What is Nevada’s New Car Seat Law, and How May it Affect My Child in the Event of an Accident?

Child car seats are a critical piece of safety equipment for Nevada families. Without them, our children would suffer horrifying injuries in a crash. Seat belts are designed for adults, not toddlers, so we cannot expect a seat belt or even an air bag to provide sufficient protection in a wreck.

Nevada has a new rear-facing car seat law which went into effect at the start of 2022. This new law brings Nevada in line with many other states which specify how parents should strap in their children. Parents should understand the law and how it impacts them in the event of a crash. Our Nevada car accident lawyer answers some of the more common questions regarding car seats and the recent changes in the law.

baby car seat

What’s the new car seat law?

The law, found at N.R.S. § 484B.157, requires the following:

  • Children under two years of age must be in rear-facing car seats placed in the back seat of the car.
  • Children must ride in a booster seat or harnessed car seat if they are under age six and less than 57 inches tall (basically 4 feet and 9 inches).

What was the old law?

Previously, Nevada only required that children weighing 60 pounds or less used a child restraint system. There was no law that the child seat be rear facing

 or placed in the back seat.

Can I use any car seat?

The law requires that you use a seat which is appropriate for your

child’s age and size. The seat also should have approval from the federal Department of Transportation. Most car seats on the market comply with these regulations, but double check before you buy and install one.

What if I don’t know how to install a seat?

The seat should come with directions which, admittedly, might still be confusing. Child restraint systems aren’t intuitive, and some parents spend hours trying to figure out how to install the seat before giving up in frustration. If you need help, you can find a Child Passenger Safety (CPS) technician in Nevada to help train you.

Remember, failing to install the seat correctly can result in a citation, so you should learn at some point. Also, a seat that isn’t installed properly will not protect your child.

Can I put my child in the passenger’s seat?

Many parents would like their child to be strapped in beside them, usually for convenience. It’s easier to see your child when he or she is right next to you, and it’s much easier to just reach over and hand them a bottle or pacifier. Nevertheless, the law generally requires that your child be in the backseat—and for good reason. Being in the front of the car places your baby closer to the point of impact, since most accidents are front-impact collisions. Second, the air bag which deploys can push against the child carrier and possibly dislodge it.

The law contains a narrow exception when you can legally place your child in the front passenger’s seat (rear facing, of course). Specifically, you can do so if you deactivate the passenger side air bag and one of the following applies:

  • There is no backseat in the car, or
  • All backseats are being used by those under 2 years of age, or
  • You have a physician’s signed statement that your child must ride in the front due to special health needs.

We doubt that very many parents will need to have their child in the passenger’s seat. Remember, if you have a doctor’s letter, you should keep it in the car.

Can you be cited for failing to follow the new law?

Yes. The law requires that drivers be cited if they don’t properly restrain children according to the law. This citation could result in misdemeanor charges for a first-time offense with fines or community service. In Las Vegas, you are looking at a $205 fine or 10-50 hours of community service.

If you complete a child safety course within 60 days of your sentencing hearing, you can usually avoid any penalty.

Why did Nevada change the law?

The reason is simple: child safety. According to doctors, a baby’s spine is held together with cartilage which has not yet hardened into bone. This means there is an increased risk of severing the spinal column in a high-impact crash.

However, if a child is rear facing, then the impact is distributed evenly across the back of the car seat, and the shell can keep your baby’s head in position. Combined, these factors reduce the risk of a life-threatening spinal injury substantially. Indeed, research has shown that there is a 75% reduction in death or serious injury when young children ride in a rear-facing seat.

According to experts, children continue to reap benefits even after age 2, and they recommend you keep your child in a rear-facing seat up to age 4—or even longer. However, Nevada is only requiring rear-facing until age 2.

Can I keep my child in a rear facing seat after age 2?

Yes, and this might be the safest choice. Of course, your child still needs to fit into the seat. Being rear facing isn’t some magical protection if your child is too big for the seat. However, continue to use a rear-facing seat as long as possible since you will reap greater protection for your child.

Can my child receive compensation in a car accident?

legal representation for a cab accident

Yes. Provided you are not primarily responsible for the accident, your child should receive compensation for medical care, as well as pain and suffering. If you missed work to take care of your child, you could also seek lost income.

What if I failed to follow the new law and my child was injured? Can the defendant blame me?

This would be a variation of the “seat belt” defense. Nevada’s comp

arative negligence law prohibits victims who are more than 50% at fault from receiving compensation. And if you are 50% or less at fault, then your compensation is reduced proportionally by your percentage of fault.

Since the law requires using a seat belt or child seat, some defendants argue that your failure to do so constitutes negligence. So if you didn’t properly strap your child into a safety seat, the defendant can point the finger at you and say, “You’re to blame for your kid’s injuries.”

Fortunately, NRS 484B.157(6)(a) prevents defendants from making this argument. This section states in no uncertain terms that violating the child restraint law

 cannot be considered negligence for car accidents in Nevada. Consequently, you can still seek compensation if your child is injured, even though you failed to follow the new car seat law.

What if the car seat is defective?

You can certainly sue when you or your child is injured by a defective product. There are many defects, including the failure to provide clear instructions

 or safety warnings. Some defective car seats end up choking a child or they completely fail to restrain your child at all. Remember to hold onto the defective car seat so an attorney can inspect it. You would need to sue the manufacturer for compensation.

Can a lawyer help me after a car accident?

Yes. Ladah Law Firm has assisted many families involved in car accidents, including families with young children. We specialize at negotiating favorable settlements when a careless or dangerous driver plows into your family while out on the road. Please call us today, 702-252-0055 to schedule a time to meet. Consultations are free.