There is a great amount of detail that goes into the aftermath of a motor vehicle accident, but there is one very important detail that usually goes unmentioned. If there was a car seat in the vehicle in the time of the accident, is the car seat still safe enough to keep your child safe?
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHSTA) recommends that you change the car seat if you have been involved in a moderate or severe car accident. They also recommend that you do not change it after a minor crash. How would you decipher the difference between a minor or moderate crash?
If you were involved in a “minor” crash, you should never assume the car seat is still safe enough to protect your child even if it falls under the five categories of a minor crash. By law, every car seat should have the manufacturers phone number and contact information posted on a sticker. If you are ever unsure about the safety of the car seat after a crash, do not hesitate to call and get the recommendation from the manufacturer themselves. The manufacturer will be able to declare if the seat is still up to the safety standards.
Check for damages on the car seat. Clear indicators of a damaged seat are fractures in the plastic frame, stretch marks in the plastic due to heat, and stretched seat belt harness straps. Even in the case of no visible damage, you never want to assume that the seat will be safe enough for a child. If there wasn’t a child in the seat in the time of the accident, these damages could have still occurred. The amount of force on the car seat during the crash determines how severely the car seat was damaged.
When disposing the damaged car seat, make sure that you take the proper steps to ensure that the seat will not be able to be used again. Cut the straps and remove any detachable parts before disposal.
After purchasing a car seat, remember to keep the receipt in case of an emergency. Replacing the car seat can often times be expensive. Present the receipt to an attorney or your insurance representative so that you can be reimbursed for your replacement seat. The replacement seat is not required to be the same as the one involved in the accident. For instance, if your child was already outgrowing the seat, you will be able to get a different seat for your replacement. Your attorney will more than likely be able to reimburse you for any loss property in the case of an accident.
Remember, a car seat is meant to be a one-time use product. That means it’s designed to protect your child through one crash. Once it has done its job, be sure to use the NHTSA guidelines above, along with manufacturer’s instructions, to determine whether or not it’s safe enough to potentially withstand another crash and keep your child safe.