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Cars today are more high-tech than ever. Even base models include navigation systems better than those on the original space shuttles and more safety features than Ralph Nader could ever have imagined. Because of these incredible innovations, however, a lot of conventional wisdom about car accidents has gone out the window. Read on to learn some new takes on frequently asked questions…the answers may surprise you.


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Can You Use A Car Seat After An Accident?

Safety-focused car seats are a surprisingly recent invention. In the early decades of car travel, car seats basically kept children in place and enabled them to look out the windows. It wasn’t until the 1960s that models were designed to protect children in case of an accident or impact. Since then, car seats have become mandatory throughout the United States (although use requirements vary from state to state).

The design and safety features of child seats have improved dramatically since the first models (which are now collector’s items). Like cars, they continue to incorporate new technology from year to year, so it’s not the safest choice to use an older car seat. In fact, many manufacturers now list an expiration date for each seat.

So, can you use a car seat after an accident? Well, it depends. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) advises that you absolutely should replace a child safety seat after a moderate or severe crash. But can you use a car seat after an accident that’s just a minor fender-bender? That depends on the circumstances. The NHTSA suggests that it could be acceptable to continue to use a car seat only if all these statements apply:

  • You were able to drive your vehicle away from the collision
  • There was no damage to the door nearest the car seat
  • None of the passengers sustained any injuries in the crash
  • If the vehicle has airbags, they did not deploy during the crash
  • There is no visible damage to the car seat

If you have to figure out how to get a car fixed after an accident, go ahead and say goodbye to the car seat that’s in it. When you make your claim for damages, don’t forget to include the cost of a new car seat!

How Much Does An Accident Devalue A Car?

Car seats are easily replaceable, but most people fix their vehicles after a collision…right? Even this assumption may not be true. Gone are the days of smearing Bondo into a dent and sanding it to a near-perfect finish. Today’s vehicles are much harder (and more expensive) to repair after an accident.

Many seemingly minor collisions can result in a total loss, especially if a crucial component of the vehicle’s electrical or computer system is damaged. Hybrid and electric vehicle batteries can cost thousands to replace, which can easily exceed an older car’s value. Knowing how to get a car fixed after an accident often depends on whether you are able to access the vehicle’s computerized diagnostic systems, which is a key issue for the ongoing right-to-repair movement

Even superficial body damage to modern cars can result in a significant loss of value. Since most vehicles now use unibody rather than body-on-frame construction, an impact often causes widespread structural damage–it’s no longer possible to just replace a damaged fender or side panel.

Regardless, insurance companies often rely on outdated charts and systems to determine what they will pay for repairs and loss of value. You may want to consult with an attorney if you believe your insurer isn’t giving you a fair deal.

How Much Does A Car Depreciate After An Accident?

If you’re involved in an accident that isn’t your fault, insurance may pay various kinds of compensation or reimbursement. In addition to medical expenses, repair bills, and other out-of-pocket costs (like buying a new car seat), a policy may compensate you for more subjective types of damages. These can include things like pain and suffering (if you were injured) and depreciation of value for your vehicle.

Many car insurance companies use a formula known as “17c” to determine how much a car depreciates in value after an accident. This calculation starts with your car’s Kelley Blue Book value, reduces it by 10 percent, and then uses set percentages assigned to types of damage and mileage to reduce it further. Some law firms eliminate this calculation and simply estimate that the car’s value decreases by 33 percent after a collision. The bottom line is that there is no agreed-upon, general formula to determine how much a particular vehicle’s value has depreciated after an accident.

The good news is that depreciation doesn’t really affect what happens to your car after an accident if it’s repairable and you intend to keep driving it. Other than for insurance purposes, depreciation only really matters if you’re planning on selling it or trying to recover the value from an insurer. If it’s the latter, you may want to get an experienced attorney to negotiate on your behalf.

Can You Use A Car Seat After An Accident As A Trade-In?

Yes. Walmart and Target both have regular trade-in events that accept damaged and expired car seats. Some car seat companies have their own recycling programs that offer coupons and discounts on future purchases.

Can You Use A Car Seat After An Accident For Any Other Useful Purposes?

Glad you asked. Child passenger safety technicians (CPST) are trained professionals who specialize in car seat safety. They teach parents and caregivers how to use and install car seats. If you want to extend your old seat’s usable impact, contact a CPST to see if they’d like to use it for demonstration purposes.

Can You Use A Car Seat After An Accident As Art?

If you’re planning on turning your recently retired safety seat into an artistic installation on the dangers children face in modern society or other social commentary, we encourage you to send us pictures!

Have More Questions?

If questions like “can you use a car seat after an accident” keep you up at night because you’re an intellectually curious insomniac, we’ve got you covered. If you’re asking because you’ve been involved in a car accident, however, you should talk with an attorney as soon as possible.

Legal Disclaimer: This article contains general legal information but does not constitute professional legal advice for your particular situation and should not be interpreted as creating an attorney-client relationship. If you have legal questions, you should seek the advice of an attorney licensed in your jurisdiction.

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