Do I Need to Buy a New Car Seat After a Crash?

Child Safety Seat

When involved in a car accident you may wonder if you need to replace your child’s car seat. This is a tricky question that takes several factors into consideration. Oftentimes the answer is yes, you should replace the car seat. However, there are some instances in which you may not have to.

Knowing When to Replace Your Child’s Car Seat After an Accident

Those who are involved in a car accident may need to replace their child’s car seat. Most car seat manufacturers state that car seats should be replaced after any type of accident. However, NHTSA has a criteria for replacing car seats after a minor crash to help you better determine if you need to replace yours. According to the NHTSA crash criteria, all of the following must be met to reuse your child’s car seat after a minor crash:

  • The vehicle was able to be driven away from the crash site;
  • The vehicle door nearest the safety seat was undamaged;
  • There were no injuries to any of the vehicle occupants;
  • The air bags (if present) did not deploy; AND
  • There is no visible damage to the safety seat

It is important to read your child’s car seat manual as well as consider NHTSA crash criteria when making your determination. Most people opt to buy new seats rather than risk a potentially unsafe car seat. Some damage could not be visible but could lead to an injury or death if involved in another accident.

Though the thought of replacing one or more car seats can be daunting, it is important to know that oftentimes insurance will pay for it. IF the other party is at fault for the accident their insurance company may replace the car seats as part of the compensation for damages. However, most insurance companies will require the accident and car seat to be tested against NHTSA’s guidelines for a minor crash and fail before agreeing to replace them. Sometimes giving the insurance company a copy of the car seat manual or a signed letter from the car seat manufacturer stating that the car seat should be replaced can get the insurance company to agree to replace it. Sometimes states take matters into their own hands. California, for example, requires insurance companies to replace any child restraint seat involved in an accident if it was occupied at the time.

Car Seat Safety

Car seats have come a long way over the years, offering even more safety and security than ever before. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) has performed many tests to ensure car seat safety. In one test they crashed vehicles at 30 miles an hour with tests with dummies representing children from ages six months to three years in a variety of child restraint systems. According to their results the majority of seats sustained minor damage such as frayed webbing, small cracks in the hard plastic shell, and strain-whitening on the plastic. However, all test dummies remained well secured by the restraints and “safe.” Four of the damaged seats were subjected to additional 30 mph crash tests which revealed additional minor damage. The researchers also attempted to find cases in which a child safety seat was damaged in a minor crash as defined in NHTSA, but were unable to. This research shows that car safety seats are extremely durable and effective at protecting children.

Car Seats and Personal Injury

According to statistics, automobile crashes are the number one cause of death for children ages one to 13 years old. From 2008 to 2012 over 3,390 children were killed in traffic crashes and another estimated 613,000 children were injured. Sadly, in 2012 over one third of children killed in crashes were not in a car seat or wearing a seat belt. Though children can be killed or injured while properly secured in a car seat, they are far more likely to be protected. It is important to always properly secure your child in their car seat.

Children that are injured while properly secured in a car seat are like any other personal injury plaintiff. They can seek compensation for damages, including medical costs. As a minor, however, there are special legal considerations to be made. If your child has been injured in a car accident you can act on their behalf and seek compensation for damages. To do this it is imperative that you speak with an experienced personal injury attorney to ensure your rights and interests are protected and properly