car seat after accident

Injuries and deaths from vehicular accidents are more common than you would think in the US. In fact, deaths from vehicle collisions are more common than from illnesses, including cancer, for Americans.

Approximately 43,000 major car crashes occur yearly in the US. According to child passenger safety statistics for 2021, approximately 700 children aged 12 and under died in car crashes. In an effort to help decrease these numbers, several states in the US require the use of safety seats and other security equipment, like seat belts and airbags.

Car seats are proven effective in reducing fatality during a collision. Statistics have shown that 83% of the children under the age of 4 from 2018 to 2022 sustained no injuries during a car crash.

The question we usually get as an autobody shop is if it is critical to replace car seats after a major or minor crash.

Find out our answer below.

Do You Need to Replace Your Car Seats After an Accident?

As a rule, you need to replace your car seats after a moderate or severe crash. This rule is applicable even if the car seat has no visible defects or damages.

It’s crucial to prioritize safety and err on the side of caution when it comes to car seat replacement. Even if a car seat looks undamaged, internal components may have suffered stress or structural damage that is not immediately apparent.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) provides clear guidelines that mandate replacing car seats after an accident.

Is Replacing Car Seats After an Accident Important?

Yes, replacing car seats after an accident is critical for maintaining a high level of safety for your children. The safety seat must be immediately replaced as long as a car seat was present inside the vehicle during a moderate or severe car accident.

Car seats are designed to absorb and redistribute force during a collision. Regardless of the intensity of the accident’s impact, the car seat’s integrity can be compromised.

Damages to the car seat may oftentimes be invisible to the naked eye. Internal components may suffer from damage, which has no immediate external sign.

To ensure optimal protection of child passengers, car owners are encouraged to replace the car seat after an accident. This step goes with other collision repair processes that you need to undergo.

Do You Have to Replace a Car Seat After a Minor Accident?

As stated in the NHTSA’s criteria, vehicles that were faced with a minor collision do not automatically need to have their car seats replaced.

Minor crashes may not have a significant impact on the integrity of a car seat. To help you identify if a car crash is considered minor, the NHTSA guidelines state that a minor crash is one wherein all of the following conditions apply:

  1. The vehicle successfully drove away from the crash site.
  2. There was no damage to the door nearest to where the car seat was placed.
  3. None of the passengers sustained any injury from the crash.
  4. The airbags did not deploy.
  5. There was no visible damage to the car seats.

It’s essential to note that safety standards and guidelines may vary between countries and regions, so it’s advisable to check local regulations. Ultimately, prioritizing safety and following the manufacturer’s recommendations are key in determining whether to replace a car seat after any accident, minor or otherwise.

Guidelines for Replacing Car Seats After an Accident

Following guidelines for replacing car seats after an accident is critical. These guidelines may vary depending on the manufacturer’s recommendation and the accident’s severity.

Follow these simple yet effective general guidelines to help you decide to replace your car or booster seats:

  1. Follow the manufacturer’s recommendations.
    • Car seat manufacturers provide instructions and criteria for determining if a seat should be replaced after an accident. Look for information on impact speeds, collision forces, and any visible damage warranting replacement.
  2. Assess the severity of the accident.
    • All guidelines require you to assess the severity of the car accident. Usually, minor vehicle crashes do not require a car seat replacement. Consider factors such as the speed of impact, deployment of airbags, and the presence of injuries.
  3. Check for the presence of visible damage.
    • Thoroughly inspect the car seat or have a professional check it for any visible damage. If a car seat has visible damage, it must be replaced even if the accident is considered minor.
  4. Always err on the side of caution.
    • If there is uncertainty or doubt about the car seat’s condition, prioritize the occupants’ safety, especially if the car seat is for a child.

Always remember that the main goal is to maintain the safety and effectiveness of the car seat. If you have any doubts about the structural integrity of your car seat after an accident, it is always a good idea to consult with the car seat manufacturers or experts to guide you.

Have you been in an accident recently? Contact Badell’s Collision today and get expert advice for autobody repair works, including car seat replacement. Our team of professionals will provide you with the much-needed information and accurate guidelines for your vehicle.

When to Replace a Car Seat?

In addition to replacing car seats after an accident, there are other circumstances that will require you to do the same. The following criteria are some other instances when you need to replace a car seat:

  1. When there is visible damage or signs of wearing.
  2. When the car seat has reached its expiration date.
  3. When a recall has been issued concerning the brand of your car seat.
  4. When there are changes in related regulations.
  5. When your child outgrows the car seat.
  6. As per the manufacturer’s recommendations.

