Do I Need To Replace My Child’s Car Seat After A Crash?

Parents frequently ask me if their child’s car seat has to be replaced after an accident.

The short answer: most likely.

If you are in any car crash, whether it’s a fender bender or something much more serious, there is a good chance your child restraints will need to be replaced.  While some car seat manufacturers follow NHTSA’s criteria for reuse after a minor crash, and may not need to be replaced after an extremely minor collision, the vast majority will need to be replaced after ANY crash, even if the seats were unoccupied and the accident was minor. 

ALWAYS consult the manual that came with your child restraint, and if you’re still uncertain, contact the manufacturer.  I have listed contact information for the larger manufacturers below.

What to do After a Crash

Unless there is imminent threat of fire or other harm, stay in your vehicle and do not remove children from their seats. A child restraint provides excellent stabilization for a child who may be injured and many times they will be transported to the hospital in their seat.

If you can drive away from the scene, parents often wonder if they should drive home from the scene with their compromised seats. Make the best decision that you can at the time. Child car seats that must be replaced according to the manufacturer should not be used again as they could potentially fail, leaving the child vulnerable to injury or even death

If you can immediately replace the restraints or have someone meet you with back up car seats, that would be ideal. But the day you have a crash is far from ideal. You’ll have to use your best judgement after a crash as far as transporting children to a medical facility or immediately back home. 

Replacing Car Seats after a Crash

Once you and your children are safely home, what’s next? 

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If your seat has been in a moderate or major crash, it must be replaced, even if no child was riding in it at the time.  Car seats, like bike helmets, are items made to handle one major hit: if the car seat has done its job in a collision, it may not be able to do that job again and must be replaced.

Most seats must be replaced after any crash.  Some, however, may be reused after an extremely minor crash. This information will be in your car seat’s manual, and if you’re uncertain, you can always contact the manufacturer of your seat for clarification.

If your seat is one that allows reuse following a minor crash you will need to make sure that your collision has met all of the NHTSA crash criteria before continuing to use the seat. The NHTSA crash criteria are listed below.

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 of any kind 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

Often we’re asked “How do I know if what happened was a crash or just a bump? Was this incident enough to be called a crash?” If you’re not sure what you experienced was enough to be considered “a crash,” then we’d recommend that you call the restraint manufacturer and get their input. There are very, very few crashes that quality as being minor. For example, if you have a sore neck or low back pain from the accident, then there is an injury and the NHTSA criteria mandate the car seat be replaced.

Will Insurance Replace Crashed Seats?

If the other party is at fault, or if you have full coverage, auto insurance will most likely replace car seats for you, but this will depend on your specific policy and agreement with your insurance company. 

I have heard of insurance companies saying that they will only replace car seats if the crash doesn’t meet NHTSA’s guidelines for a minor crash or if the seat was occupied. Do not fall for this common insurance company trick.

The insurance company cannot overrule the manufacturer’s instructions and they cannot make NHTSA’s guidelines apply to a restraint which the manufacturer says must be replaced after any crash.  Often, you will need to supply the insurance company with a copy of your child seat manual, which can almost always be found online, and sometimes the restraint manufacturer will send a letter stating that their restraint must be replaced. 

If the insurance company does not replace your car seats, and the manual requires that you do so, your seat is still unsafe to use and you’ll still need to replace the seat. 

Here is a list of some popular car seat manufacturers, their general stance on replacement after a crash, and their contact information.  Some companies have different rules for the different seats in their lineups, so your manual is always the best resource.  

All car seat manuals have a section on what to do after a crash. This information is usually listed in the warnings near the front of the manual. 

Only the manufacturer can tell you for sure if the seat you have needs to be replaced after a crash. Don’t rely only on this list or word of mouth – read your manual and double-check with the manufacturer if you have questions or concerns.  If you have misplaced your manual, please contact your car seat’s manufacturer for a replacement.

 Car Seat Manufacturers

BabyTrend
Replace after any crash.
www.babytrend.com
1-800-328-7363

Britax
Follows NHTSA’s minor crash criteria. Replace after a moderate or severe crash.
www.britaxusa.com / www.britax.ca
1-800-427-4829 / 704-409-1700

BubbleBum
Replace after any crash.
www.bubblebum.co/us/
1-800-969-6586

Chicco
Replace after any crash.
www.chiccousa.com
1-717-735-6200 / 1-877-424-4226
Canadian service center 1-800-667-4111

Clek
Replace after any crash.
www.clekinc.com / www.clekinc.ca
1-866-656-2462 (same US / Canada)

Combi
Check your manual and contact the manufacturer.
www.combiusa.com
1-800-992-6624

Cosco (Dorel Juvenile Group)
Follows NHTSA’s minor crash criteria. Replace after a moderate or severe crash.
www.djgusa.com
1-800-544-1108

Cybex
Replace after any crash.
www.regallager.com / www.cybex-online.com
1-800-593-5522

Diono
Depends on the model. Check your manual and contact the manufacturer.
www.diono.com
1-855-463-4666

Doona
Replace after any crash.
simpleparenting.co/car-seat/
1-844-477-9539 Ext. 106

Evenflo
Replace after any crash.
www.evenflo.com
US: 1-800-233-5921
Canada: 937-773-3971

Graco
Replace after any crash.
www.gracobaby.com
US: 1-800-345-4109
Canada: 1-800-667-8184

Harmony
Replace after any crash.
www.harmonyjuvenile.com
1-877-306-1001

KidsEmbrace
Follows NHTSA’s minor crash criteria. Replace after a moderate or severe crash.
www.KidsEmbrace.com
1-866-947-3287

Maxi Cosi (Dorel Juvenile Group)
Follows NHTSA’s minor crash criteria. Replace after a moderate or severe crash.
www.djgusa.com
1-800-544-1108

Nuna
Varies, please consult your car seat’s manual and call Nuna directly to confirm.
www.nunababy.com
1-855-686-2872

Orbit Baby
Replace after any crash.
www.orbitbaby.com
1-877-672-2229

Peg Perego
Check your manual and contact the manufacturer.
www.pegperego.com / www.pegperegocanada.com
US: 1-800-671-1701 / Canada: 800-661-5050

Recaro
Check your manual and contact the manufacturer.
www.recaro-cs.com
1-888-973-2276

RideSafer (Safe Traffic System)
Check your manual and contact the manufacturer.
www.safetrafficsystem.com
1-847-233-0365

Safety 1st (Dorel Juvenile Group)
Follows NHTSA’s minor crash criteria. Replace after a moderate or severe crash.
www.djgusa.com
1-800-544-1108

The First Years (Tomy International)
Replace after any crash.
www.thefirstyears.com
1-888-899-2229

UPPAbaby
Follows NHTSA’s minor crash criteria. Replace after a moderate or severe crash.
www.uppababy.com
1-781-413-3000

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