Do I Have to Get a New Car Seat After a Car Accident?

In Car Accident by Michele Mirman

Few things are more important than your childrens’ safety. As a parent, you’ll try to do anything you can to keep them from getting hurt. While you were pregnant, you spent hours researching car seats so that you could find the best one for your car, budget, and lifestyle. 

Then you took the care and time necessary to make sure that the car seat was installed properly. You followed the manual and brought it to a Certified Car Seat Technician to double-check that it’s in the car correctly. You’re all set the drive with your precious cargo.

After all of that, you get into a car accident. Now you’re in a panic. Is the car seat still good? Can you keep it or do you have to get a new one? What kind of factors might influence that determination? Our attorneys explain what you need to know about dealing with a car seat after an accident in NYC.

Keep or Replace: It Depends on the Manufacturer

There are hundreds of different car seats on the market, manufactured by dozens of different companies. If you’re involved in an accident, no matter how minor, you’ll have to check with your car seat’s manufacturer to see if your seat has to be replaced.

Some manufacturers require you to replace a seat after any motor vehicle accident. Others say you can keep your seat if the crash was relatively minor. 

Replace After a Crash

You’ll have to buy a new car seat, even if you were just involved in a fender bender or no child was in the car, if your seat was manufactured by:

  • BabyTrend
  • BubbleBum
  • Chicco
  • Clek
  • Cybex
  • Doona
  • Graco
  • Harmony
  • Nina
  • Orbit Baby, or
  • Tomy International.

Some parents have been told by the manufacturer that they had to get a new car seat after backing into a light post or another vehicle in a parking lot at a low speed. Any crash means any crash.

Replacement Depends on Crash, Seat, and Car Details

If you own a car seat manufactured by certain companies, you might be able to keep your child’s car seat after a really small accident.

Manufacturers that might allow you to keep your car seat after an accident include:

  • Britax
  • Combi
  • Cosco
  • Diono
  • KidsEmbrace
  • MaxiCosi
  • Peg Perego
  • RideSafer
  • Safety 1st, and
  • UPPAbaby.

 This will ultimately depend on (a) the specific seat you have, (b) instructions in your car’s safety manual, and (c) circumstances surrounding your accident. 

What’s Considered a Minor Crash by the NHTSA?

Let’s say you have a car seat that’s manufactured by a company that says it’s okay to keep your car seat as long as you were only in a minor crash. What does this mean? For these purposes, “minor crash” is defined by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, or the NHTSA. 

The NHTSA explains that a crash is minor if it satisfies all of the following things:

  • You were able to drive the car away from the scene of the crash.
  • The car door closest to the car seat wasn’t damaged in the accident.
  • No one in the car was injured in the accident.
  • The air bags didn’t deploy; AND
  • There is no visible damage to the car seat, itself.

All of these things must be true for your car accident to qualify as a “minor crash” by the NHTSA. 

If, and only if, you:

  • have a car seat manufactured by a company that permits you to keep your seat after a minor crash, and
  • were involved in a minor accident,

can you keep your car seat after an accident.

Why Should I Get a New Car Seat After an Accident?

You bought a car seat to keep your child safe in the car. If you get into an accident while your car seat is installed, you might have to get a new one. That’s true even if the seat wasn’t occupied at the time of the collision.

Why? Car seats are built to absorb momentum and impact in an accident. That can significantly alter the seat’s structure and rigidity. As a result, a seat that has been involved in an accident and absorbed impact might lose its strength and shape, making it less capable of protecting your child in future collisions.

Kids have to ride in car seats because cars and seat belts are built to transport adults. A child is smaller than an adult and has an immature skeleton. A child restraint system is specifically designed and tested to limit the trauma a child experiences in an accident. You want your child’s seat to work as well as it possibly can. If the seat has been in any crash, it might be worthwhile to think about getting a new one. Check with your insurance company, because a new seat just might be covered.