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The Liability Argument
In an informal operator poll conducted by LCT Magazine, it seems small fleet operators are more likely to avoid having anything to do with car seats because of liability fears. However, large companies such as Commonwealth Worldwide Chauffeured Transportation in Boston have issued policies governing the cleaning, storage and usage of car seats. The two primary goals for such specifics are safety and convenience for passengers, says Tami Saccoccio, Commonwealth’s affiliate manager.
Generally, you are liable for anything that happens in your vehicles. That’s why operators have insurance to protect themselves and to pay out claims if held liable.
“If it is in my car, I’m already responsible for what happens,” says Jon Hook of Stars Luxury Limousine in North Bay, Ontario. “What difference is it if I offer the seat and convenience to the client?”
Most likely, your insurance provider will settle any claims against your company long before you and the claimant reach a jury trial. Refusing to provide car seats out of liability concerns doesn’t make sense. Can you imagine a restaurant refusing to provide a high chair or booster seat because of liability concerns? A child in a car seat or booster strapped into a vehicle is much less likely to get hurt than a child tumbling out of one in a restaurant.
Zurich NA Insurance - Official Position
Zurich Insurance is a major carrier in the industry and provides the following tips for operators:
Differences Among Boosters, Car Seats and Carriers
As Zurich has mentioned in its industry missive, providing the right type of seat is based upon the child’s age and weight:
Infant Carriers: Infant carriers are intended for use during the first year of life. They are designed to face the rear. Safety experts agree that babies under 20 pounds or under the age of two are better off in infant car seats. They’re contoured to hold newborns securely and offer good support in all the right places. They usually include a handle for easy carrying. They snap in and out of a base you install in the vehicle and you can lift the baby in and out of the vehicle easily. It is likely that passengers traveling with an infant under the age of one will provide their own infant carriers, foregoing the need to keep this type of seat in your inventory.
Convertible Car Seat: A convertible car seat is designed for infants from birth to 80 pounds and up to 50 inches tall, according to the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration (NHTSA). When used as an infant carrier, the seat is installed facing the rear. As a toddler seat, it faces forward. Such seats are versatile and practical. While not cheap at $299, the Graco 4Ever Car Seat with its 10-year lifespan is one of the most practical for limousine operations. With washable cushions, they are designed to fit kids from four to 20 pounds.
Booster Seats: Booster seats accommodate children at least four years old and 40 pounds or greater, says Stephanie M. Trumbrello, a child passenger safety specialist and executive director of Safetybeltsafe U.S.A., a watchdog group. As a general rule, if a child’s shoulders are higher than the top straps of a car seat, a booster is the better option. A booster raises a child up to position the lap and shoulder belts correctly on the child’s torso. Without a booster, the belts will be too high, falling across the belly and neck where they can do serious damage in a crash. Most kids need to use booster seats until they reach age eight and weigh more than 60 pounds.
Who Knew They Expire?
Just like milk and eggs, every car and booster seat has an expiration date. Because plastic car seats degrade and become brittle over time, they gradually lose their ability to protect a child. Technology also renders older car seats obsolete as better materials and construction methods come along. Car seats last about four to 12 years with most averaging six years. Each seat has a sticker or stamp indicating the expiration date. Once expired, discard the seat the same as you would milk or eggs.
Car Seats And Accidents
Contrary to popular belief, you do NOT need to discard a child safety seat or booster involved in a minor collision if the vehicle could be driven away, the door nearest the safety seat was undamaged, no one was injured, and air bags did not deploy, according to the NHTSA. But always check any seat for damage.
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