Replacing a Child Car Seat After a Car Accident

No, car seats do not automatically need to be replaced following a minor car accident, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA).

The NHTSA says car seats should be replaced following a moderate or severe crash and that you should always follow the manufacturer’s instructions for the specific car seat you have.

A car accident may be considered minor and not worth of a child car seat replacement if:

  • The vehicle could be driven away from the crash site.
  • The vehicle door nearest the car seat was not damaged.
  • None of the passengers in the vehicle suffered any injuries in the crash.
  • The vehicle’s airbags did not deploy.
  • There is no visible damage to the car seat.

Parents of young children in Nevada who are facing auto repair bills after a car crash may wonder whether they need to replace their child’s car safety seat as well. If the car accident was not your fault, you should not be burdened with the cost of replacing the seat. In a car accident claim, the car accident attorneys at Sam & Ash, LLP would advise that the cost of replacing a child’s car seat should be included as part of the compensation you seek for property damage. If necessary, we can help you obtain a new car seat as we help you pursue your accident claim.

Importance of Replacing a Car Seat After an Accident

father adjusting child's car seatModern child’s safety seats have been around since the 1960s, with NHTSA setting standards in 1971 to require that all seats be held by safety belts and include a harness to hold the child into the seat. Child passenger safety laws were widely adopted in 1985 and required children under a certain age to be in a car seat when riding in a vehicle, according to a history by Good Housekeeping.

Under Nevada law, children younger than 6 years old and weighing less than 60 pounds must be secured in a properly installed car seat appropriate for their size and weight.

The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) says that appropriate child safety seats provide significantly more protection in a crash than seat belts alone. Choose the right restraint for your child’s age and size and always seat children in the rear of the vehicle, IIHS says.

NHTSA estimates that car seats reduce the risk of fatal injury by 71% for infants (younger than 1 year old) and by 54% for toddlers (1 to 4 years old) in passenger cars. For infants and toddlers in light trucks, the corresponding reductions are 58% and 59%, respectively.

This is significant. The National Safety Council (NSC) says car crashes are a leading cause of death for children. In 2019, 608 children under age 13 were killed in motor vehicle crashes, according to the NSC’s Injury Facts. Of them, 206 were unrestrained and many others were inadequately restrained at the time of the crash.

The problem is that a car accident can cause damage to a car seat’s restraints that you may not be able to see.

“Even an empty car seat that was buckled into the vehicle will experience crash forces,” says a medically reviewed article on the Very Well Family blog. “The force of the car seat moving forward and being held back by the lower anchor strap or tether strap can cause damage that may be invisible but might keep the car seat from doing its job if you’re in another crash.”

NHTSA’s early advice was to replace a child’s car seat after any accident. Very Well Family says the agency modified its policy because some parents were buying used child seats after accidents to save money, which increases the potential for unrecognized damage to exist.

Manufacturers tend to advise replacement. For example, the user’s guide to the highly rated Chicco KeyFit 30 infant car seat says, “You MUST replace this Child Restraint if it has been involved in a crash, even if you cannot see visible damage. A damaged Child Restraint may not protect your child in a future crash.”

The makers of another highly regarded model, the Graco SnugRide SnugFit 35 Infant Car Seat, advise that, “If the car seat is in a crash, it must be replaced. DO NOT use it again! A crash can cause unseen damage and using it again could result in serious injury or death.”

Most manufacturers make the same recommendation, though not all do, as the chart here shows. The best way to determine whether your car seat needs to be replaced is to contact the manufacturer directly and explain the circumstances of the crash. When in doubt, do not use a car seat that has been through a crash.

When Does the Insurance Company Cover the Replacement Costs?

In most cases, if an insurance company approves your car accident claim, it will cover the cost of replacing a child car seat or booster seat in the settlement. The replacement may even be a different type, such as if your child was close to outgrowing the damaged seat.

It is best if you can provide a receipt for the damaged car seat. This may be credit card records of the purchase, which your credit card provider should have available online. You should also provide photos of the damaged car and the car seat’s serial number and expiration date (usually located on the seat itself under the lining). Then, cut the car seat’s straps and take photos of the seat with the cut straps. Cutting the straps ensures that the child seat cannot be used and must be discarded.

The receipt and photos should part of your insurance claim, along with photos of damage to your vehicle and other evidence. If Sam & Ash represents you in a personal injury claim, we can help you gather these documents and submit your claim.

We’ll put your needs first after a car accident and work to build a strong case for the full compensation you deserve. The sooner you contact Sam & Ash, the more we can do for you.

Author: Ash Watkins

Ash started her legal career defending insurance companies against injury victims. She saw how insurance companies treated people who had legitimate injury claims. But she also saw how notoriously sleazy the personal injury lawyers were. Neither side was focused on the injured person, so she decided to do something about it.