Do I need to replace my car seat after a crash or accident?
Why You Should Replace Your Car Seat After A Crash For Increased Car Seat Safety
The question you are probably here asking: Do I have to replace my car seat after a crash?
Answer: It depends on the severity of the crash you were involved in based on NHTSA’s five criteria (listed below) and what your specific car seat manufacturer says about that specific child restraint. If you are unsure after reading this post, the best thing to do is call the manufacturer of your specific car seat.
Many car seats need to be replaced if they were in a vehicle that is involved in a crash — even if the child was NOT in the car seat during the crash. Crash forces can be extreme. The seat will withstand some crash energy even if the seat were empty and even more so if the car seat was occupied.
In a substantial crash, the crash forces may be enough to bend the steel in your car’s frame, therefore, obviously enough to damage the plastic in your child’s car seat (even if you cannot see the damage with the naked eye).
In the past the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) recommended to replace a child restraint whenever it was in a crash no matter the severity of the crash.
However, NHTSA has revised that recommendation in an attempt to reduce the number of children without a child restraint while their crashed restraint is being replaced and reduce costs for consumers and insurance companies.
NHTSA Cites Child Car Seat Safety Studies
NHTSA cites several international studies which showed that after minor vehicle crash tests, even when there is visible stress to the child restraint, the restraint still performed well in subsequent crash tests.
NHTSA’s policy on replacing child restraints after minor vehicle crashes to the following:
- NHTSA 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 child passengers.
- NHTSA recommends that child safety seats do not automatically need to be replaced following a minor crash..
Minor crashes are those that meet ALL of the following criteria:
- 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
Will Your Insurance Company Replace Your Booster Seat or Car Seat After A Crash?
Most insurance companies will replace your car seat in a crash without question.
When our car was merely stolen and the car seats were found a few blocks away having been thrown out of the car, our insurance replaced them just in case there was unseen damage. (Our car was later found torn to shreds on the inside, seat belts were torn out and who knows what else happened in there.)
The insurance company had us buy a new car seat right away and they reimbursed us from the receipt. They don’t require you to buy the same seat. For instance, if your child was about to outgrow an infant seat, the insurance company will allow you to buy a convertible in its place.
What to do with the crashed seat if it needs to be replaced?
You may have a couple of options depending on where you live. Some cities have recycling programs for car seats. If you cannot find a place to recycle your car seat you’ll need to dispose of it. To dispose of it properly, you want to essentially make it unusable by anyone else by cutting the straps and removing any detachable parts.
If you were in a crash, what was your experience with your insurance company? Share your comments below.
By Amie Durocher, Creative Director at Safe Ride 4 Kids and certified CPS Tech since 2004
Copyright 2015 Safe Ride 4 Kids. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed without permission.
This post was originally published August 2013 and has been updated for accuracy and comprehensiveness.