You’ve been involved in a fender bender and thankfully everybody involved is uninjured. That includes your children who were strapped into their car seats. The question is, was my child’s car seat “injured”?
Many parents don’t realize that this is a question that should be asked and discussed with the collision repair facility and their insurance company. This not only includes infant & toddler safety seats, but booster seats as well.
So now that you’ve started the conversation with your insurance provider, does this automatically mean the seat should be replaced? Let’s look at the details.
What do the experts say?
The National Highway Transportation Safety Administration policy recommends that car seats be replaced after a moderate to severe crash to ensure a continued high level of crash protection for children. In the event of a minor collision, safety seats do not necessarily need to be replaced.
Seems like there’s some gray area in that statement. So what is the NHTSA definition of a minor crash?
A minor crash is defined where ALL of the following statements apply:
- The vehicle was able to be driven away from the crash site. If the vehicle was towed away, the car seat should be replaced.
- The vehicle’s door nearest to the car seat was undamaged. If your vehicle has three rows of seats, and the safety seat is in the 3rd row, the rear (or 2nd row) doors and liftgate count as the closest doors to the 3rd row.
- None of the passengers in the vehicle were injured in the collision.
- No airbags deployed during the collision.
- There is no visible damage to the car seat. This includes but is not limited to belt webbing stretched, torn stitching, cracks, creases, stress marks or any broken pieces.
FYI: It does not matter if the safety seat was occupied or not, the car seat will be subject to the same or similar forces in the event of a collision and if you have multiple car seats each one will need to be evaluated separately to determine if replacing it is necessary.
Now that we know the NHTSA’s position on replacement is, the next official source to turn to is the manufacturer of the car seat. Many of the manufacturers say that, even in a minor collision, their car seat should be replaced while others say to follow the NHTSA’s guidelines.
Another set of experts to refer to is the National Child Passenger Safety Certification program. They have certified safety technicians that can also provide guidance on weather your car seat should be replaced after a collision, even if it’s a minor one.
Now that you are armed with all of this information, it’s up to you to have an important conversation with your insurance provider. It all comes down to the continued safety of your children.