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Can You Use A Car Seat After An Accident?

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), child restraint manufacturers, and personal injury lawyers at The Perecman Firm all recommend that child safety seats be replaced following a moderate or severe car accident.

There are different viewpoints on replacing car seats that have been in a minor crash.

The NHTSA said that child safety seats do not automatically need to be replaced following a minor crash. According to the NHTSA, child safety seats can withstand the impact of a minor crash without affecting their future performance. A few car seat manufacturers agree with this statement.

The majority of child restraint manufacturers and personal injury lawyers at The Perecman Firm recommend getting a new car seat in the event of any crash, including one that is considered minor.

For a crash to be considered minor, the NHTSA said it must meet ALL the following criteria:

  • 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

The argument to replace a car seat and base after a car accident, no matter how minor, is that even a minor accident can cause undetectable damage to the safety seat or base. Therefore, even if a car seat looks fine it may not be safe. Using any child restraint if it is damaged puts a child at risk for injury or death. Damage to the seat or base may cause it to fail in an accident, even a minor one.

It is absolutely important NOT to use the safety seat and base if it is damaged or broken in any way. Also, a seat can be reused after being in a minor crash only once (if the manufacturer follows NHTSA’s guidelines). It should be replaced after a second minor crash.

Those who want to keep using a car seat after an accident should take it to an authorized inspection station for free advice. (Find one at It is worth noting that the replacement of a damaged car seat is covered under some automobile insurance policies. The child restraint must be destroyed and replaced if it has been in a crash and does not comply with ALL safety conditions.


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