Do Baby Seats Need to Be Replaced After an Accident?

Baby car seats are expensive. At the budget end of the price spectrum, you’re looking at costs in the neighborhood of $150 to $200 – and for a high-end model, be prepared to spend close to $1,000. In this tough economic climate, it’s understandable that parents and caregivers want to reuse baby products as much as possible; but when your child’s safety is on the line, it’s a risky gamble to take. If you ever get into a car accident in Baltimore, you should strongly consider replacing your baby seat with a new one. But don’t take our word for it – just listen to what the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has to say.

What’s the NHTSA Position on Reusing Damaged Child Seats?

Before we discuss reusing baby seats after a car accident, let’s quickly revisit Maryland’s restraint laws for infant and child passengers.

State law requires all children aged seven or younger to “ride in an appropriate child restraint,” with exceptions for children who are 4’9” and taller. Every child aged eight to 16 is required to wear a seat belt at all times, regardless of height, weight, or where they’re seated. These laws apply to all vehicles, regardless of whether they were registered inside or outside of Maryland.

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Now that we’ve covered the basics, let’s move on to special considerations for baby seats.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) is the division of the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) responsible for “reducing deaths, injuries and economic losses resulting from motor vehicle crashes.” Toward that end, the NHTSA extensively researches car accident injuries and their causes – including multiple reports on child restraint systems and their effects on child safety.

The NHTSA’s official position on post-accident reuse of baby seats is to recommend replacement “following a moderate or severe crash.” However, as this statement implies by omission, minor crashes may not necessitate a seat replacement. Indeed, the NHTSA explicitly states that “child safety seats do not automatically need to be replaced following a minor crash.” Thus, parents must understand the difference between a “moderate or severe crash” and a “minor crash.”

Take a moment to think about your accident, then consider the following NHTSA criteria for a minor crash:

  • The vehicle was in good enough condition to be driven – not pushed or towed – away from the site of the accident.
  • The door nearest the child seat was not damaged by the accident.
  • Nobody inside the vehicle was injured whatsoever. Even the smallest injury, such as a laceration, makes this statement untrue.
  • Is your vehicle equipped with air bags? If not, skip to the next criteria. If so, the air bags should not have deployed during or after the accident.
  • There should be no visible damage whatsoever to the baby seat.

If even a single one of these statements is untrue, the accident is no longer “minor” and the child seat should be replaced as soon as possible. Of course, it is always prudent to err on the side of caution if you have any doubts whatsoever regarding the severity of your accident. No parent ever wants to be informed that their child’s life could have been saved had they only spent the extra $200 or $500 or $800 on a new child seat.

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Financial Help Resources for Baby Seats in Baltimore

If the cost of a new baby seat is a burden – after all, even “small” accidents can rack up tremendous medical expenses in a hurry – the Baltimore County government recommends calling one of the phone numbers listed below for financial assistance:

  • Baltimore County Police Department – (410) 887-8717
  • Carroll County [sic] Health Department – (410) 876-4448
  • Kids in Safety Seats – (800) 370-SEAT
  • Parent Education Office, GBMC (Greater Baltimore Medical Center) – (443) 849-2229
  • Stay Safe Be Safe – (443) 865-3859
  • UMBC Police, Catonsville (University of Maryland, Baltimore County) – (410) 455-3136

If you or one of your loved ones was injured in a car accident in Maryland, you may be able to recover financial compensation through a lawsuit. Compensation can help to pay for:

  • Your medical bills, including surgery, prescription medications, medical devices (e.g. wheelchairs, back braces), and physical therapy.
  • Earnings you lost due to being out of work.
  • Reasonable home care and/or medical care services you had to hire due to lost physical function.
  • Future and projected economic losses resulting from the accident.

The personal injury lawyers of Whitney, LLP have obtained favorable outcomes for numerous car accident victims during our many years practicing law in Maryland. We are aggressive litigators and will take all possible measures to pursue maximum compensation for you and your family. To set up a free and private consultation, call our law offices at (410) 583-8000. While we are located in Towson, our attorneys are prepared to handle cases throughout the state.


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