Car seat laws in Florida differ from other states, and these laws sometimes change, which may leave parents worrying about the safety of their children while traveling in motor vehicles. Although some of these laws might be confusing, today, we will discuss all of them in a simplified manner.

If you require further legal advice, face legal consequences related to car seat laws, or need assistance navigating the insurance claims process in case of a car accident involving your child, contact The Law Offices of Scott. J. Senft.

Our car accident lawyers can provide you with a free consultation on your case and guide you through it with care and dedicated compassion while prioritizing justice and fair compensation. Here is what you should know about car seat laws in Florida and what you should do in the event of an accident:

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Florida’s Official Car Seat Laws for Children

Under Florida Statute section 316.613, infants and toddlers must be placed in separate carrier devices until they reach the age of three. Parents can use their vehicle manufacturer’s integrated child seat if present as long as the child meets the height and weight requirements imposed by the manufacturer and they are properly secured.

Regarding child safety seats for children around the ages of four and five, they should also be placed in separate carrier devices, integrated child seats, or a child’s booster seat. Children who reach the age of six can either continue to use their booster seat or transition to an adult seat belt if it fits properly.

You can face a deduction of three points against your driver’s license and a $60.00 fine if you break these laws. In other cases, parents can be sent to a child restraint safety program if the court waives the points.

According to the statute, children who are five years old or younger must use a federally approved crash-tested child restraint system. However,  these child restraint devices are not properly defined, nor does the system properly articulate when children should transition from rear-facing car seats to forward-facing car seats. To ensure the safety of your children and comply with Florida car seat laws, here are the official guidelines and additional recommendations:

Infant Car Seats (Rear-Facing Car Seat)

Infant-only seats should only be used facing the rear. Although the weight and height limits for rear-facing car seats differ, it’s best to follow the manufacturer’s guidelines. Check these guidelines as they differ from provider to provider.

If your vehicle has no back seat, you should use the rear-facing car seat with the airbag disabled. Your child will fit safely into the rear-facing car seat until they reach 20 or 25 pounds. But, at this point, they will probably outgrow the device.

Use a larger rear-facing car seat to ensure their safety until the youngling reaches 40 to 45 pounds. Then, you can safely transition to a forward-facing car seat. Generally, children under the age of four should continue to be placed in rear-facing car seats.

Convertible Car Seats

Children will outgrow their infant car seats, which is when they should transition to a convertible car seat with a five-point harness. Convertible car seats are versatile. They can be used in rear-facing and forward-facing positions.

However, it depends on your child’s age, weight, and height. Convertible and 3-in-1 car seats often have higher weight and height limits regarding the rear-facing position. This is to ensure that the child keeps a rear-facing position for an extended period of time. Again, consulting with the cat seat manufacturer’s guidelines is highly advisable.

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Forward Facing Car Seat

Florida law requires children to remain in a rear-facing car seat until they reach the height and weight limitations described by the car seat’s manufacturer. Usually, children between the ages of 2 and 4 should be kept in the rear-facing position as long as possible or until they reach the manufacturer’s limitations, which are usually set at 25 pounds. Yet, you should place your child in a forward-facing car seat once they are at least 40 pounds.

If a backseat is unavailable, the forward-facing car seat should not be used with the airbag turned on. Florida’s car seat laws are meant to ensure child safety, and even though turning off your airbag sounds counterintuitive, the reasoning for this is that an airbag can pose a potential danger to the child if opened and may not act in its intended safety design and purpose at least in regard to young children.

Booster Seat Age Florida

Unless a child between the ages of 4 and 5 is 4 feet and 9 inches tall, they should be placed in a booster seat in the back seat that can fit them properly. Your child should be at least 35 inches tall, weigh between 40 and 80 pounds, and have outgrown the internal harness of their forward-facing car seat.

Regular Seat Belts

In many instances, Florida children between the ages of 10 and 11 are ready to wear a regular seat belt. However, not all children grow at the same rate, and it’s best to be sure before transitioning from booster seats.

Although Florida law allows children of six years old to wear regular seat belts, the safety belt might not work as intended. Your child should be at least 4 feet and 9 inches. Their entire back should touch the back seat, and the knees should bend at the edge of the seat.

Children shouldn’t have their back slouching, and the seat belt should touch their thighs. The shoulder part of the belt shouldn’t touch their neck.

How Child Car Seats Can Be Used Against You in a Car Accident Claim

Although Florida car seat laws aren’t clear on what a proper child restraint system is, in car accidents, the opposing party and their insurance company will do everything they can to shift the blame onto you.

They will use various arguments related to your booster seats or what type of child car seat you were using to showcase that you broke the law, contributing to the injuries sustained.

They might argue about the child’s height limit, weight limit, proper installation, recommended age, or other strategies and issues related to your seat or booster that somehow undermined the child’s safety.

Non-compliance with child car seat laws can be used to showcase negligence on your part, potentially reducing the compensation you may be eligible for. The prime defense in these situations of the opposing party is usually that the child’s injuries wouldn’t have been as severe if you respected the height and weight requirements or other, in their eyes, negligent factors.

However, in these situations, a car accident lawyer can help you dismiss contributory negligence charges used as a defense strategy by the opposing party if the evidence available in your case allows it.

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Working With a Dedicated Car Accident Lawyer

If you have sustained serious car accident injuries, the last thing you need is a negligent driver profiting from the presence of your child in your vehicle against you. Do not let confusing car seat laws be used against you or another entity guilt trip you into accepting blame and prevent you from seeking justice.

You are responsible for your child’s safety, but you may not be responsible for their injuries. Working with a dedicated personal injury lawyer can help you prove this and highlight the actual negligence of the driver who caused the accident.

At The Law Offices of Scott. J. Senft, our car accident attorneys, are dedicated to obtaining justice for parents who got caught up in car accidents with their children due to the reckless acts of other negligent drivers. Let our aggressive personal injury lawyers help you seek justice and fair compensation for your injuries and other damages. Contact our law firm today for a free consultation on your case and receive compassionate and dedicated legal guidance.

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