As I’ve covered in previous posts, there are a great many details to handling the aftermath of a car accident. Today I wanted to draw attention to one very important detail that in many cases goes unmentioned: If a car seat was in your vehicle at the time of the accident, can that car seat continue to keep your child safe?
The NHTSA (National Highway Traffic Safety Administration) recommends that child safety seats and boosters be replaced following a moderate or severe crash in order to ensure a continued high level of crash protection for your child. They also recommend that child safety seats do not automatically need to be replaced following a minor crash. So what constitutes a minor crash?
A Crash is Considered Minor If:
- There is no visible damage to the car seat
- The vehicle was capable of being driven away from the crash site
- The car door nearest to the child restraint was undamaged
- No one in the vehicle was injured in the crash
- The air bags did not deploy
Registered Nurse Donna Laake, injury prevention coordinator for Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center, says that the hospital follows these same guidelines to determine whether a crash was severe enough to require replacement of the car seat. She says that even if all of these five statements are true, that doesn’t necessarily mean the car seat is still safe to use. She recommends calling the car seat manufacturer to make sure.
By law, all car seats must have a sticker that lists the seat’s date of manufacture and model number, along with the manufacturer’s contact information.
In general you should always err on the side of caution when it comes to this decision.
Even if the damage cannot be seen with the naked eye, the car seat may still not be the best protection for your child in the event of another crash. Here are just a few ways a car seat could be damaged that you wouldn’t be able to see.
Invisible Damage to Car Seats
- Hairline fractures in the plastic
- Stretch marks in the plastic that cannot be seen because the plastic is a dark color that conceals them
- Stretched seat belt or harness straps
Seat belts also have to be replaced for similar reasons after a car crash.
Most car seats must be replaced after an accident even if the child wasn’t in the car seat during the crash. The amount of force on the car seat in the crash is the main factor that determines whether the seat was damaged. The weight of the child in the seat only adds to that. In a substantial collision, the crash forces are enough to bend the steel in your car’s frame, so just imagine the damage that amount of force can cause to a plastic car seat.
Car Seat Replacement Through Your Insurance Policy
All this being said, car seat replacement is expensive, so check with your insurance representative to see if your policy covers it. Not all policies cover seat replacement, but it doesn’t hurt to ask.
Also, know that insurers are much more likely to cover car seats when there is written documentation of the severity of the crash and/or of the manufacturer’s advice to replace the car seat. At the scene of the crash, make sure to notify the investigating officer so that they can make a note of the fact that there was a car seat in the vehicle in the crash report.
For more information on car seat replacement, click here.
Have a serious injury and need legal advice? Contact Howard Blau.
Please Be Sure to Read the Following References:
“After a Crash.” Britax. Retrieved 3 May 2017 from https://us.britax.com/faqs/after-a-crash/.
“Do I Need to Replace My Car Seat After a Crash or Accident?” Safe Ride 4 Kids. 5 February 2015. Retrieved 3 May 2017 from https://saferide4kids.com/blog/restraints-after-crash/.
“Should You Replace Your Child’s Car Seat After a Crash?” AutoInsurance Center. Retrieved 3 May 2017 from http://www.autoinsurancecenter.com/when-you-need-to-replace-your-childs-safety-seat-after-a-crash.htm.
“When is seat belt replacement necessary?” The Columbus Dispatch. 12 September 2014. Retrieved 3 May 2017 from http://www.dispatch.com/content/stories/classifieds/cars/2014/MetroCreative/10/seatbelt_replacement.