Lady Solicitor Personal Injury Claim Lady Justice Old Bailer

TIME FOR PARENTS TO BUCKLE UP

Injury lawyer James McNally reports on a Court ruling that a parent is  responsible for injuries caused to a child by fitting the wrong type of car seat

There have been many cases where cyclists have been told they have to accept responsibility for injuries caused because of their failure to wear a helmet. In a recent case Williams v Williams [2013] EWCA Civ 455 the Courts have taken a similar approach to the issue of child car seats.

There are many choices for parents when looking at the type of car seat suitable for their child. In August 2006 Louise Williams thought she had made the right decision when she used a booster seat and adult seatbelt on her three year old daughter, Emma.

Unfortunately they were involved in a road accident caused entirely by another driver, Dwayne Williams (no relation), who collided with their car having crossed onto the wrong side of the road.

The Court accepted the Defendant’s argument that Emma was too young and too small to use the booster seat. In accordance with expert evidence and the manufacturer’s guidelines she should have been secured by a five point harness. The safety equipment used by her mother was incorrect and as a result Miss Williams was held 25% responsible for her daughter’s injuries.

Lord Justice Black when considering the level of contributory negligence confirmed that the correct approach was that as determined by Froom v Butcher [1976] 2 QB 296 which decided that 25% was the correct deduction in adult seatbelt cases.

It therefore appears likely that a 75:25 liability split between third party driver and responsible adult is going to be the accepted figure in any future similar cases.

For injury lawyers this means careful consideration will be necessary of whether or not there is a potential conflict in who is acting as the injured child’s litigation friend. Is it the same person who took the decision to use the car seat? There is also a need to ensure that if Court proceedings are commenced, all appropriate parties are joined in.

For parents and drivers of small children the decision stresses the importance of ensuring the car seat and safety belt are appropriate for the child using them. It may strike some parents that it is a waste of money to purchase a seat which your child will soon grow out of, but this case shows it could end up costing much more in the long run. 

For specialist legal advice on accident claims involving children call us today on 0808 139 1590