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Comparative Negligence & Child Safety Seat Violations in Florida


Personal Injury

The Gainesville Auto Collision Attorneys of the Law Office of Alba & Yochim P.A. take note of a common area of inquiry presented by accident victims following a crash involving a child that was not properly secured by a restraint device in accordance with Florida law. That is, Can a child safety seat violation have an impact on the outcome of an auto negligence personal injury claim?

Failing to properly restrain a child in a car or booster seat in accordance with manufacturer guidelines and Florida law, is both dangerous and unlawful. However, in the event an accident were to occur, Florida Statute §316.613(3) sets forth limitations on the admissibility of evidence pertaining to the use of child restraint devices, as follows:

The failure to provide and use a child passenger restraint shall not be considered comparative negligence, nor shall such failure be admissible as evidence in the trial of any civil action with regard to negligence.”

Despite the evidentiary exclusion of child restraint law violations as set forth under Florida law, this does not necessarily mean that such evidence will never come into play in injury or death claims extending from automobile collisions. For example, discussions over a party’s failure to properly secure a child may occur during settlement negotiations.

In addition, child restraint device evidence can come into play during trial as well. In some cases, it is necessary to challenge the defendant’s attempt to introduce (inadmissible) evidence related to a child restraint use. In other cases, the plaintiff may need to defend an opposing party’s evidentiary challenge, such as where the plaintiff seeks to admit such evidence on grounds other than issues of comparative negligence or mitigation of damages. It is important to have an experienced litigation attorney that can effectively advocate on the victim’s behalf by properly addressing evidentiary matters during trial.

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Where evidence of failing to provide or use a child restraint device is introduced by an opposing party against a claimant, either because the court permitted such evidence on grounds other than those exempted by statute, or because the facts of a case quite obviously show that a child was not properly restrained, it is necessary to limit the potential impact of such evidence, by ensuring that the jury is charged with proper instructions.

Jury instructions are a critical component to civil actions involving personal injury, because jury members, as lay persons, typically do not know the appropriate manner to evaluate matters that remain in dispute between the parties. It is important for the jury to understand precisely what issue(s) they are to determine, and what evidence or factors they are permitted to use in arriving at specific determinations. Consequently, it is highly beneficial to seek representation from a skilled trial attorney that can ensure that the jury is sent to deliberate with proper instructions, which serve their client’s interests in the most effective manner possible.

Having been provided with the preceding, let’s return to our initial topic of inquiry– Can a child safety restraint device violation have an impact on the outcome of an auto negligence personal injury claim? Well, generally speaking, the answer to this, quite simply is YES. However, in light of the potential factual variations of each particular case, the more appropriate response might be ‘Sometimes,’ ‘Maybe,’ or ‘Depends.’ Issues regarding the admissibility of child restraint device evidence have been addressed by Florida courts in a multitude of prior cases. As such, it is imperative to select an automobile collision attorney that has the proficiency, knowledge and litigation experience necessary to properly address evidentiary issues and aggressively defend the victim’s legal rights.

If you were injured or a loved one was killed in an Automobile collision, the Gainesville Attorneys of the Law Office of Alba & Yochim P.A. want to help you and your family obtain the maximum amount of financial recovery deserved.

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