Sunday, August 03, 2014

What I Know About Car Seats After a Car Accident in California

A few times lately I have had this conversation with friends who got into a car accident and I thought I would type it out here.  *Note: I am only up on CA law here, I'm not informed about other states* Did you know that if you get into a car accident and there are car seats in the car, the insurance company will likely pay to replace them?  


. (a) As used in this section, "child passenger restraint system" means a system as described in Section 27360 of the Vehicle Code
(b) Every policy of automobile liability insurance, as described in Section 16054 of the Vehicle Code, shall provide liability coverage for replacement of a child passenger restraint system that was in use by a child during an accident for which liability coverage under the policy is applicable due to the liability of an insured.
(c) Every policy of automobile liability insurance that provides uninsured motorist property damage coverage,as described in paragraph (2) ofsubdivision (a) of Section 11580.26, shall provide coverage for replacement ofa child passenger restraint system that was in use by a child during an accident for which uninsured motorist property damage coverage under the policy is applicable due to the liability of an uninsured motorist.
(d) Every policy that provides automobile collision coverage or automobile physical damage coverage, as described in Section 660, shall include a child passenger restraint system within the definition of covered property, if the child passenger restraint system was in use by a child during an accident. 
(e) Upon the filing of a claim pursuant to a policy described in subdivision (b), (c), or (d), unless otherwise determined, an insurer shall have an obligation to ask whether
a child passenger restrain t system was in use by a child during an accident that is covered by the policy, and an obligation to replace the child passenger restraint system in accordance with this section if it was in use by a child during the accident or reimburse the claimant for the cost of purchasing a new child passenger restraint system.
(f) An insured, upon acquiring a replacement child passenger restraint system, may surrender the child passenger restraint system that was replaced to the nearest office of the Department of the California Highway Patrol

A tip I got from a car seat safety bulletin board is that if, let's say the car seat was unoccupied, but you feel there was damage anyway, and the claims adjuster does not want to pay for a new seat, say the following: "I request that XX Insurance Company write me a letter declaring financial responsibility should this car seat fail to perform in future."  According to the post, insurance companies will generally replace the seat rather than write the letter.

They for sure will replace if the car seats are occupied when the accident happens.  This is true even if you think the accident was minor.  And if they were empty yet the accident has obviously damaged them (i.e. the car was totalled, or you can see damage) then they will.  If not, if it was a minor accident and they were not occupied, then it falls into a gray area but you can still fight to have them pay. A car seat can appear to be fine but suffer structural damages that are unseen, and why would you want to put your child at risk?

If arguing with insurance, you can quote this fairly new CA state law (2010) that makes it against the law to resell a car seat that has been in an accident: 

 27362.1. (a) No individual may sell or offer for sale a child passenger restraint system that was in use by a child during an accident involving a motor vehicle. (b) A violation of this section shall be punished by a fine of one hundred dollars ($100).

Therefore, your collision, however minor it was, has taken away any resale value the seats may have had.  Check Craig's List.  For example, your 2011 Frontier might have fetched you $125.  But now you can't sell it when you're done.

If you have a Britax car seat, then Britax states that it is okay to continue using it if the accident is minor.  This is from their website:

Q. Can I continue to use my child seat after it has been involved in a crash?

A. BRITAX recommends that the use of a child seat be discontinued if it has been in a moderate to severe crash. We further advise of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) position that it is not necessary to replace a child seat after a minor crash.

A minor crash is one that meets ALL of following criteria:

  1. The vehicle was able to be driven away from the crash site; AND
  2. The vehicle door nearest the child restraint was undamaged; AND
  3. There were no injuries to any of the vehicle occupants; AND
  4. The air bags (if present) did not deploy; AND
  5. There is no visible damage to the child seat.
  So you could be in a situation where you convince the insurance to reimburse you for a new one, but the old one is still fine.  Don't feel bad about it, remember that it is illegal for you to resell the old one. So you can keep using it but now you have a spare seat!
  So what to do with the old seat once the insurance company has paid for a new one?  The claims adjuster may ask you to turn it in to them, or to cut the straps and take a photo of it.  Or, they might ask you to turn it in to your CA Highway Patrol office, where the CHP will give you a later stating that you have surrendered it.  They want you to cut the straps so that no one will come across it in the trash and use it or sell it.  But if you get a chance, take off the cover and keep that.  Then if you buy the same kind of seat, you'll have an extra cover.