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What to Do with Your Car Seats after an Accident


Being involved in a crash, even a minor one, is a nerve-racking experience. It’s even scarier if your kids are involved.

Luckily, if your car seats are installed and used properly, you can rest assured they will do their job to protect your most precious cargo. In fact, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration estimates that in passenger cars, the proper use of child safety seats reduces the risk of death and injury by 71 percent for infants and 54 percent for toddlers.

That’s why it’s always important to have your seat checked by a certified technician before a possible crash. But what do you do after a crash? Many parents are unaware of when a car seat needs replaced, and easy steps they can take to replace it.

The answer depends on your situation. NHTSA says consumers should replace car seats after a moderate or severe crash. That’s because the crash forces are so strong, they can weaken or even cause cracks in the seat’s plastic.

baby in car seat

However, seats do not necessarily need to be replaced after a minor crash. But what does that mean? NHTSA defines a minor crash as 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 air bags, the air bags did not deploy during the crash; and
  • There is no visible damage to the car seat.

If you’re not sure, simply contact your car seat manufacturer by either visiting their website or calling customer service.

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Should you find that you have to replace your seat, don’t fret. Insurance companies will often cover the cost of a replacement seat. Just make sure to check with your insurance company first, before assuming they will replace your seats. Also, remember to mention in the police report that the car seat (occupied or not) was in the vehicle at the time of the crash—your insurance company may request the report to confirm the crash.

If you end up having to pay for new car seats, remember, you don’t have to spend hundreds of dollars for safety. All car seats on the market in the U.S. must meet the same federal safety standards. The ratings you often see are ease-of-use ratings, not safety ratings.