Is your child's car seat the correct fit for them?

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The appeal decision in the case of Louise Emma Williams v Estate of Dayne Joshua Williams was reported on Lawtel today.

This was a case where the Claimant was a three-year-old child who had been injured in a road traffic accident. The Defendant had collided with the car driven by the Claimant's mother after consuming alcohol and drugs.  

The insurers for the Defendant driver admitted liability for the accident but sought a contribution from the insurers for the Claimant's mother on the basis that she had been negligent in using a booster seat for her daughter rather than a five point harness to restrain her in the car.  The manufacturers of the booster seat had given a five point criteria as to when it should be used. The Claimant only met three of them as she was a  year younger and 8cm shorter than the recommendations.

At first instance it was held on the above basis that the Claimant's mother had been negligent in selecting the booster seat rather than the harness and that her insurance company should contribute 25% towards her daughter's damages. This decision was appealed on the basis that:

  • Too much weight was given by the Judge to the manufacturer's guidance and the fact that the Claimant was the correct weight should have been sufficient;
  • That it was not foreseeable when the Claimant's mother placed her in the booster seat that it would result in greater injuries than if she was placed in a five point harness;
  • That the judge was wrong to place weight on the fact that there was a safer option in the form of a five point harness;
  • That there should have been regard to the fact that there was no evidence that a child who did meet the manufacturer's criteria would have been safer on the booster seat.

It was held on Appeal that it was correct to focus on the manufacturer's guidance and a number of factors could be of importance in determining the suitability of a child restraint for a particular child, and the instructions made it clear that the child must meet all of the stipulated requirements.

The Judge had directed himself properly as to the issue that he had to decide which revolved around the Claimant in her mother's car in which there were two alternative car seats available. The deduction of 25% was upheld. Guidance from this case should be to always read thoroughly the guidance on the car seat you have purchased for your child before use to ensure that the criteria given is met.

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