Child’s Car Seat Blamed for Fatal Outcome of Car Crash


Biomechanics Expert WitnessThis case involves a toddler who was killed in a car accident. On the date of the incident in question, the child was riding in the back seat of her family’s car when her father, who was driving, lost control of the vehicle after hitting a large patch of black ice. The car then impacted a tree on the side of the road at high speed, causing significant injuries to the girl’s father and fatal injuries to the young child. The girl had been riding in a forward facing car seat that had been installed according to the manufacturer’s instructions, however it was claimed that a rear facing orientation would have provided more significant protection to the child during the crash.

Question(s) For Expert Witness

  • 1. What effect might the positioning of a car seat, forward or rear facing, have upon the injuries a child may experience in a motor vehicle accident?

Expert Witness Response E-037717

I have conducted analysis of pediatric injuries in the past and provided testimony at trial concerning the ejection of a child from an SUV that rolled over and offered the opinion that had they been properly restrained they would not have been ejected from the vehicle. I have a PhD in Biomedical Engineering, a Masters in Mechanical Engineering, and a Bachelor’s in Mechanical Engineering. I am a registered PE and have extensive injury biomechanics research experience and publications. The positioning of a car seat can definitely have an effect on the injuries sustained by a child in a motor vehicle accident. My approach would be to look at the injuries sustained by the child and compare those with the literature/testing, known injury mechanisms, and the forces/accelerations required to cause those injuries. I would then look at how the loading is changed, and whether the forces/accelerations necessary to cause the injuries would be present if the seat were facing the opposite direction.

Expert Witness Response E-120681

Published field data studies indicate that children under age two are safer rear-facing, however there is emerging discussion that a re-analysis of these data by a third party did not support the published conclusion. Nevertheless, empirical data shows that rear-facing is superior to forward facing in terms of reduction of neck loads, which is the predictor of the primary catastrophic outcome in theses cases – atlanto-occipital dislocation. I have written numerous publications on injury biomechanics in car crashes, especially children in child seats. I have also served as an expert on similar cases involving car seats and pediatric injuries sustaining in automotive accidents.

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