The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) recommends car seat replacement if a vehicle was involved in an accident, the car seat has been recalled, the car seat is too small, or if the car seat does not fit properly in the vehicle.
Car seats are essential for ensuring that children are as safe as possible on the road. But, in order for a car seat to work properly, it needs to be the right size, and it needs to be in good condition. When in doubt, parents should follow the NHTSA’s recommendations for choosing a car seat that fits their child.
Bakersfield car accident lawyer Mickey Fine has extensive experience in a wide range of car accident cases. If you’ve been injured in an auto wreck, you deserve compensation for your injuries. The Law Office of Mickey Fine has the experience, skill, and resources necessary to pursue the justice and compensation you need to move forward.
When Should Parents Replace Their Children’s Car Seats?
So, when is it time to replace a car seat? Here are the four primary reasons why parents should replace their children’s car seats according to the NHTSA:
1. The Car was Involved in a Moderate or Severe Crash
The NHTSA, “recommends that car seats be replaced following a moderate or severe crash in order to ensure a continued high level of crash protection for child passengers.” It states that car seats do not automatically need to be replaced after minor collisions, which are those to which all of the following apply:
- The vehicle’s airbags did not deploy
- The vehicle could be driven away from the crash site
- The door nearest the car seat was not damaged
- No one in the vehicle sustained injuries in the crash
- There is no visible damage to the car seat
If any of these do not apply, then the NHTSA recommends replacement. Even if a car seat does not appear to be damaged or a child riding in a car seat was not injured, the forces involved in a moderate or severe crash can still compromise a car seat’s structural integrity. When it comes to children’s safety, it is best to err on the side of caution, and parents should not take risks with car seats that may not provide adequate protection in the event of a subsequent collision.
2. The Car Seat has Expired or Been Recalled
The NHTSA recommends that parents replace car seats that have expired or been recalled by their manufacturers. Manufacturers typically place expiration dates on car seats, as plastics and other materials can degrade over time. Parents can find their car seats’ expiration dates printed on the seat itself (usually on the underside), in the owner’s manual, online, or by contacting the manufacturer.
Product recalls are not uncommon, and most recalls are safety-related. The NHTSA encourages parents to register their car seats so that they can receive information about recalls and other safety notices from the manufacturer. Parents can also sign up to receive child seat recall notices via email from the NHTSA.
3. The Car Seat is Too Small
Children outgrow their car seats—potentially as often as every few years. Once a car seat becomes too small for a child, it is no longer safe for use. According to the NHTSA:
- “Your child should remain in a rear-facing car seat until he or she reaches the top height or weight limit allowed by your car seat’s manufacturer.”
- “Keep your child in a forward-facing car seat with a harness and tether until he or she reaches the top height or weight limit allowed by your car seat’s manufacturer.”
- “Keep your child in a booster seat until he or she is big enough to fit in a seat belt properly. For a seat belt to fit properly the lap belt must lie snugly across the upper thighs, not the stomach. The shoulder belt should lie snugly across the shoulder and chest and not cross the neck or face.”
4. You Bought a New Car and the Car Seat Doesn’t Fit
Finally, while most car seats are designed to be universal, larger car seats won’t fit in smaller cars. If you bought a new car and your child’s car seat no longer fits, the NHTSA says it is time to buy a new car seat as well.
Of course, even an appropriately sized car seat in like-new condition won’t provide full protection in all accident scenarios. If your child has been injured in a car accident while riding in a car seat, you should speak with a Bakersfield car accident lawyer about your family’s legal rights. Depending on the circumstances involved, you could have a claim against another driver’s insurance company, the car seat’s manufacturer, or another third party—and recovering just compensation could be critical for your child’s and family’s recovery.
If you have questions about what to do after an accident in which your child was injured while riding in a car seat, we encourage you to get in touch. To schedule a free consultation with Bakersfield car accident lawyer Mickey Fine, call (661) 333-3333 or tell us how we can reach you online today.