11 Feb 2022

By Boris Tadchiev

In Car Accident

Car accidents are one of the leading causes of death among young children. That makes car safety seats vital pieces of safety equipment. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) reports that car seats saved the lives of 325 children in a single year.

New York law requires that all children under age four must ride in child safety seats. Children from age four to eight must use some type of child restraint system to keep them safe. The NHTSA goes further and recommends all children under age 13 use an age-appropriate safety system or ride in the back seat.

Crashes often occur when there is a car seat in a vehicle, whether or not a child is in the seat at the time. Parents may have questions about whether they can keep using a car seat after a collision, or need to replace it.

When To Replace a Car Seat

To help children stay safe on the roads, the NHTSA has issued a set of guidelines outlining when parents should replace a car seat after an accident. Broadly speaking, the NHTSA says you should replace a car seat after any moderate or severe crash. Car seats do not automatically need to be replaced after a minor crash, the NHTSA says, it says you should follow the seat manufacturer’s recommendations.

A minor accident is one in which all of the following criteria apply:

  • You could drive your vehicle away from the crash site.
  • The door nearest to the car seat was not damaged in any way.
  • No one inside the vehicle sustained any injuries from the crash.
  • The air bags did not deploy during the crash.
  • There is no visible damage to the car seat.

The important thing to remember is that ALL of these criteria must be satisfied. For example, there may not be any visible damage to the car seat, but if the door closest to the car seat has been damaged, you should replace the child safety seat with a new one.

The other time to replace a car seat is if your child has outgrown it. It’s important for children to use car seats or other safety restraints appropriate for their age and weight until they are old enough and tall enough to use a standard seat belt.

Why You Should Replace Your Car Seat After a Crash

Like bicycle helmets, car seats are generally one-use items. This means they’re designed to withstand one impact and then should be replaced.

The reason for this rule is simple: If the car seat is damaged in any way in an accident, it won’t protect a child as well if another accident occurs. Even if the car seat looks undamaged, hairline cracks in the structure can make it unstable and unable to withstand the force of a second impact. In fact, a damaged car seat could potentially make a child’s injuries worse in a crash, depending on the circumstances of the accident.

To keep your child as safe as possible when he or she is riding in a car, it’s important to ensure that the car seat or other restraint system they’re using is undamaged. Never buy a used car seat. You have no idea whether it has previously been involved in an accident. If you are unsure whether you should replace a car seat, you’re better off being cautious and buying a new one.

When Does the Insurance Company Cover the Replacement Costs?

All states, including New York, require young children to use car seats up to a certain age. Accordingly, insurance companies will generally cover the cost of replacing a car seat if yours was damaged in a crash.

New York basic no-fault auto insurance coverage, which is required, pays for personal injuries that the policyholder sustained in an accident. But it does not cover damage to property such as a damaged car seat.

If you have a comprehensive auto insurance policy, it may cover the cost of replacing a car seat after you satisfy the deductible. To give yourself the best chance of having your insurance company replace a broken car seat, submit the receipts for the new seat as well as the old one (if you still have the receipt).

Choosing a Replacement Car Seat

Choosing the right car seat for your child is as important as having one at all. The NHTSA has recommendations for choosing the right car seat.

Keep in mind that your children may need a different seat depending on their age and size:

  • Newborns and children up to age one should always ride in rear-facing seats.
  • Children ages one to three should ride in a rear-facing seat until they reach the maximum size limit for the seat based on the manufacturer’s recommendation.
  • Starting roughly from age three or four, children can start riding in forward-facing seats. From age four to seven, children should ride in a forward-facing seat equipped with a harness and tether until they reach the maximum size limits permitted by the seat’s manufacturer.
  • From age seven or eight onward, children can ride in booster seats if they’ve exceeded the size limit for forward-facing safety seats. They should still ride in the back of the car. The lap belt should fit snugly across their upper thighs, and the shoulder strap should cross the shoulder and chest.
  • Starting around age 12 or 13, children can use standard safety belts as long as the belt fits properly. Children at this age should still ride in the back seat to help keep them safe.

Contact a Car Accident Lawyer

If you or your child has been seriously injured in a car crash in New York and another driver was at fault, a knowledgeable car accident attorney at The Tadchiev Law Firm can help you understand the options available to you. You may be able to seek compensation from the at-fault driver for your medical bills and other expenses beyond the amounts paid by no-fault insurance. Contact The Tadchiev Law Firm, P.C., today for a free consultation with a Queens car accident lawyer.