Massachusetts Car and Booster Seat Laws

The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) report that automobile accidents are the leading cause of fatalities for children. Thousands of children are injured or die in car crashes each year. During 2018, one-third of the children 12 or younger who died in a car accident were not wearing a safety restraint.

The seat belt and child safety seat laws vary by state. However, most states follow the guidelines for car and booster seats set forth by federal agencies and various health care organizations. 

Massachusetts Laws Regarding Car Seats and Booster Seats

According to MGL chapter 90, 7AA, all children under the age of eight years must be fastened and secured in a child safety device when riding in a motor vehicle, unless the child is 57 inches or more in height. Children under the age of 13 years who are not required to be secured in a child safety seat must wear a seat belt that is properly fastened and adjusted. 

The child safety seat provisions do not apply in some cases. Exceptions to the above requirements exist when:

  • A child is a passenger on a school bus
  • The child is riding in a vehicle manufactured before July 1, 1966, which does not have safety belts
  • The child is physically unable to ride in a child safety seat or a safety seat designed for children with special needs, provided that a doctor has certified in writing the nature of the disability and why the disability prevents the child from riding in a car seat or other child safety seat

The vehicle driver is responsible for ensuring that all children in the vehicle are secured in safety devices as required by law. The driver may receive a fine for a violation of the Massachusetts motor vehicle laws.

Recommendations for Child Safety Seats and Booster Seats

The recommendations for car seats and booster seats by the Commonwealth of Massachusetts closely align with the recommendations by the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP). An important change in the AAP recommendations occurred in 2018.

The AAP now recommends that parents use weight and height to determine when to remove a child from a car seat instead of their age. It is recommended that children remain in rear-facing car seats and front-facing car seats until they outgrow the car seats. 

Parents can find the height and weight limitations on the car seat or in the owner’s manual. Each car seat is designed for a child based on the child’s weight and height. Because car seats provide additional protection from injuries in a car crash, it is safer to keep children in a car seat as long as possible.

Once a child’s weight or height exceeds the car seat, parents should immediately replace the car seat with a child safety seat appropriate for the child’s height and weight. When a child outgrows car seats, parents can transition the child into a booster seat.

According to the AAP, most children transition into a vehicle lap and shoulder seat belt when they reach four feet nine inches. All children younger than 13 years should ride in the rear seats of vehicles.

If you are unsure whether you are using the correct safety seat for your child or if the safety seat is installed correctly, you can locate a car inspection site near you. A trained technician can ensure that your child’s car seat is installed correctly. You can also receive information about the proper use of booster seats and car seats.

What Should I Do if My Child is Injured in a Car Accident?

Seek immediate medical attention for your child. 

Your child may have sustained injuries that are not immediately known. In some cases, children experience different injury symptoms than adults. A doctor can perform a complete examination and evaluation to determine your child’s injuries.

As soon as possible, seek legal advice from a child injury lawyer. Children have the same rights to receive compensation for car accident injuries as adults. However, a child injury claim can be more complicated.

Children injured in car accidents could develop long-term impairments. Some injuries could result in cognitive, emotional, or physical impairments. The extent of the injury may not be known for some time.

Depending on the extent and type of injury, your child could receive compensation for:

  • Medical bills and expenses
  • Personal care
  • Permanent disabilities and impairments
  • Physical pain and suffering
  • Mental and emotional trauma
  • Decreases in their quality of life
  • Future damages for ongoing medical care, personal care, decreases in earning capacity, and other damages

There are also special rules applicable to car accident settlements for minors. You want to ensure that you are taking all necessary steps to protect your child’s best interest after a car accident. 

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