Do I Need to Replace My Car Seat After a Car Accident?

Do I Need to Replace My Car Seat After a Car Accident?

We had a bit of a scare this week mamas. We got in a car accident. Baby girl and I dropped off brother at school, and were hit by a car that failed to yield.

It's the first time I've been in an accident that left my car "undriveable" and having one of the babes with me made the whole thing that much more stressful. Thankfully, there was a good Samaritan that stopped and helped me get her out of the car and across the lanes of traffic safely while we waited for the police and the tow truck and all the craziness to get figured out.

But one thing that hadn't crossed my mind until I called my insurance company was the following:

Do I need to replace the car seats after a car accident?

Since I'm going through the whole process and am FULL of knowledge, I'm here to share it with you, mama! So here's all the deets.

Oh, and in case you're in a really crappy situation like me wrangling insurance companies (ew) and trying to find a fax machine somewhere to use (why though?) and constantly talking on the phone (ugh), then you'll be happy to know that The Baby Cubby makes replacing a car seat really easy.

f after a crash:

Severity of Crash

In the past, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) urged parents to replace car seats regardless of the severity of the accident, but have since changed their stance on what they consider a "minor crash."

Basically, if your car obtained minimal damage, is able to be driven after the incident, there are no injuries sustained in the crash, and there was no visible damage to the door or side of the car or with the car seat, or no visible damage to the seat itself, you may feel safe holding on to your seat.

If you can't check off all of the above, then chances are you're going to need to replace your car seat.

Since our accident fell in the "moderate to severe" crash categories, we needed to replace both of the car seats we had in the car at the time of the crash.

Occupied vs Empty

There are mixed feelings about whether or not it is necessary to replace car seats if they weren't occupied at the time of the crash. Here's a few things to consider when it comes to replacing an empty car seat:

If your car sustained any body damage then your car seat absorbed the energy and it will cause damage to the frame.

Since your car is made of metal and steel and was roughed up, think about how the plastic that makes up the majority of your child's car seat faired.

Even an empty seat will move in a crash, and because of the way car seats are buckled through a seat belt or LATCH, it will cause damage to the seat (more so if it is occupied).

In our accident, we had both seats in the car, and one was occupied. We chose to replace both seats.

Manufacturer Recommendation

Even if you have experienced a minor car accident and there is no visible damage to the seat, the tethers or the buckles, it is always a good idea to check with your car seat's manufacturer. Different companies have different guidelines for replacing seats, and it is best to follow their recommendation before state or insurance agency recommendations.

If you have a seat from a specific company that says replace regardless of the severity of the accident, but your insurance company says you're fine, send them over a copy of the manufacturer's instructions, and the make and model of your car seat and they should cover the cost to replace it.

Some car seat manufacturers will recommend replacing the base and straps, others will direct you to the NHTSA guidelines to help you decide if your seat falls in those parameters.


Thankfully, most insurance companies will replace car seats after a car accident with little to no questions asked. After all, that's the reason you have insurance, right mama?

In cases like ours, when you are not at fault for the accident, the car seats are covered, and you'll be reimbursed for any expense to purchase new ones. We needed to submit receipts of the new seats we purchased, as well as pictured of our kids in their car seats to show that we purchased a comparable model, and I also sent a receipt from purchasing the original seats.

Most of the time, the insurance company will give you their recommendation for whether or not to replace, whether you have coverage for a new seat, and what information you'll need to provide them in order to receive reimbursement for the cost of the seats.

The NHTSA has worked hard to make the process as simple as possible for parents, because they want to make sure that car seats involved in an accident are being replaced with safe, reliable car seats, and not used or defective seats that have a smaller price tag to save parents money. At the end of the day, the insurance company should work with you to get your child a new car seat at little to no cost to you.

State Requirements

As it turns out, we didn't have much choice in any of the above categories, because in the great state of CA, we are required to replace a car seat that was occupied in the event of a car accident. Period. Case closed.

You should check with your insurance company about any state specific regulations or requirements about car seat replacement and whether or not your accident falls into that category.

Since the insurance company was the first phone call I made (after calling the police to the scene, and my husband to come pick up baby girl) after the accident, I was told right away that we needed to replace our seats due to California law. So we drove right to our nearest store that sold car seats and purchased new ones.

Car accidents are scary, and I may or may not have spent about 3 minutes hyperventilating in my seat unable to move after being hit. My sweet little girl in the backseat was safe, sound, and her car seat did its job. She was injury free, walked away without a scratch, and I am so grateful that we invested in a safe car seat for her.

Replacing car seats after a car accident is always the safest and smartest choice, and in the event that you get in an accident (yikes, please, no), the seat may not perform the way that its intended because of internal structural damage. And that would be the most heartbreaking thing, mama. So call your insurance company and check with your car seat's manufacturer and see what they recommend for your car accident.

And if you're needing to replace a seat, come into The Baby Cubby and we'll make sure that you find a car seat that is perfect for your car, your little, and your budget to make sure your little is buckled up safe and sound every time he/she gets in the car. Stay safe out there, mamas. XO

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