Booster Seat Laws in Michigan

Written by Steven Matz on . Posted in .

When you are in any type of car accident involving injuries, it’s an awful time, but when children are involved, it’s even worse. There are few things in this world so agonizing as losing a child or having a child suffer a serious injury. Booster seat laws exist to expand car safety for kids, and it is important to understand Michigan car seat laws and be sure that you are following them properly. We all want our children to be safe, and child seat and safety belt laws are in place for just that reason.

If you are in a car accident with a reckless driver and your child is injured, you may be entitled to significant compensation for the harm your child suffered. To secure that compensation, however, you need the service of a Michigan auto accident law firm. Call 1-866-22Not33 or complete the online contact form to speak with an experienced auto accident personal injury lawyer at Matz Law Firm today

What Is the Law for Booster Seats in Michigan?

Car accidents are the leading cause of death for children ages 12 and under. Sadly, a great many of these fatalities arise because kids are not in car seats or wearing seat belts when the crash happens. Car seats can reduce the risk of injury by 54% for young children and toddlers, and by 71% for infants, based on numbers from the National Safety Council and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA).

The risk of injury is far greater for unrestrained children, and car seat safety is essential to protecting your children. Using the right child restraint system can make all the difference in traffic safety and helps avoid serious injuries.

According to the Michigan State Police, children 3 and younger must sit in the back seat and be secured in a rear-facing seat. Children under 4 may only ride in the front seat if the back seat is otherwise filled with other children under 4, or there is no back seat in the car. If a child is in a rear-facing car seat in the front, the law requires the airbag to be turned off.

What Are the Height Requirements for Children in Michigan?

Under Michigan car seat laws, children are required to be buckled into a booster seat until they are 8 years old, or they grow to be 4 feet, 9 inches in height, whichever comes first. The reason for this height requirement is that booster seats are designed to allow shoulder safety belts to properly function for short children. When they are 4 feet, 9 inches tall, they have exceeded the height limit for booster seats and do not need a booster seat to be the proper height.

What Are the Age Requirements for Booster Seat Laws in Michigan?

Young children from birth to age 3 should be secured in a properly fitted rear-facing car seat in the back seat of the vehicle. Starting at age 2, children may be in a forward-facing car seat. For children between 1 and 7 years of age, a convertible seat may be appropriate, either front- or rear-facing. Children 4 to 12 years of age, based on size and comfort, may use a booster seat, while starting at the age of 8, kids can transition to a normal seat belt.

While it’s not a specific child passenger safety law, it is recommended that through the age of 12, children only ride in the back seat. By the time they are 13, older children may be able to transition to being front-seat passengers in a motor vehicle, so long as they are securely buckled up.

When Can a Child Move to a Backless Booster?

With a wide range of available rear seats with child restraint systems available, many parents wonder when to transition to a backless booster. For the most part, children start with a high-back harnessed booster seat around the age of 4 or 5. Between the ages of 5 and 6, kids who do not want a traditional child car seat may be ready for a backless booster.

Before moving to this form of child safety seat, be sure that they can sit still in an upright position, that they have reached a weight limit minimum of 40 pounds, and that they are at least 38 to 43 inches tall. The most important factor is that the seat belt strap comes across their collarbone and shoulder, and not across their neck.

How to Properly Use a Booster Seat

A car seat is only effective in car crashes if fastened and used properly. Safety groups like the American Academy of Pediatrics offer information, safety tips, and car seat basics to help you in this area. When you are using a booster seat, always be sure the lap belt is snug and low across the child’s upper thighs, not across their abdomen. The shoulder belt should be off their neck and across their chest.

If you are using a backless booster, make sure a head restraint behind your child comes at least to the top of their ears. If the backless booster has a shoulder belt guide adapter, use it as directed. Be sure that your child’s seating position has them upright and all the way back in the seat. This means you should buy a booster that meets your child’s height requirement.

Whether your seat is a car seat with harness straps or a booster seat for bigger kids, always install the seat using safety manual instructions from the manufacturer. Don’t ever try to “jury-rig” one.

Will I Be Penalized for Not Using a Booster Seat?

If your child is not in the right safety or booster seat for their age and size, you can face penalties in Michigan. Your first offense will not carry criminal penalties. It will, however, be a civil traffic offense and can carry a fine. A first offense carries a penalty between $65 and $165. Subsequent offenses can carry even higher fines and greater penalties, including points on your license.

