If you’ve recently been involved in an accident and your car seat wasn’t visibly damaged, you may be wondering “Can you use a car seat after an accident?” Of course, if a car seat has been damaged in a wreck, it can’t be used again. But, if it hasn’t been visibly damaged, the question of whether you can use it again will depend upon a few different factors.

Here’s a look at those factors, as well as official guidance from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), and tips for how to get your car seat inspected.

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    Can You Use A Car Seat After An Accident?

    The NHTSA is a federal agency tasked with minimizing injurious and fatal accidents on American roadways. As part of its mission, the NHTSA crafts car seat guidelines, including NHTSA car seat replacement guidelines for after an accident. These guidelines help to influence manufacturing, the marketplace, state laws, and parental decision-making when it comes to car seats.

    The NHTSA recommends that car seats must be replaced after a moderate or serious crash. The agency has indicated that child safety seats don’t need to be replaced automatically following a minor crash. For the purposes of a car seat replacement after an accident, the NHTSA defines a minor crash as one in which all of the following apply:

    • The vehicle door nearest to the safety seat wasn’t damaged.
    • No one riding in the affected vehicle was injured.
    • Any airbags installed in the vehicle were not deployed.
    • The vehicle was in condition to be driven away from the accident scene.
    • The car seat in question wasn’t visibly damaged.

    If your crash doesn’t meet these criteria, your accident may be classified as moderate or severe and your child’s safety seat will need to be replaced. If your crash meets these criteria, you’ll need to research the seat manufacturer’s recommendations about what to do next. While the NHTSA doesn’t require that seats be replaced after a minor accident, it does insist that consumers follow manufacturer instructions.

    Some manufacturers recommend that car seats be replaced after any accident. Others follow the NHTSA’s lead and only recommend replacing a seat after a moderate or severe accident.

    Can You Use A Car Seat After An Accident: Manufacturer-Specific Guidance

    There are a number of quality car seats on the market which are manufactured with child safety as a paramount concern. If you’re trying to locate the manufacturer of your child’s car seat, it’s likely branded on the car seat cover. If not, you can locate the model number and manufacture date of the car seat on its sticker. This sticker is likely located on the bottom of the seat’s base, regardless of which major car seat type your child uses. Once you’ve located this sticker, you can look up the model number to verify the manufacturer of your child’s seat.

    Here’s a list of major car seat manufacturers in the U.S. along with links to their car accident guideline pages:






    Orbit Baby





    Maxi Cosi




    If the manufacturer of your child’s seat doesn’t advise replacing it in the event of a minor crash, you’ll still want to have it checked by a reputable inspector before using this seat again. Many hospitals, police stations, and firehouses offer free car seat checks by qualified inspectors. You schedule a check at an inspection station in your area or you can or you can also hire a certified technician to complete a check at your convenience.

    What Happens To Your Car After An Accident?

    If your accident was minor, your car may have sustained little damage and you may not have been injured. But, if you were injured or your car was damaged enough in the crash that it’s now significantly devalued, it’s probably time to speak with a lawyer about recouping your losses. Medical bills, auto repair costs, and damage to other valuables can add up quickly and impact your family’s budget. As you review the damage done to your vehicle after a car accident, don’t forget what’s inside – including any car seats.

    How Much Does An Accident Devalue A Car?

    If the cost to repair your car to its pre-crash condition is 50 percent or more of your car’s pre-crash value, it may be classified as a salvage vehicle. States and insurance companies set their own standards for when vehicles are classified as salvage.

    A car or truck can be labeled as salvage when an insurance company declares it a “total loss” based on its own standards or the standards set by the driver’s home state. Most states consider a car to be a salvage vehicle if its repair costs exceed 70 percent or more of its pre-crash value. Some states don’t consider a vehicle to be salvage unless its repair costs exceed its pre-crash value.

    You’ll need to have your damage assessed by an insurance company to know for sure just how much your car has been devalued as a result of your crash. No two crashes are the same, so you’ll want to avoid making assumptions about how much damage has been done until you’ve received the results of your damage assessment. Don’t forget to let your insurance provider know if a child’s car seat or other valuables were impacted by the crash.

    Need Compensation For Your Car Seat Or Other Repairs After A Crash?

    If your car was devalued in your crash, you were injured, or you’re still wondering “Can you use a car seat after an accident?” it’s time to speak with a lawyer. By scheduling a free case evaluation with a local attorney, you’ll benefit from personalized legal guidance about your options.

    Legal Disclaimer: This article contains general legal information but does not constitute professional legal advice for your particular situation and should not be interpreted as creating an attorney-client relationship. If you have legal questions, you should seek the advice of an attorney licensed in your jurisdiction.

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