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 nhtsa.gov.) 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.