Does Insurance Cover Car Seat Replacements After an Accident?

Your insurer may cover a child car seat replacement after a car accident if you purchased collision and comprehensive coverage. Otherwise, you will pay to replace the seat out of pocket or you can file a claim against the other driver’s insurance company if they were liable.

Insurers will typically require you to cut the seat straps before reimbursing you. This is to ensure that the damaged child car seat is unusable and cannot be reused or resold.

Keep reading to learn what coverages you need to replace your child car seat and the steps for filing an insurance claim.

How Does Insurance Cover Car Seat Replacements After an Accident?

Child car seat replacements are typically covered under comprehensive and collision insurance, which are optional coverages (unless you’re still repaying your auto loan). Comprehensive insurance pays for losses caused by non-collision-type accidents, such as fire, vandalism, or if your car was stolen. Collision insurance covers your car seat if it was damaged because you hit an object or another car, even if you were the at-fault driver.

If the other driver caused the accident, the liability portion of their auto insurance policy should cover your car seat replacement.

How To Replace a Car Seat After an Accident

Some parents mistakenly believe that a child car seat must be severely damaged in an accident to qualify for coverage but insurers may replace it even for minor damages. Follow these steps to file an insurance claim after a car accident to get your child car seat replaced.

  1. File an insurance claim: Depending on your insurer, you can submit a claim by phone, by mobile app or through the online member portal. Remember: you need collision or comprehensive coverage in your auto policy to get reimbursed for your child car seat.
  2. Include the car seat as part of the claim: Let your insurer know that your child car seat was also damaged and you are including it in your auto insurance claim.
  3. Provide documentation: Submit photos of the car seat’s damages, serial number and expiration date. If you can, provide a purchase receipt for the damaged car seat.
  4. Cut the car seat’s straps: Cutting the straps ensures that the child seat cannot be reused and that it should be discarded. Your insurer may require you to provide photos of the seat with the cut straps.
  5. Accept the settlement: If your insurance claim is approved, you will receive a payout on the actual cash value of the car seat — its value after accounting for depreciation.

Selecting a New Car Seat

As your child grows, you’ll need to replace your car seat to accommodate your child’s physical growth — or in this case, you need a replacement after a car accident. You should refer to your state’s laws and the manufacturer's guidelines to determine the proper car seat based on your child's age, weight, and height. Follow these tips to help you find a safe and functional child car seat replacement.

  • Look for UNR 129-Size and ECE R44 certification: These car seat models have been tested to withstand rear-facing, forward-facing and side-impact collisions. Parents can also research if car seats have been tested by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety and Consumer Reports.
  • Car seats by your child’s age: According to the NHTSA, children should move from a rear-facing to a forward-facing seat between ages one and three. When they are between ages four and seven, they should graduate to a booster seat until they can fit with a seat belt — usually around the age of 12.
  • Comfort: Look for breathable fabrics and extra padding that can make your child’s ride more comfortable. Make sure your child has ample legroom, the seat is tilted appropriately, and the headrest is adjusted so it is positioned ear-level behind the driver’s head.
  • Ease of installation: Parents may be taking the child car seat in and outside the car or moving it around frequently. Be sure to choose a seat that is convenient to use without sacrificing safety.
  • Compatibility with your stroller: If you have a stroller, you will want to ensure that your child car seat is compatible with it. Stroller compatibility allows you to easily remove it from the car and clip it without frustration. If you buy a car seat that is not compatible with your stroller, you may need to spend extra money on an adapter.
  • Maintenance: Using a car seat with a fabric cover that’s easy to remove and machine wash can be convenient, especially if you have messy children and allow them to eat in the car.
  • Additional features: Child car seats often come with extra features that can make your life easier, like a five-point harness, cushion side-impact protection, breathable fabric or compatibility with the LATCH system. Consider your personal and your child’s needs when purchasing a replacement.
  • Registration: Once you decide on the perfect car seat, register it with the manufacturer and sign up for safety updates and recall notices.
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Do You Have To Cut the Straps on a Car Seat for Insurance?

Insurance companies may require you to cut the straps on a child car seat before they reimburse you for its damages. This is to ensure that the car seat is not reused or given to somebody else.

Damaged car seats can be life-threatening to the child and should always be disposed of or recycled responsibly.

Even if a car seat appears fine externally after a car accident, it may have suffered internal damage that isn’t visible or hard to spot, such as:

  • Hairline cracks in the plastic seat
  • Side impact foam could be dented or cracked
  • The harness may have stretched
  • Damage to the buckle’s internal components
  • The tether strap may have stretched

A damaged car seat should never be handed down to someone else, no matter how expensive and high-quality it was when purchased.

Free or Affordable Car Seat Replacement Alternatives

If you do not qualify for reimbursement through your auto insurer, you may find free or affordable car insurance replacements through charities, government programs and more.

  1. Charitable organizations: Churches and charities, like Buckle Up For Life, offer free car seats to many families. The Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) has a free car seat program.
  2. Government programs: Depending on your state, Medicaid may offer free child car seat replacements to drivers who complete a car seat safety course. Some organizations, like law enforcement and fire departments, may have programs that offer free car seats to families in need, too.
  3. Hospitals: Some hospitals offer child car seats at a significantly reduced price. They can also help you find free car seats or inexpensive options.
  4. Local Women’s and Children’s services: Local departments that cater to women and children can be an invaluable resource when it comes to inexpensive or free car seats.
  5. Call 211: Calling 211 may help families find affordable car seats and other financial support, like food and rent assistance.

How Do You Dispose of a Car Seat After an Accident?

You should dispose of a child car seat after an accident by throwing it in the trash or finding a recycling program that handles car seats, such as Clek.

If you discard the car seat in the trash, always cut the straps to discourage others from re-using it.

Hopefully, this will signal to others that the car seat is unusable and should stay in the trash.

FAQs

Do you need additional coverage for car seat replacement?

Collision and comprehensive coverage are required if you want your insurance company to replace your child car seat after an accident. A liability-only policy will not pay to replace your damaged car seat.

When does a car seat need to be replaced?

Car seats usually last six years but may need to be replaced earlier based on wear and tear and updated safety standards. If the car seat was involved in a crash, it should be replaced immediately, even if it doesn’t have any visual damage.

Will insurance replace my car seat if I’m at fault?

Your collision coverage insurance should replace a child car seat even if you were at fault for the car accident. Without this additional coverage, you will need to replace your car seat out of pocket.

Key Takeaways

  • Collision and comprehensive car insurance will typically cover car seats after an accident.
  • Insurance companies will typically require you to cut the straps on the damaged child car seat before replacing it to ensure it’s not resold or given to somebody else for re-use.
  • A child car seat with no obvious damages should still be replaced after a car accident because its protective integrity could be compromised.
  • If your insurer will not pay to replace your damaged car seat, you can potentially find a free or low-cost replacement from charities and government programs.

If you’re ready to shop for comprehensive and collision insurance, you can turn to SmartFinancial to find the cheapest policy in your area. Enter your zip code below or call 855.214.2291 to browse through free insurance quotes.

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