Everything You Must Know About Child Safety Seats in Alberta

Child Safety Seats and You

You may be aware that in certain circumstances you must have your child in a child safety seat while operating your vehicle if your child is a passenger. You may be wondering what the specifics are of this requirement however and what sort of tangible effect being required to use a child safety seat has on you as the operator of a vehicle.

The Legal Framework for Child Safety Seats In Alberta

S 82(1) of Alberta’s Vehicle Equipment regulation indicates that drivers are not permitted to drive a motor vehicle when there is a child weighing 18 kilograms or less in the vehicle as a passenger unless the vehicle is equipped with a “child restraint system” which is properly installed and in which the child is properly secured. The act notably defines a child as meaning a child under 6 years old, hence if the child is over 6 years old a safety seat would not be required by the aforementioned regulation. While a child restraint system can include pre-installed devices implemented at the time of manufacture or devices installed at a later time (such as traditional booster seats), in either case, the seat must be capable of restraining the child to prevent or mitigate injury. Such devices must further adhere to standards set under the Motor Vehicle Safety Act (Canada) and its regulations. You can tell if the device meets these standards by looking for what is called the National Safety Mark (pictured below), which is only allowed to be affixed to devices that are in conformity with the regulatory standards. For more information about choosing a child safety seat, please visit Transport Canada’s Child Safety Seat Buying Guide.


What If You Don’t Use A Child Safety Seat?

Failure to use a child safety seat where required would be considered an offence under s 115 of the Vehicle Equipment Regulation and s 157 of the Traffic Safety Act and could result in an administrative penalty under the Administrative Penalties Act which may include impositions such as fines though other punishments may be imposed as well. Alternatively, you could be served a summons to attend court or a violation ticket under the provincial offences procedures act which could lead to other forms of legal punishment.

In terms of whether failure to use a child safety seat would affect a personal injury lawsuit for your child things get a little more nuanced. In McEllistrum v. Etches, the Supreme Court of Canada indicated that a six-year-old child could be contributorily negligent though the test will shift somewhat. Where the age of the child is not as to make a discussion of contributory negligence absurd (such as a very young infant presumably), it is up to the court to determine whether the child exercised the care to be expected from a child of like age, intelligence, and experience. This would mean that it would be a contextual analysis that would be triggered in determining if a child who is not properly restrained in a safety seat could be held contributorily negligent and thus suffer a deduction from any personal injury award. Canvassing of the case law suggests this is unlikely but it is hypothetically possible.

What can however hypothetically occur is a situation in which the child could bring a lawsuit for personal injury through a litigation representative in which the parent operator and potentially another tortfeasor are named for negligence. If it’s a single-vehicle collision the parent would be the sole defendant and if it’s a 2 vehicle collision with the parent vehicle not at fault for the accident, the operator of the other vehicle and the parent who failed to properly restrain the child could be named. It’s notable that given that the parent would presumably have insurance coverage they would in most instances not face personal exposure, thus this generally would not be something of concern in bringing the lawsuit.

Conclusion About Child Safety Seats

Child safety seats are important to ensuring that your children are safe when you are travelling from point A to Point B. You are required by law to ensure that your children under a certain age/weight are properly restrained in such devices. Failure to do so can result in administrative penalties and punishment. It could also result in you being held at least partly responsible for their injuries by the legal system in a personal injury lawsuit. Theoretically, the child may also be held to be responsible to some extent though this appears unlikely.

James H. Brown and Associates is Here For You

Have you or a loved one been injured in a motor vehicle accident? Do you have questions about how child safety seats could factor into your case? Contact James H. Brown and Associates today for a free injury claim evaluation. In this short, no-obligation meeting one of our precedent-setting injury lawyers will answer any injury law questions you have and give you peace of mind about whether pursuing a lawsuit is the best course of action for you.

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