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Child Seat Assessments - A Voice for the Smallest Accident Victims


In low speed impact injury claims, one of the most commonly asked questions is:  Were the reported injuries plausible?  As minor collisions involve primarily soft tissue injuries, these injuries can only be assessed based upon the subjective evaluation of the injured person.  There is no objective method of evaluating the validity of the injuries.  When the injured party is an adult, answers can be gathered through statements of what the party experienced during the collision, and the resulting symptoms.  Yet when the individual is a young child or infant, the task becomes more difficult: how do you assess the subjective symptoms from an individual who cannot communicate?  Similarly, how does one know that the possible injury to an infant or toddler, often reported by a parent can be linked to the collision, or whether it is a result of an unrelated illness, injury or source of distress?  Rather than making a judgment call on the claim, answers may be found by examining the child’s environment during the incident, and in particular, by examining the child seat system. 

In assessing the possibility of injury in a low speed collision, it is important to determine if the child seat was properly installed at the time of the incident.  To assess the mounting of the child seat within the vehicle, the location of the child seat within the vehicle (front seat, back seat, position on rear bench), how it was mounted (secured with a seat belt, Iso-Latch system, tether strap usage), if the vehicle seat belt webbing was twisted, and whether a locking clip was used in conjunction with the seat belt must be known.  This information is cross-referenced with Transport Canada, who issues notices of difficulties that may be encountered when mounting child seats in given vehicles.  Ultimately, the best results of this assessment are obtained if the child seat is examined while it is still mounted in the vehicle.   

Examining the actual child seat is another important element in assessing the possibility of injury in a collision.  This examination will assess whether the child seat conforms to Canadian Motor Vehicle Safety Standards, and whether Transport Canada has issued any recalls or notices of defects for that particular child seat.  In addition to manufacturer’s defects, there will be a check the child seat for signs of wear on the components, and the overall condition of the child seat.  The engineer will also look for indications that the child seat may have been involved in previous collisions.  Finally, information including the height and weight of the child, medical reports, the settings on the child seat components, and the amount of clothing (snow suits, blankets, etc.) worn by the child at the time of the incident assists in the analysis.

In low speed impacts, the main difficulty in assessing injury and injury symptoms for children in child seats is their inability to vocalize their experience or describe any resulting injuries.  As most symptoms from minor collisions are transient, a true assessment will consider any other potential causal factors for behavior change.  To recognize their potential for injury, an assessment of the restraint system may provide some insight into what the child would have experienced the collision, reducing some of the guesswork associated with resolving these types of claims.  

Third-party aftermarket products for child seats are those that are not made by the child seat manufacturer and/or are not supplied with the child seat at the time of purchase.  Parents must be aware that these products are not regulated by Transport Canada and can pose a hazard, as the devices can prevent the seat belt from functioning in its intended manner. As an example, for toddlers, the devices that pull the shoulder belt away from the child’s neck can pull the lap belt up onto the child’s soft abdomen instead of remaining on the pelvis.  The pelvis is significantly stronger and resistant to injury than the abdomen, so improper placement can lead to more substantial injuries in a collision.  These third party devices may also reduce the effectiveness of the seat belt in avoiding the partial or full ejection of a child from a vehicle during a collision.


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