John R. Yannaccone, PE, Sr. Mechanical Engineer ::::
You just got a call from a parent that they were involved in a collision and, as a result, their young child was injured. What important steps should you take?
1. Secure the evidence – both the vehicle and the child seat
2. Get the make, model and date of manufacture of the child seat
3. Photograph any marks on the child’s body
4. Get accurate height and weight for the child
One of the most important steps to take is to immediately secure the evidence. In a case involving a child who was riding in a child seat, in addition to the vehicle, it is also very important to secure the child seat. If the child seat is still installed in the vehicle, take photographs to document how it is installed and how the harness is adjusted. If the child seat is no longer installed in the vehicle, it is best to secure the car seat by taking custody of it to prevent it from becoming separated from a vehicle you do not control. If the seat is not with the vehicle, check with the hospital or in other vehicles involved in the crash. In some cases, children are removed from a vehicle and transported to the hospital in the child seat. In these cases, the child seat will likely end up at the hospital and may be delivered to the parent’s or child’s hospital room or, if not secured quickly, discarded. If possible, have the client place the car seat in a safe location so that it remains available to be inspected. It is also very helpful to know the make and model of the child seat at the time of the initial call. This information, as well as the date of manufacture is always found on the car seat label. If possible, photograph the label.
In addition to preserving the child seat, it is also helpful to photograph any marks, i.e. bruising, on the child. The locations of these bruises will help to identify how the harness was positioned on the child at the time of the collision.
It is also important to obtain accurate information regarding the child’s height and weight at the time of the collision. Unlike adults, children’s bodies change more rapidly. This information is important because all child seats have specific weight and height ranges for which they should be used. While hospital medical records may be a good source of this information, pediatric records also provide acceptable historical data as to a child’s size.
Getting accurate facts near the beginning of a case aids in the early evaluation and identification of potential issues. Preservation of the evidence is critical in being able to identify how the child seat was used by the parent and, if there were any problems with the child seat that may have contributed to the child’s injuries.
John R. Yannaccone, PE, Sr. Mechanical Engineer with DJS Associates, can be reached via email at experts@forensicDJS.com or via phone at 215-659-2010.