If you've been involved in a moderate or severe car crash, the aftermath of a collision can make treating injuries, paying medical bills, dealing with lost wages, or replacing your vehicle feel like an endless ordeal of stress. But an additional detail that new parents also must consider is how to replace your child's car safety seat.
Based on the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration guidelines, most car seats need to be replaced after an auto accident — even if it was empty when the wreck happened. Start by consulting your user manual to see if the seat needs replacing.
The NHTSA advises that "child safety seats should be replaced following a moderate or severe crash to ensure a continued high level of crash protection for child passengers." It also states that not all child seats need to be replaced after minor car accidents. According to the NHTSA, a minor crash meets all the following criteria:
- The vehicle with the car seat was able to drive away safely from the accident
- The door closest to the car seat was undamaged
- None of the passengers in the car were injured because of the accident
- None of the airbags in the car deployed
- There is no visible damage to the child safety seat
In most cases, anything but a minor fender-bender means a replacement is necessary.
So, how can parents get a new, safe car seat? After all, car seats aren't cheap. They can cost you several hundreds of dollars, which already feels like a lot of money after an auto accident. Here are a few ideas to help pay for a new child car safety seat:
Their auto insurance company
If your accident was the result of an insured negligent driver, the cost of the replacement car seat should be part of your damages claim. If the insurance company requires a receipt in order to reimburse you for a new car seat and you don’t have the funds to make the purchase, it may be acceptable to send a picture of the price tag in the store, or document the cost of the seat with online purchase pricing. Make sure to mention that a car seat was damaged to one of our Cleveland auto accident attorneys and include it on your damage claim. Our attorneys provide diligent representation to maximize your recovery and minimize your stress while dealing with a negligent driver's insurer.
Your auto insurance company
While most insurance companies can quickly repair your car after an accident, it will depend on the type of insurance policy you carry and the severity of your wreck. It's best to have an attorney contact your insurance company right away after an accident to see if it will provide the money for a replacement. But keep in mind that you will likely have to pay a deductible depending on your policy.
If your insurance coverage covers the loss of the car seat, provide the model numbers of the damaged car seat, and the receipt of the new purchase for reimbursement.
Trade it for credit toward a new purchase
Some baby retail stores and child safety seat manufacturers will accept used car seats for credit toward a new car seat. It may not cover the entire cost, but every little bit can help. You'll want to make certain to prevent the re-use of the damaged car seat by cutting the straps, and removing the cover and writing 'DO NOT USE' in permanent marker on the shell.
Rent to own
Rent-to-own websites (such as Flexshopper) have an array of car seats that you can acquire for as little as $2 weekly (for a whole year) and include free delivery, making this an affordable option if you don't have the money up front to spend, or any coverage for the loss of the seat. Just be aware that a rental purchase agreement can usually cost you more in the end. For example, a $200 car seat rents for $7 a week, which over the course of a year will total $364.
Your car manufacturer
Major automobile companies sometimes provide assistance programs, often helping with the cost of a new car seat, or provide a free one, to lower-income families with infants. Check your auto manufacturer’s website for any such programs and the requirements to participate.
Lastly, once you've selected and acquired a new car seat, make sure it's installed properly to ensure the safety. Your local fire department can likely assist. If you have questions about an auto accident, contact us at (216) 781-2600 to speak with an attorney for a no-cost, no-obligation initial consultation.