If you were the victim of a reckless, impaired or distracted driver, your priority needs to be on healing physically and emotionally. When you turn your attention to the condition of your vehicle, it’s crucial to look at any child safety or booster seat that was in it at the time. Even if your child wasn’t in the car during the crash and there’s no obvious damage to the seat, it may no longer protect your child as it should.
Manufacturers and insurers generally want to err on the side of caution when it comes to replacing child safety seats that have been in a crash. Most manufacturers instruct consumers to replace the seat after any crash. Most insurance companies will pay for a new seat (including one the next size up if your child is ready for it) after any crash, even if there’s no visible damage.
What are the federal guidelines?
National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) guidelines say that child seats should be replaced unless the crash was so minor that all of the following apply:
- No one in the vehicle suffered injuries.
- Neither the seat nor the door closest to it suffered damage.
- No airbags deployed.
- The vehicle was able to be driven away from the scene.
If you’re in doubt about whether to get a new seat, it’s better to do it than not. However, don’t give your old seat to charity or to anyone else. If it’s been in a crash, even if it doesn’t appear to be damaged, safety experts say that you should disassemble it so that no one can find it and use it. That means don’t just throw it in the trash.
You need to add the cost of a new child safety seat to the amount of compensation you seek from the at-fault driver’s insurance company. Make sure you know the full extent of your expenses and damages before you agree to any settlement from the insurer and/or the driver. Getting additional money later can be next to impossible. That’s why it’s wise to have legal guidance.