After a car accident, you’re stressed. You’re trying to get your life back in order. With all the stress one of the most often overlooked items to replace is a child’s car seat. Safety experts recommend that any car seat involved in any car accident must be replaced, even if the child wasn’t in the seat at the time of the crash.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration defines the severity of car accidents as minor, moderate, and severe.
A Minor Crash is One in which ALL of the Following Apply
- The vehicle was able to be driven away from the crash site.
- The vehicle door nearest the car seat was not damaged.
- None of the passengers in the vehicle sustained any injuries in the crash.
- If the vehicle has airbags, the airbags did not deploy during the accident; and
- There is no visible damage to the car seat.
A minor car accident is a fender bender in the grocery parking lot, but even if it’s only a fender bender, you shouldn’t risk the safety of your child with continued use of a car seat that was involved in a car accident. Graco, one of the leading household names for child safety seats, recommends replacing the car seat in the event of ANY TYPE of accident. “Even if there appears to be no damage to the car seat on the surface, the impact and force of a collision cause unseen internal structural damage to your car seat.” If the impact and force were strong enough to cause any damage to the car, there is potential for damage to the car seat and may cause the safety mechanisms to fail.
Areas on the Car Seat to Inspect Immediately Following a Car Accident
- The harness: stretching or severing.
- The foam liner of the shell: cracking or detachment.
- Tether strap: stretching or severing.
- Buckle: mechanisms out of place/not functioning
While the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s position does not recommend replacement after a “minor” auto accident, you should act on the side of caution and replace the car seat. The risk of an unsafe car seat is too high. The areas mentioned above can be examined for visible damage. However, some damage may not be visible to the naked eye. Hairline fractures in the plastic can render the car seat broken due to the weak nature of the material. Even if your child was not in the seat during the time of the auto accident, there could still be damage to the car seat and it should be replaced.
Addressing Damage with the Insurance Company
When addressing property damage with the auto insurance company after an accident, be sure to include replacing the car seat. Often, the insurance company will ask that you buy a replacement and send them a copy of the receipt for reimbursement. Many manufacturers have programs in place to replace car seats after auto accidents as well.