As a parent, your concern for your child’s safety is paramount. Especially, when you are purchasing your baby’s safety seat. You research and make sure you are getting the best seat possible. However, are you putting equal thought and concern in deciding what to do with a child safety seat AFTER a car crash?
Some drivers don’t realize that not only are they supposed to replace their child safety seat in the event of a crash, but that many insurance companies will cover the cost of replacing the seat. This goes for booster seats, as well as infant and toddler safety seats.
According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), you should replace a child safety seat that has been involved in a moderate to severe crash. However, the administration also states that modern child safety seats are sufficiently durable and don’t need to be automatically replaced after a minor crash.
The NHTSA has devised a list of five criteria in considering whether a crash is considered minor.
- There is no visible damage to the car seat that might have been caused by the crash.
- The vehicle was capable of being driven from the crash site.
- The car door nearest to the child restraint was undamaged.
- No one in the vehicle was injured in the crash.
- The air bags did not deploy.
If none of these five criteria happens in a crash, you might consider calling the safety seat’s manufacturer for a recommendation. By regulation, all car seats must carry a sticker that lists the seat’s date of manufacture and model number, along with the manufacturer’s name, address and phone number. Please note, however, even with a simple “fender-bender”, some manufacturers prefer to be cautious and recommend a replacement seat.
The reason for such caution is that it’s difficult for the manufacturer to evaluate the reliability of a child safety seat without seeing it in person. Even though a seat might not need to be replaced after a minor accident, experts say careful inspection is still necessary. Damages to a safety seat can be invisible to the naked eye. There could be hairline fractures in the plastic, or the plastic is molded in a color like black that conceals stress marks. Or, there could be stress placed on the seatbelt or harness straps. Also, just because a child wasn’t in the seat at the time of the crash, doesn’t mean the seat won’t still need to be replaced. The amount of force on the car seat in a crash determines whether the seat was damaged, and the weight of a child will only add to that.
Although some insurance policies may not pay for it, experts say there are a few steps you can take to increase the odds of your insurer covering your safety seat replacement. If you’re preparing to have a baby, check with your insurer to find out if child safety seat replacement is covered in your policy. Insurers are also more likely to cover car seats when there is written documentation of the severity of the crash (police report), or of the seat manufacturer’s advice to replace. If an insurance company declines the replacement, ask your insurer for a letter stating that they assume liability for the child riding in the car seat that they refused to replace.
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