Car Seat Laws in Missouri–and What They Mean for Personal Injury Settlements

Missouri car seat laws exist to keep kids safe. But while safety restraints reduce fatal injury by 71% for infants and 54% for toddlers, being in a car seat during an accident doesn’t guarantee that a child won’t get hurt. If that happens, they deserve whatever it takes to make a full recovery from their injuries.

Children have the same rights as adults when it comes to receiving a personal injury settlement. While the legal process differs slightly for kids, they are eligible to receive full compensation from a negligent driver without the financial burden falling on their parents or guardians. 

Missouri Car Seat Laws

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has guidelines for car seat, booster seat, and seat belt use for children. Each state has its own laws regarding child passenger safety based on these suggestions. Missouri car seat laws are as follows:

  • Child Safety Seats are required for all children under four years old and under 40 pounds. 
  • Booster Seats are for children between the ages of four and eight, who weigh between 40 and 80 pounds, and who are less than 4’9” tall.
  • Safety Belts are appropriate for children who are at least 80 pounds and 4’9”. 
  • When there are more children in the immediate family being transported than there are seating positions in the enclosed area of a motor vehicle, children should sit behind the front seat unless the motor vehicle is designed only for a front seat area. The driver transporting children under this scenario will not be in violation of Missouri car seat laws.

The NHTSA and the American Academy of Pediatrics have additional advice. For example, they suggest keeping a car seat rear-facing until the child is two years old and having any child under 12 sit in the back seat. Missouri, however, does not have specific laws regarding these recommendations. (Although recent legislation has proposed a law to include rear-facing seats for those under 2.)

The penalty for not using the proper child safety restraint is a fine that increases with each subsequent offense. Drivers may also need to attend a court-ordered child passenger safety course.

Will Not Using a Car Seat or Booster Hurt a Personal Injury Case?

Missouri is a comparative negligence state, so drivers who share some of the blame for an accident may not be able to recover all of their losses from the other driver. Failure to secure a child in a car seat during an accident, however, rarely limits the amount of a settlement. Reducing the amount of fair compensation for personal injuries would be punishing the child for something that was not their fault. 

The parent (or any adult driving the car carrying a child) could face fines for breaking Missouri car seat laws, though. They could also be found guilty of negligent supervision or child endangerment, depending on the circumstances.

A Child’s Personal Injury Settlement

A child injured in an accident has the same ability to collect damages as an adult. This means receiving compensation for emergency services, medical bills, hospitalization, rehabilitation, and any other expenses necessary to assist them in a full recovery. If there are permanent injuries or disabilities, those too will be compensated so that future medical care is paid for. 

Just as with an adult case, a claim can also include pain and suffering and loss of future wages. And if a parent misses work or needs extra help caring for the child, those expenses can be added too.

Acting On Behalf of a Child Hurt in a Car Accident

Anyone under the age of 18 in Missouri is considered a minor. If injured in a car crash, minors do not have the legal standing to file a claim or file a lawsuit for themselves. Instead, an adult must file on their behalf. 

As with any accident claim, it is helpful to get the advice of an experienced personal injury attorney. Calculating a fair compensation amount, dealing with insurance companies, and filing a lawsuit if necessary are all complicated. It is best to get the help of a professional instead of attempting to do it yourself.

child in a car seat
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Special Rules for Children’s Settlements

When an adult files a claim for an injured child, the adult must get court approval as something called a “next friend” or “guardian ad litem”. This is most often the minor’s parent or legal guardian but it could be anyone who can act in the best interest of the child.

The responsible adult can not agree to a settlement and collect damages (even with the help of an attorney) without the court’s approval. A judge must sign off that the amount is fair and will cover all expenses. Once a reasonable amount of compensation is agreed upon, the money must be placed in an annuity or other financial instrument to ensure the funds are used only for the child’s wellbeing. 

Missouri Statutory Thresholds for Settlements Involving Minors Act

In an attempt to streamline the process, the state senate adopted the Missouri Statutory Thresholds for Settlements Involving Minors Act in 2021. This allows a person with legal custody of a child to skip the step of having a court approve a settlement of less than $35,000. Instead, they can complete an affidavit stating that the settlement amount is sufficient to fully compensate the minor for their injuries and pay attorney fees. All money collected still needs to be placed in an account set up for the child’s sole benefit. 

It is worth noting that hiring an attorney is still a good idea, even though the case doesn’t need a judge’s approval. Personal injury attorneys will negotiate for the best possible settlement with the at-fault driver’s insurance company and draft and file the appropriate paperwork. And if they calculate damages of more than $35,000, they can represent you and your child in court. 

Statute of Limitations

The statute of limitations on personal injury in Missouri gives victims five years to file a claim. Injured minors also have five years, but there is a twist. If no one files a claim for a child, they can do so for themselves when they turn 21—and have a full five years after their 21st birthday to do so. 

Additional Protections

Some other rules are in place to protect minor children while an adult seeks compensation for them. A child may not need to appear in court or at any court-related meetings. If they must testify, the judge will typically impose limits to the number and type of questions asked. 

When a case goes to trial, the details are public record, unlike an out-of-court settlement which is kept confidential. A child’s identity can be kept confidential regardless of whether they receive compensation as the result of an insurance settlement or a lawsuit. 

A Car Seat During an Accident Will Protect Your Precious Cargo

In a perfect world, no parent should ever have to file a claim for a child hurt in a car accident. They can greatly reduce the chance of serious injuries by following the Missouri car seat laws meant to keep their kids safe. Sadly, there is no guarantee that an accident will never happen. And when a child is hurt, it is crucial to get them the help they need. Contact Hipskind & McAninch to discuss filing a claim on your child’s behalf to take care of their immediate and ongoing needs. 


Car Accidents


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