December 11, 2015

Should you replace your car seat after a wreck?

Interesting little issues seem to present themselves in waves in my practice. The issue du jour this month has been car seats. When dealing with car seats that have been involved in auto crashes, two questions need answers: (1) should the car seat be replaced? (2) If so, who should pay for the replacement?

According to the National Highway Safety Traffic Association, you do not have to replace your car seat if you are involved in a “minor crash.” A “minor crash” is one where ALL of the following criteria are met:

* 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

Some car seat manufacturers follow these standards. Others indicate that your car seat must be replaced after any crash. Consult the manual that came with the car seat or contact the car seat manufacturer if you don’t have the manual or are unsure of what the manual recommends. Here is a handy website that lists the replacement requirements for the popular car seat manufacturers.

If you’ve purchased a car seat recently, you know that they don’t come cheap. It is not uncommon for top-rated car seats to cost between $200 and $300 a pop. This can be a significant out-of-pocket expense. If you are in a crash, ask to see a copy of your policy. Many of them cover damaged personal property, without requiring you to pay a deductible. This coverage should include car seats, whether there is visible damage or not. If your policy does not provide coverage for damaged property and someone else was at fault for the crash, the cost to replace your car seats can be recovered from the person (or their insurance company) who hit you.