • Medical bills
  • Pain and suffering
  • Damage to your vehicle
  • Wages you lose due to time off work

Filing such a claim, however, does not guarantee the insurance company will simply accept it and offer you a fair settlement. If the injuries sustained are severe and the medical expenses high, the insurer’s adjusters and attorneys are likely to dispute your claim or offer you an unreasonably low settlement. They might claim you’re partially responsible for the injuries sustained in the wreck because you misused the safety seat in one of the following ways:

  • The seat didn’t fit the child’s height/weight.
  • The harness was too loose or the harness clip was too low.
  • An infant seat was not reclined to 45 degrees.
  • The seat was not tightly secured.
  • The seat was not facing the rear of the car.

If the company disputes or denies your claim, an experienced car accident lawyer can help you get fair compensation by:

  • Proving the at-fault driver’s liability
  • Showing evidence that you used the seat properly
  • Calling expert witnesses
  • Estimating long-term care expenses
  • Putting a dollar amount on your child’s pain and suffering
  • Evaluating your claim and demanding a reasonable award
  • Filing a lawsuit and fighting for you in court if necessary

If a defective child safety seat contributed to your child’s injuries, your lawyer might be able to file a product liability suit against the manufacturer.

Has Your Child Been Hurt in a South Dakota Car Accident?

An experienced car accident lawyer can help you get fair compensation for your child’s damages. Contact us online or call us at 605-306-4100 to schedule a free consultation. You pay no attorney fees until we win your case.