If you’ve ever experienced a car accident, then you know how stressful that situation can be. If you’re a parent of a young child, however, car accidents are even more stressful. So, if you’re here because you want to know if your car seat should be replaced after an accident, we empathize with you.
If you been in an accident you should replace your car seat immediately. It is recommended by most car seat manufacturers and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s recommendation.
This would be the short answer. However, in this post, we will cover this topic in great detail. Further, we will go over what minor damage in a car accident means, and if your insurance company will pay for a replacement car seat after an accident.
Car Seats are Designed to Absorb Impact
On the surface, you might feel that your car seat doesn’t need replacement since car seats are designed to absorb impact. You may not notice the effects of the crash immediately on your car seat.
However, since car seats are made to absorb impact, your car seat may not be safe to use again after a crash since car seats are durable, so that makes it difficult to tell whether or not you should replace yours.
Analyze Your Child’s Car Seat
Sometimes it’s self-evident to tell when you need a new car seat. For instance, you may notice significant damage as well as cracks. However, in minor accidents, it could be more difficult to assess your car seat’s ability to function. Since car accidents are costly to incur, many parents prefer to reuse their seats as long as they are still safe. However, that may not be the case, depending on the type of car seat you own.
Check Your Car Seat Manual
Most car seat companies will tell you in your car seat’s manual if you should keep or dispose of your car seat after an accident. However, almost every one of these manuals will mention that for the safety of your child, you should throw out your car seat and purchase a new one after your accident.
Check Your Car Seat Manufacturer
The Car Seat Lady states that the following car seat makers do not say that you must dispose of your child’s car seat immediately, depending on how severe your accident was.
- Britax says you can keep your car seat if you encountered a minor accident
- Combi says to keep your car seat for a minor accident.
- Diono says to keep your car seat if you experience a minor accident, and you own their Cambria, Monterey, or Santa Fe car seat.
- Fisher-Price says you can keep your car seat if the accident was minor.
- IMMI says you can keep your car seat if the accident was minor.
- Kiddy says you can keep your car seat if your accident was minor. Kiddy defines minor as an accident when the car was traveling ten miles or less per hour.
- Peg Perego says you can keep your car seat if the accident is minor.
- Safe Traffic says you can keep your car seat if the accident is minor.
- Sunshine Kids says you can keep your car seat if the accident is minor, and you own one of their Santa Fe or Monterey models.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s Safety Guidelines
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has new guidelines covering child safety seats that incur accidents. Before this, they used to recommend that any car seat that was involved in an accident should be replaced, no matter how minor the accident was. However, nowadays, those guidelines have been modified. NHTSA recently reviewed several instances of crash tests and found that some car seats that have been in accidents can stand up to the stress of encountering another accident.
Avoid Riding with Your Child When Replacing Your Car Seat
NHTSA also tells parents not to use a current car seat if it’s already undergone an accident, and you know you need to replace it. Instead, avoid riding with your child until you get the new car seat. NHTSA also says that any seat that undergoes a moderate to serious car accident should be replaced to ensure the safety of your child.
What Your Child Wasn’t in the Car During the Accident?
However, what if your child wasn’t in the car seat when the accident happened? NHTSA still says that you need to evaluate your car seat’s condition after any accident, whether or not your child was in the car.
Since your child’s car seat is designed to absorb the impact of the accident to keep the child safe, it may not be worth using after you experience an accident even if your child was not in his or her safety seat at the time.
NHTSA Encourages You to Check Your Car Seat
NHTSA encourages parents to check their car seat after a minor accident to decide whether or not the safety seat needs to be replaced. NHTSA uses the following five guidelines to determine the car seat’s capabilities after an accident.
- If you successfully drove away from the car accident.
- If the door closes to your child’s safety seat was undamaged.
- If everyone in the car was uninjured and able to walk away from the car accident.
- If the airbags were unused.
- If the child’s safety seat looks damaged to your eyes.
If you can say “yes” to all of the above-listed criteria, then you can reuse your child’s car seat.
The Definition of “Minor Damage”
Liberty Mutual defines minor damage in a way that sounds similar to NHTSA. If you can still drive your car away from the accident and you don’t see any visible damage to your car seat, then you should be okay. Any damage to the vehicle should have an easy fix, like dents or scratches. Mostly these involve fender benders or slow accidents that happen in parking lots.
Don’t Forget to Ask Your Insurance Company
If you discover that you need to replace your child’s safety seat, you can contact your car insurance agent and ask them about your claim. That way, you can find out whether or not your car insurance will cover the damage to your child’s car seat. If you were not at fault for the accident and have full coverage, then your insurance company should cover the costs for your new car safety seat. If you live in California, the law states that you must replace your child’s car seat after an accident.
Standard Insurance Company Expectations
Some insurance companies will ask you to buy the same type of car seat and then give them a receipt so that they can pay you back. However, other insurance companies won’t require you to purchase the same safety seat. So, if you need an upgrade and your insurance company isn’t asking you to repurchase the same safety seat, you can upgrade. However, you need to call your insurance company and check on their rules and standards before you purchase a new car seat. That’s because you’ll need to add your car seat to your initial claim.