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Replacing Your Child’s Car Seat After an Auto Accident in Colorado

Car accidents happen every day in Denver and across Colorado. They come with the risk of serious and even life-threatening injuries, not to mention significant damage to the vehicles involved. That includes child car seats, a vital safety tool for anyone driving with young kids on board.

If you have been involved in an accident, you should consider whether your child’s car seat needs to be replaced. A Denver auto accident lawyer at Levine Law can help you answer that question and explore your rights and options for seeking compensation for injuries and vehicle damage after a crash.

Here is what you need to know about replacing a child seat.

Car Seats Save Lives

It is difficult to overestimate the value of using car seats when driving with small children. Auto accidents are one of the leading causes of death for children 13 years old and younger. Car seats are proven to significantly limit the risk.

Car seats reduce the risk of fatal injuries for infants – children less than one-year-old – by 71%, according to data compiled by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. For toddlers – one to four years old – car seats cut down the risk by 54%. 

But these important safety devices are only effective if used properly. Nearly half of all car seats are installed incorrectly, NHTSA estimates. Parents should take the time to ensure that the seat is locked in and get it inspected by a certified technician. They should also make sure that the seat is the right size for their child and register the seat so that they are alerted in the event of a recall.

Colorado Car Seat Requirements

Colorado law requires all children younger than eight years old to be in a booster or child seat. Infants who are less than one year old and 20 lbs. must ride in the back seat of a vehicle.

State traffic safety officials encourage parents to keep kids in child seats until they are at least 4’9” in height (the average height of a 12-year-old) and can pass the “5-step test” for wearing a seatbelt:

  • Does the child sit all the way back against the vehicle seat?
  • Do the child’s knees bend comfortably at the edge of the vehicle seat?
  • Does the belt cross the shoulder between the neck and arm?
  • Is the lap belt as low as possible, touching the thighs?
  • Can the child stay seated like this for the whole trip?

If the answer to each of these questions is “yes,” your child does not need a car seat.

Do I Need to Replace the Car Seat After a Crash?

There was a time when safety officials recommended replacing car seats whenever a vehicle had been involved in an accident, no matter how minor and regardless of whether the seat had been damaged. The general thinking was that it was not worth the risk of driving around with a damaged or defective child seat. 

The cost of replacing seats – and the risk of driving without a child seat while waiting for a replacement – has prompted NHTSA to change its tune, however. These days, the auto safety agency says car seats should be replaced after moderate or severe accidents.

Car seats do not need to be replaced after minor fender benders, according to NHTSA. These are crashes in which:

  • The car can be driven away from the accident scene
  • The vehicle door closest to the car seat was not damaged
  • No one in the car was injured
  • The airbags did not deploy; and
  • There is no visible damage to the car seat.

A collision must meet all of these conditions in order to be considered minor. Some manufacturers also continue to recommend that seats be replaced any time that a car is in an accident, regardless of severity.

Where Can I Get a Child Car Seat Inspected?

The best way to determine if a car seat should be replaced is to have it inspected by an expert.

The Colorado Department of Transportation keeps a list of certified car seat technicians in Denver and across the state. That includes several hospitals, fire stations and police departments. Many require an appointment and some offer virtual inspections.

Will My Insurance Company Cover the Cost of the Replacement Seat?

Auto insurers are often required to cover the cost of replacement child car seats after a crash. Whether your insurer is obligated to do so depends on the specific terms of your policy. 

In most cases, you do not have to replace the seat with the exact same model that you had before. If your child has grown since you purchased the original seat, for instance, you can get a larger seat as a replacement.

Sadly, many insurers drag their feet or simply refuse to provide benefits clearly covered by the policy. Large insurance companies often try to make policyholders jump through all kinds of hoops just to get the benefits to which they are entitled. Although an insurer can ask you to provide basic information like proof of the accident, the car seat’s serial number and a receipt for the replacement, they are legally required to pay out valid claims.

The good news is that you do not have to go it alone. A Denver auto accident lawyer at our firm can help you keep your insurer honest and obtain the full benefits available under your policy. An experienced attorney can also identify those responsible for the collision and seek compensation for any injuries or car damage sustained in the crash.

Speak with a Denver Auto Accident Lawyer 

If you or a loved one has been injured in a crash in Colorado, the Denver auto accident lawyers at Levine Law can help you understand your rights and options. Our firm has a strong track record of success in the courtroom and through negotiated settlements.

We are pleased to serve clients throughout Colorado, including in Denver, Colorado Springs, Ft. Collins and Loveland. Call us at 303-333-8000 or contact us online to speak with a Denver car accident lawyer.

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