What do I do with a car seat after an accident?

What you should do with a car seat after an accident depends on who you ask. Car seat manufacturers, pediatricians, and consumer protection organizations lean toward replacing any child car seat that has been involved in an accident. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), however, find this to be an unnecessary expense in many cases.

Should I replace a car seat after any accident?

The Consumer Protection Unit of the State of Georgia Attorney General’s Office recommends that people avoid using a car seat that has been in an accident, regardless of the severity or any visible damage.

The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) advises parents to replace car seats that have been in a moderate or severe crash or car seats that show any damage after an accident. The AAP recommends you follow the manufacturer’s guidelines if you have any doubt.

What is a minor crash?

The NHTSA defines a minor crash, for purposes of deciding whether to replace a child restraint, as one in which:

  • The involved party was able to drive the vehicle from the scene of the accident;
  • The interior passenger area of the vehicle near the child restraint device did not sustain damage;
  • The children who were riding in the restraint devices had no injuries;
  • No one in the vehicle had serious injuries;
  • No air bags in the vehicle deployed;
  • There was no visible damage to the child restraint.

Consider the following: Molly was involved in a rear-end collision in stop-and-go traffic on I-285. Her vehicle had minor damage to the rear, but none near her child’s car seat. She thoroughly checked the seat and found no damage.

The NHTSA would find this to be a minor crash, for which Molly would not need to replace the car seat.

How did the NHTSA make its recommendations on car seats and crashes?

The NHTSA analyzed the results of two studies by the Insurance Corporation of British Columbia (ICBC) and the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) in reaching its conclusions about child restraint devices that have been in accidents.

The IIHS study concluded that most child seats are just as effective after a crash as they were before the crash. The IIHS subjected child restraints to successive high speed crashes, and found that most maintained structural integrity even if the car seats sustained minor damage, such as:

  • Minor cracking
  • Slight fraying of harness webbing
  • Minor plastic deformation
  • Bent harness buckle latch plates

The IIHS suggests that this minor damage is similar to normal wear and tear after using a car seat for several years. The IIHS did, however, offer an argument for replacing all car seats after crashes, even minor crashes, in order to get outdated or recalled car seats out of cars. However, it also stated that parents can decide whether to replace their child’s car seat on a case-by-case basis.

It suggested a standard of replacing car seats that show visible damage, regardless of the speed or severity of the crash, and to replace all car seats that have been in a severe crash.

The ICBC recommends that you check the manufacturer’s manual for the car seat. Many child car seat manufacturers direct you to replace the car seat after ANY crash. Other manufacturers recommend that you replace the car seat if there is visible damage and the accident was not a minor collision.

Is there a law in Georgia about replacing car seats after an accident?

While Georgia law is very clear and detailed about the required use of child restraint devices, there is no statute in Georgia that mandates the replacement of car seats that have been in accidents. There is only the recommendation of the Consumer Protection Unit of the Georgia State Attorney General’s Office.

If your child was injured in a car accident that was not your fault, an Atlanta car accident lawyer at the Law Office of Jason R. Schultz, PC can help. Call us today at 404-474-0804 to set up your free, no-obligation consultation.