When you consider that the typical booster seat costs between $15 and $100, it seems clear that it is better to buy and use the safety seat than risk being fined.

My Child Was Hurt in a Michigan Car Accident. What Do I Do?

If you are in an accident caused by another reckless driver, be it a car, motorcycle, school bus, truck, or any other type of motor vehicle, and your child is hurt, you may be entitled to significant compensation. You may want help from a knowledgeable Michigan car accident attorney at Matz Injury Law.

After the Accident: First Steps

The first thing to do after an accident is to make sure everyone receives medical attention. Call first responders to the scene even if you don’t feel hurt and your child seems fine. Move your car off the road if it can be moved. If it is safe to do so, leave your child in their seat. Never move someone who might be injured.

Next, document the scene in as much detail as you can. Take notes, take pictures, get contact information from witnesses, and file a police report. You cannot use this as evidence, but it can help you remember details in the future and can serve as a touchstone for you and your attorney.

Never, ever apologize for anything at the scene of the accident. Saying “I’m sorry” can come back to haunt you later as it can be viewed as an admission of guilt.

Dealing With the Insurance Company

Insurance companies are not your friend. They may act compassionately and listen attentively, then they’ll offer a lowball settlement. When you don’t sign off, insurance companies will try any tactic to avoid paying out, and that extends to telling you that the events and pain you endured were minimal. They might even try to claim that if your child was not secured that you are responsible, and they do not have to pay.

For the most part, this is not true. While not using a car seat, booster seat, or safety belt can result in you suffering civil penalties (fines and points on your license), it generally does not affect who is liable for damages from a car accident. Your child can still be eligible for the full costs of the injuries they suffer after a serious accident.

You do not have to talk to the insurance company. Tell them to contact your Michigan auto accident attorney. 

Modified Comparative Fault

Michigan operates on modified comparative fault. This means your damages can be reduced by whatever percentage of fault you hold in the accident. Furthermore, if you are found to be more than 50% at fault for the accident, you can only receive economic damages; noneconomic damages are not allowed. For this reason, defendants might try to claim that not having your child in a booster seat or car seat makes you partially liable to reduce your award. They quite simply cannot do this.

Proving Negligence

We will need to prove negligence to get you the compensation you deserve. Proving negligence is the core of every injury claim. It involves three factors. First, we have to prove that the other driver acted in a reckless, unreasonably careless, or malicious manner. This is called a violation of their duty of care to others on the road. Next, we have to prove that their actions led to the accident. Finally, we need to show that you and/or your child were hurt in the accident. We have decades of experience proving negligence for Michigan car accident victims.

Michigan Car Accident Attorneys Well-Versed in Child Safety

You can be eligible for compensation for a wide range of damages you suffer in a car accident. This includes payment for your medical bills, doctor’s visits, medication, physical therapy, surgery, and even transportation. You can also get payment for lost wages. You may also be eligible for non-economic damages like PTSD, pain and suffering, depression, loss of comfort, loss of ability to enjoy life, and similar problems. In wrongful death, you can get funeral expenses as well as the above for your lost child.

The exact value of your case is difficult to determine until we talk to you, so get in touch with us. There’s absolutely no charge for the consultation, and no fee at all unless we win your case. If we do win, we only charge 22% of your award, as opposed to the 33% other law firms take. That’s why our slogan is “22, Not 33.” Call 1-866-22Not33 or complete the online contact form to speak with an experienced personal injury lawyer at Matz Law Firm right now.

Steven Matz

Written By Steven Matz

Steven Matz
Steven J. Matz is a founding shareholder of Matz Injury Law. The firm’s concentration is on personal injury litigation, with an emphasis on traumatic brain injury. Mr. Matz earned a Bachelor of Arts degree with high distinction and highest honors in 1974 from the University of Michigan and a Juris Doctor degree in 1977 from The George Washington University National Law Center. Mr. Matz lectures and publishes in a number of areas, including ethics, marketing, trial tactics, and head injury. Mr. Matz has served on the Michigan Association for Justice Executive Board and currently serves the Michigan Attorney Discipline Board as a Hearing Panel Chairman and Master. He is also a member of the State Bar Committee for Character and Fitness.
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