Car accidents happen every day and often there is a child in the vehicle strapped into a car seat or booster. Even if your car seat appears intact after an accident, the force of the collision can cause unseen damage and may keep the car seat from properly protecting the child in future car accidents. There are no state or federal laws in place saying that car seats must be replaced after a car accident so parents must use their discretion. Your car seat manufacturer should have instructions in the user manual about what to do after a car accident. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends replacing car seats that have been in a moderate or severe car crash. According to the National Highway Transportation Administration (NHTSA), a minor car crash may not cause enough damage to warrant a car seat replacement.
When should I Replace Car Seats after a Car Accident?!
If you can say “yes” to all five of these questions, the NHTSA says it’s okay to keep using your car seat but if you are unsure, call the car seat manufacturer.
- Could you drive the car away from the accident?
- Was the door nearest the car seat undamaged?
- Were all occupants of the vehicle uninjured?
- Did the air bags remain un-deployed?
- Is there no visible damage to the car seat?
The NHTSA changed its policy on replacing seats after minor accidents because scientific studies were revealing that car seats continue to meet federal standards for performance and they wanted to ease the financial burden of replacing a seat that may be perfectly good. There was also some concern that some parents would toss the seat but then put the child in the car without a safety seat before they were ready.
Note that it is not a good idea to purchase a used car seat unless it is from a trusted friend or family member; it is impossible to know whether a seat has been in a car accident.
Car Accident Statistics
- In 2004, 495 children under the age of 5 were killed in car accidents. Among these fatalities, approximately 173 (35 percent) of these children were totally unrestrained.
- An estimated 451 children’s lives were saved in 2004 because they were strapped into a child restraint system.
- Child safety seats can reduce fatal injury by 71 percent for infants and 54 percent for toddlers, ages 1 to 4.
Car Seat Installation Safety Tips
- Ensure that you purchase the right car seat for your child’s weight and height.
- Ensure that the seat is properly installed-have it checked by a car seat officer.
- Never place an infant car seat next to an airbag.
- Always use the chair’s five-point harness system and ensure that the cross snap goes across the upper chest.
- Never use a broken or defective car seat.
Note: If you decide that a car seat should be replaced, you may be able to get your insurance company to cover the cost. You may need to send them a photocopy of the car seat instruction booklet that shows the recommendation to replace the seat after a car accident.
If you or a loved one were injured in an accident, you have enough to deal with. Let an experienced accident attorney fight for the full compensation that you deserve. It is not uncommon to receive a settlement from the insurance company that is five to ten times bigger with the help of a lawyer. Call the caring accident attorneys at Tario & Associates, P.S. in Bellingham, WA today for a FREE consultation! We have been representing residents of Whatcom County, Skagit County, Island County and Snohomish County since 1979. You will pay nothing up front and no attorney fees at all unless we recover damages for you!