Car seat technology has come a long way in the past couple of decades, and now, infants and toddlers riding in proper car safety seats may emerge from a severe car accident almost unscathed. Car seats are designed to take the brunt of the impact and shield the tiny passengers from harm.

But, after an accident, many parents may wonder if they need a new car seat, even if the one they have doesn’t appear damaged. Continue reading to determine if you should replace your child’s safety seat after an accident. 

Should I Replace My Child Safety Seat After a Car Accident?

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), children’s car safety seats shouldn’t be used again after a moderate to severe accident. Car seats don’t necessarily need to be replaced after a minor car accident.

The NHTSA defines a minor car crash as one that meets all of the following criteria:

  • The car could be driven away from the crash
  • The door nearest the car seat was undamaged
  • None of the vehicle occupants were injured
  • None of the airbags deployed
  • There is no visible damage to the car seat

The point of the safety seat is to protect the occupant, and it can’t effectively do that if it’s damaged or otherwise compromised. Even if the seat doesn’t look damaged, the interior part of the seat may not be as stable and, therefore, is more likely to break upon a subsequent impact.

Car Seat Safety Standards

If you’re debating whether to replace a child’s safety seat after a minor crash, check the owner’s manual for the seat. If you no longer have the paper manual that came with the car seat, you can look it up online using the manufacturer’s name and the seat’s model name and number.

Child safety seats are crafted from polypropylene, a durable plastic that flexes under pressure and doesn’t crack easily. The design is intended to provide an overlap of protection around the child, especially the head. All fabric is flame retardant.

According to the Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard [FMVSS] 213, all child safety seats must be able to withstand a 30 mph frontal crash.

Are Kid Car Seats Safe After a Car Accident?

The NHTSA states that a child’s car seat must be replaced after a moderate to severe car accident or an accident that doesn’t meet all the criteria stated above. Even if the car seat was empty during the accident, the impact could have damaged the seat or the buckle release mechanism. 

According to the car seat manufacturer Graco, all of the car seat’s infant restraint and base components should be replaced after any accident, as there may be damage that you can’t see. The damage could reduce the safety performance and effectiveness of the seat.

While local car seat inspections can help parents determine if a child’s car seat is installed correctly, they aren’t intended to be a safety inspection of the seat itself. They shouldn’t be used to evaluate whether a car seat sustained damage from a crash.

Your car insurance carrier may reimburse you for the cost of replacing a safety seat, so check your policy.

What’s the Final Decision?

Always follow the NHTSA’s guidelines for child safety seats, including when to replace them and how to select the appropriate one for your child as they grow. If you’ve been in a significant car crash, always replace the car seat. To be overly cautious, consider replacing the car seat even after a minor accident, because it may have sustained damage that you cannot see.

Contact Our Car Accident Law Firm in Fort Worth, TX

If you’ve been injured in an accident in Fort Worth and need legal help, contact our Fort Worth car accident lawyers at Stephens Law Personal Injury | Wrongful Death | Truck Accidents to schedule a free consultation.

Stephens Law Personal Injury | Wrongful Death | Truck Accidents
1300 S University Dr # 300
Fort Worth, TX 76107
(817) 420-7000