A car accident may not solely result in personal injury. It can also cause damage to safety mechanisms that may render you or your passengers more vulnerable to injury if future accidents ever occur.
For example, California law requires parents and caregivers to ensure children of certain ages and sizes sit in approved child car seats when riding in motor vehicles. Even a seemingly minor car accident can damage a car seat and prevent it from serving its purpose.
Therefore, you should strongly consider replacing a child car seat after an accident occurs. Doing so could play a significant role in guarding against future harm.
Why You Should Replace a Car Seat After an Accident
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration recommends replacing child car seats in the aftermath of moderate and severe accidents. The NHTSA does not necessarily advise replacing a car seat if a crash is minor.
To qualify as a minor accident, all of the following must apply:
- You were able to drive your vehicle away from the site of the accident safely;
- The door closest to the car seat was undamaged;
- No one in the vehicle sustained an injury;
- The airbags (if the vehicle has them) did not deploy as a result of the accident;
- You cannot detect any visible damage to the car seat.
The law may not require you to replace a car seat after a minor accident, but you might still choose to do so. Child car seats have many components. Some of them are hidden from view. The fact that a car seat does not appear to be damaged does not mean it is undamaged. It’s best to err on the side of caution after an accident and buy a new car seat.
The following are key reasons to do so:
Ensuring your child’s safety
This is the most important and basic reason to buy a new child car seat after an accident. You want to be confident you’ve taken all steps necessary to protect your child. Accordingly, you should replace their car seat after being involved in even a small collision.
California is a tort or at-fault state in regard to car accidents. That means you can seek compensation for your medical bills and related losses after being harmed in a car accident. You can typically pursue compensation by filing a claim to collect from the at-fault party’s insurance.
However, California also has comparative fault laws. These laws may limit the amount of compensation you recover when filing a claim or lawsuit. If you contributed to your accident or injuries (or your child’s injuries), this may be accounted for when determining how much compensation you may collect.
For example, perhaps you’re seeking compensation after a car accident that caused injuries to your child. Suppose your child’s injuries could have been less severe if you replaced their car seat after a previous accident. In this case, an insurance company could use this information to justify a low settlement offer.
Financial compensation is certainly less important than your child’s safety. That said, you do need to consider how failing to replace a car seat after an accident could impact the outcome of a future case.
Again, securing young children in proper child-safe car seats is a legal requirement in California. In some instances, choosing not to purchase a new car seat after an accident could qualify as a violation of the law. Guard against potential legal penalties by using a new car seat after virtually any type of motor vehicle accident.
The main point to remember is that a child car seat can appear to be undamaged after a collision. That does not mean it is. Keep your child safe by replacing their seat as soon as possible if there is any chance it was damaged.