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Should You Replace Your Child Car Seat After an Auto Accident?

by | Sep 23, 2020 | Child Car Safety

In most cases, you won’t need to replace your car seats or seat belts after an auto accident. Why replace your child’s car seat?

Child car seats and booster seats serve multiple functions. They keep infants and children secure in a vehicle designed for adults and protect them in a crash.

After a moderate or severe crash, the seat won’t do its job effectively. Most car seats are made from petroleum-based plastics. An impact could very well damage those materials, even if you can’t see that damage.

It’s the same reason car seat manufacturers set expiration dates. Over time, the materials in the car seat degrade due to environmental factors. Your car seat has to withstand extreme heat and cold as well as sun exposure. Over time, these factors cause the materials to break down, turning supple plastic into brittle plastic or metal into rust. That means the day could come when you place your child into the car seat and the plastic shell shatters. Or a rusted metal fastener disintegrates. That’s not safe!

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) recommends replacing your car seat after a moderate or severe crash. After a minor crash, you may be able to keep your child car seat; however, if your insurer covers child car seat replacement, why not replace it?

Another point to consider: some manufacturers state their seats are not safe to use after even a minor crash. Check the instruction manual before you decide.

What is a minor crash?

For purposes of replacing your car seat, NHTSA defines minor car crash as one that meets all of the following criteria:

    • You can drive the vehicle away from the crash site.
    • The vehicle door nearest the car seat is not damaged.
    • None of the passengers sustained injuries in the crash.
    • The air bags did not deploy in the crash.
    • There is no visible damage to the car seat.

Buying a Used Car Seat?

NHTSA does not discourage buying used car seats. However, make sure it’s not close to the expiration date AND it has never been involved in a moderate to severe crash. The agency recommends any used car seat you buy checks off all of the following boxes:

    • It’s never been involved in a moderate or severe crash.
    • Labels stating the date of manufacture and model numbers are intact.
    • The seat has no recalls (you can use the model number to check this).
    • All parts are included.
    • The instruction book is included.

Before you consider browsing eBay for a car seat keep in mind used products aren’t monitored well (if at all) for recalled products on the market. (It’s illegal to sell recalled products.) And there isn’t a good way to verify whether the car seat really hasn’t been in a crash.

To ensure the best protection for your child, shop new. You’ll get a seat guaranteed to be structurally sound and one that comes with the latest safety features.

Were you in a moderate or severe crash? When you’re ready, call our office for a free consultation.

Photo courtesy of Flickr