Parents in North Carolina may have questions about whether to replace their child’s safety seat after a car accident. Faced with many childcare expenses, some parents may be reluctant to spend money on a replacement if the car seat doesn’t appear to be damaged.
Experts say car seats that are subjected to the stress put on them in car crashes can be damaged in ways that are not obvious. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) says you should always replace a child’s car seat after a moderate or severe crash. But car seats do not automatically need to be replaced after a minor crash, the agency says.
“The decision to replace a car seat after a crash generally depends on the manufacturer of the car seat and the severity of the crash,” says BuckleUpNC.org, a website maintained by the UNC Highway Safety Research Center. “The best way to determine if your car seats need to be replaced is to contact the manufacturer directly and explain the circumstances of the crash.”
Car Seats Save Kids’ Lives
The adequacy of your car seat is certainly an issue worth exploring.
The National Safety Council (NSC) says car crashes are a leading cause of death for children. In 2019, 608 children under age 13 were killed in motor vehicle crashes, according to the NSC’s Injury Facts. Of them, 206 children were unrestrained and many others were inadequately restrained at the time of the crash.
Properly securing children in car seats that meet federal motor vehicle safety standards goes a long way in keeping them safe. The NHTSA estimates that car seats reduce the risk of fatal injury by 71% for infants (younger than 1-year-old) and by 54% for toddlers (1 to 4 years old) in passenger cars. For infants and toddlers in light trucks, the corresponding reductions are 58% and 59%, respectively.
The American Society for the Protection and Care of Children says the use of car seats and safety restraints can reduce the risks children face by 50 to 70% when employed properly.
Does a ‘Minor Car Crash’ Indicate that a Car Seat is Still Safe?
The NHTSA says to follow the car seat manufacturer’s instructions regarding the replacement of the seat after a minor accident.
A minor car accident is one in which ALL of the following apply:
- The vehicle could be driven away from the crash site.
- The vehicle door nearest the car seat was not damaged.
- None of the passengers in the vehicle were injured in the crash.
- If the vehicle has airbags, the airbags did not deploy during the crash.
- There is no visible damage to the car seat.
- Some manufacturers say to replace a seat after any collision.
For example, the user manual for the Graco Snug Ride Classic Connect 35 infant car seat says, “Replace the infant restraint and base after an accident of any kind. An accident can cause damage to the infant restraint that you may not be able to see.”
A medically reviewed article on the Very Well Family blog says, “Even an empty car seat that was buckled into the vehicle will experience crash forces. The force of the car seat moving forward and being held back by the lower anchor strap or tether strap can cause damage that may be invisible but might keep the car seat from doing its job if you’re in another crash.”
The NHTSA used to advise replacing a child’s car seat after an accident but has modified its stance as described above. Very Well Family says the NHTSA changed its policy because some parents were buying used child seats after accidents to save money. Purchasing a used child safety seat increases the potential for having a seat with unrecognized damage.
BuckleUpNC says the best way to determine whether your car seat needs to be replaced is to contact the manufacturer directly and explain the circumstances of the crash. If you do not have the phone number for the manufacturer, BuckleUpNC offers a directory of Car Seat and Vehicle Manufacturers.
After an accident, some car insurance companies will reimburse policyholders for some or all of the cost of a new car seat. This is something to ask about when reporting your accident to your insurance company.
North Carolina’s Child Seat Law
The North Carolina Child Passenger Safety Law (G.S. 20-137.1) requires children younger than age 16 to be properly restrained in an age-, weight- and height-appropriate restraint. Passengers who are 16 and older are covered by the North Carolina Seat Belt Law (G.S. 20-135.2A).
- Children younger than age 8 who weigh less than 80 pounds must be in a properly installed car seat or booster seat when in a motor vehicle. When a child reaches age 8 (regardless of weight) or 80 pounds (regardless of age), a properly fitted seat belt can be used in place of a car seat or booster seat.
- Children younger than age 5 and who weigh less than 40 pounds must be restrained in the back seat if the vehicle has a passenger-side front airbag and has a rear seat.
Ambulances and other emergency vehicles and large buses are exempt from the law, as are cars made before 1968 and pickup trucks, SUVs, and vans made before 1972, which were not required to have seat belts when manufactured.
Do I Need a Car Accident Lawyer after a Minor Crash?
Along with contacting your car seat manufacturer following a minor car accident, you should see a doctor for an evaluation. There are injuries common to car accidents that do not exhibit symptoms right away, including some traumatic brain injuries.
If you or anyone in your car was injured and another motorist caused the crash, you should have a lawyer review the accident. You may have grounds to file an insurance claim against the driver who caused the accident. Contact Younce, Vtipil, Baznik & Banks, P.A., to set up a free legal consultation.
A car accident attorney from Younce, Vtipil, Baznik & Banks in Raleigh, N.C., can explain your legal options. If our law firm handles your claim, we will take care of all the legal issues involved in the accident so you can focus on your physical and emotional recovery. Take advantage of free legal advice to educate yourself. Phone 919-661-9000 now.