These are just some of the common reasons for you to change your car seat, other than getting in an accident. It is always a good idea to consult professionals or the car seat manufacturer when unsure if you need to replace the car seat.

Can Car Seat Safety Be Verified After a Crash? 

No, your car seat’s safety cannot be verified by anyone after a crash. Despite the common belief that you can take the car seat to the police station or automobile shop to have it verified, no one can certify the safety of your car seat for you.

In theory, a specialized X-ray could verify the integrity of a child safety seat following an accident, but no company or public entity currently offers this service. Because damage is not always visible, the guidelines call for full replacement of the child seat after any collision considered moderate to severe. 

How Can You Be Sure That the Car Seat Is Installed Correctly?  

After purchasing a car seat, the next step is to install it in your vehicle. This is a critical step. While you can have it installed by the car seat dealer, you will still need to understand how to install it if you need to remove it and put it back.

Here are steps you can take to be sure that a new seat is installed correctly:

  1. Read and consult the car seat manual.
    • Start by reading the manual that comes with the car seat. This material will tell you the specifics of the car seat and have detailed guidelines for installing the car seat.
  2. Position the car seat correctly.
    • Install the new seats at the back of the vehicle. Depending on the type of car seat and your child’s age, you will need to install the car seat facing forward or backward. Consult the Pennsylvania Car Seat Law.
  3. Installon a level ground.
    • Most car seats have a recline indicator. This tool will tell you if the car seat is inclining or level with the ground. Gas stations and car seat dealer shops are commonly level with the ground.
  4. Secure the harness properly.
    • Ensure that the harness or tether strap is snug and lies flat without any twists.
  5. Check for tightness.
    • Hold the car seat at the belt path and attempt to move it side to side and front to back. It should not move more than an inch in any direction.

A great practice to ensure safety is regularly checking if the car seat needs to be adjusted before hitting the road. This is also critical as some insurance companies consider proper installation when determining whether to cover replacement.

Can Purchasing Used Car Seats Be a Safe and Cost-Effective Option? 

Purchasing a used car seat or child safety seat may be tempting as it is undeniably cheaper than buying a new one. Despite this fact, doing so comes with potential safety risks.

As mentioned, the integrity of a car seat cannot be guaranteed even if it does not show any signs of crash damage or wear and tear. While cost savings are understandable, safety should always be the top priority regarding child car seats.

If you have any doubts about the safety or history of a used child’s car seat, investing in a new one is generally safer.

Will Insurance Cover the Cost of Replacing the Car Seat?  

The best way to know is to check with your car insurance company. Most insurance policies cover car seat replacement if the vehicle has been involved in a crash.

Insurance companies usually provide full reimbursement for a new car seat model or pro-rated coverage based on its value during the accident. An accident report or documentation for the collision repair shop may be requested to confirm the severity of the crash.

Have the police document the fact that there was a car seat in the vehicle.

Prioritize Safety With the Help of Experts at Badell’s Collision

All vehicle owners know that the best thing to do after a collision, whether a minor, moderate, or severe car accident, is to get your vehicle checked by professionals. Badell’s Collision has been providing auto body and collision repair services for over 12 years.

Our experts can help you assess what your vehicle needs, give you professional advice, and give you a thorough estimate. We can even help you deal with insurance company matters as we work with all major insurance carriers.

Badell’s Collision Repair cares about your safety. To request information or a quick estimate, use our online form

Frequently Asked Questions

Can You Replace Car Seat Straps?

If there are visible signs of damage on your car seat straps, then it is acceptable to change them. Wears and tears can affect the strength and integrity of the straps. The best solution to this is to contact the car seat strap manufacturer and purchase a strap that is compatible with your car seat to ensure the perfect fit.

What Is the Lifespan of a Car Seat?

Unless stated otherwise by the manufacturer, a ca seat typically is good for approximately six years. You can check the expiration date of your car seat under the unit or on the frame of the car seat.

Does Changing Car Seats Affect Warranty?

The impact of changing car seats on your vehicle’s warranty can depend on your vehicle provider’s terms and conditions. Generally, changing car seats should not affect the warranty.
However, the warranty might be void if the change resulted in damages during the changing process. It is always best to consult your dealer or the manufacturer.

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