Do I need to replace my car seat after an accident? (What you need to know)

This is probably the most asked question after a non-serious car accident involving children. The short answer is – “it depends.” We know, that is a very “lawyer like” response, but its true.

The long answer is that it depends on the severity of the accident.  In prior years, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), recommended that a car seat be replaced after every crash, even if it was unoccupied at the time. However, the organization recently release guidance that the seat does not need to be replaced after a minor crash. They went on to explain that a crash is minor if it meets all of the following requirements:

  1. The vehicle was able to be driven away from the crash site;
  2. The vehicle door nearest the safety seat was undamaged;
  3. There were no injuries to any of the vehicle occupants;
  4. The air bags (if present) did not deploy; AND
  5. There is no visible damage to the safety seat

If the accident does not meet all of these requirements or is obviously more serious, then you should replace the car seat. Replacement car seats are very common in auto accident claims and are usually not challenged by insurance companies.

Note: If you need to dispose of a car seat, you should cut the straps so that it is not found later and used by another child. Likewise, you should refrain from purchasing a used car seat since you do not know if it was previously involved in an accident. 

Are car seats effective?

Child safety seats have been shown to reduce fatal injury by 71 percent for infants (under 1 year old) and by 54 percent for toddlers (1 to 4 years old). Studies show that lap/shoulder seat belts, when used, reduce the risk of fatal injury to front-seat occupants age 5 and older by 45 percent and the risk of moderate-to-critical injury by 50 percent.

In 2016, the NHTSA conducted a survey reporting that among children under 5 years old, an estimated 328 lives were saved in 2016 by restraint use. Of these 328 lives saved, 313 were associated with the use of child safety seats and 15 with the use of adult seat belts. At 100-percent car seat use for those under 5 years old, an estimated 370 lives could have been saved in 2016. From 1975 to 2016 an estimated 11,274 lives were saved by child restraints (child safety seats or adult seat belts) for children under 5 years old in passenger vehicles

In 2016, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reported that:

  • Of the 23,741 passenger vehicle occupants killed in fatal crashes, 826 (3.5%) were children.
    • Of these 826 child passenger vehicle occupants killed in fatal crashes, restraint use was known for 751, of whom 289 (38%) were unrestrained. This percentage (38%) was lower compared to all ages (48%)
  • Of the 40,329 passenger vehicle occupants who survived in fatal crashes, 4,826 (12%) were children.
    • Of these 4,826 child passenger vehicle occupants who survived in fatal crashes, restraint use was known for 4,579, of whom 607 (13%) were unrestrained. This percentage (13%) was lower compared to all ages (14%)
  • Of the 60,043 passenger vehicle occupants involved in fatal crashes, 5,652 (9%) were children.
    • Of these 5,652 child passenger vehicle occupants involved in fatal crashes, restraint use was known for 5,330, of whom 896 (17%) were unrestrained.

How dangerous are car accidents for children?

As you would likely guess, very dangerous. According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, motor vehicle injuries are a leading cause of death among children in the United States. Many of these deaths could have been prevented.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) reported that in 2016:

  • Of the 37,461 motor vehicle traffic fatalities in the United States, 1,233 (3%) of those killed were children.
  • While child motor vehicle traffic fatalities have decreased by 27 percent since 2007, the number increased by 8 percent from 1,144 in 2015 to 1,233 in 2016.
  • On average, 3 children were killed every day in the United States in traffic crashes.
  • Boys accounted for 54 percent of child fatalities in traffic crashes.

Earner & Weaver is a law firm that represents people who were injured in automobile and accidents. It is always free to talk with us. If you have questions after a car accident, we will be glad to help. Call us at (877) 862-4635 or use the contact form to reach out.

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