Federal guidelines and California laws help parents determine which car seat or child restraint system is appropriate. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration recommends certain car seats or restraints, based on a child's weight, height and age. Similarly, California imposes rules requiring the use of a car seat or booster, until a child is 8 or reaches a height minimum of 4- feet 9-inches tall.
According to the NHTSA, rear-facing car seats are appropriate for children from birth to age 3. Forward-facing seats may be used starting after a child's first birthday up to age 7. Booster seats are recommended as early as age 4 up to age 12. Seat-belt use coincides with California law, beginning at age 8.
Guidelines also suggest keeping a child in a car seat for added safety, as long as the child's size doesn't exceed the manufacturer's requirements. Children should remain back seat passengers at all times through age 12. Equally as important are how car seats are installed in vehicles and how tethers, harnesses and anchors are used to restrain a child – don't be hesitant to have a professional install a seat for you.
Some car seats are designed for a single stage of a child's life, while others include convertible features that allow parents to "bump up" a level without making a new purchase. Booster seats are designed with or without added back and neck support.
All this parental investment and all these laws are designed to safeguard children in case of a car accident. Unfortunately, elaborate safety measures can be rendered useless when a car seat manufacturer produces a defective product that injures or kills a child.
Legal claims can be brought against negligent manufacturers who create dangerous products. Parents whose children have been injured in an accident due to a defective seat belt, car seat or booster may recover damages in product liability lawsuits.