If you recently got into a car accident, and you had a child passenger in the car at the time, the child’s car seat may have suffered some damage, whether it was a major or minor accident. There is no question that insurance companies will typically pay for the damage to your vehicle, but what about the damages to the car seat? Are car insurers in the state of Illinois required to provide compensation for car seat replacement after an accident?
What is Illinois Law Regarding the Use of Car Seats?
Illinois’ Child Passenger Protection Act requires that all children under the age of 8 be properly secured in an appropriate child safety seat or restraint system. As of January 1, 2019, the Child Passenger Protection Act was amended to include the requirement for children under age 2 to be properly secured in a rear-facing child restraint system, unless the child weighs 40 or more pounds or is at least 40 inches tall.
Car Seat Safety Tips
There are some car seat safety tips that adult drivers should adhere to in order to ensure that any child passengers have the best chance of sustaining no injuries in the event of an accident:
- Children age 2 and under should be using a rear-facing car seat. For the best possible protection, infants and children should be buckled in a rear-facing car seat, in the back seat, until age 2 or when they reach the upper weight or height limits of their particular seat.
- Children ages 2 to 5 should be using a forward-facing car seat. When children outgrow their rear-facing seats, they should be buckled in a forward-facing car seat, in the back seat, until at least age 5 or when they reach the upper weight or height limit of their particular seat.
- Children ages 5 and up should be using a booster seat. Once children outgrow their forward-facing seat (either by reaching the upper height or weight limit of their seat), they should be buckled in a belt positioning booster seat until seat belts fit properly.
- Once a seat belt fits properly without the use of a booster seat, children should wear seat belts. Once a seat belt fits a child properly, that child no longer needs to use a booster seat. Seat belts fit properly when the lap belt lays across the upper thighs (not the stomach) and the shoulder belt lays across the chest (not the neck). Children should always be properly buckled in the back seat for the best possible protection.
- Make sure that you install and use car seats properly. Install and use car seats and booster seats according to the seat’s owner’s manual or get help installing them from a certified Child Passenger Safety Technician.
- Properly seat older children in the back seat. Buckle all children age 12 and under in the back seat.
- Never seat children in front of an airbag. Airbags can kill young children riding in the front seat. Never place a rear-facing car seat in front of an airbag.
- Position children in the middle of the back seat. Make sure that you always buckle children in the middle of the back seat when possible because it is the safest spot in the vehicle.
- Use proper restraints every trip. Make sure that you buckle children in car seats, booster seats, or seat belts on every trip, no matter how short.
Do Illinois Car Insurers Have to Pay to Replace Damaged Car Seats?
Illinois car insurers must include coverage for the replacement of a child restraint system
Yes, Illinois car insurers are required to replace car seats damaged in an accident. Pursuant to 215 ILCS 5/143.32, Illinois car insurers must include coverage for the replacement of a child restraint system (i.e. car seat) that was in use by a child at the time of the crash to which coverage is applicable. As such, if a car seat was damaged in a vehicle crash, as long as the car itself is covered by the applicable insurance policy, that car seat needs to be replaced by the appropriate insurance carrier.
Whose Insurance Carrier is Responsible for Replacing Damaged Car Seats?
In “no-fault” auto insurance states, a driver who experiences property damage in a car accident will be required to use his own car insurance coverage for these damages, regardless of who actually caused the accident. These states typically require drivers to obtain personal injury protection (PIP) insurance, which is a minimum level of car insurance used to pay for medical bills and other related damages after a driver gets into a car accident. In these no-fault states, a driver typically cannot make a claim against the driver who actually caused the accident unless the claim reaches certain statutory thresholds.
Illinois is not a “no-fault” car insurance state; instead, the state follows a “fault” system when it comes to financial responsibility for injuries and other damages resulting from car accidents. This means that the driver who caused the accident alone will be responsible for compensating anyone who suffered damages as a result of the crash (i.e. via the liable driver’s insurance policy). As such, the liable driver’s insurance carrier will be responsible for replacing damaged car seats.
Pursuant to 625 ILCS § 5/7-203, all motor vehicle owners in the state of Illinois are required to obtain (at minimum) each of the following types of coverage:
- $25,000 for the injury or death of one person in an accident caused by the at-fault driver
- $50,000 total for all injuries or deaths in an accident caused by the at-fault driver
- $20,000 for damage to the property of another person in an accident caused by the at-fault driver
This minimum liability coverage covers medical bills, property damage bills, and other related costs resulting from other drivers, passengers, and/or pedestrians who are injured in a car accident or have suffered damages from this accident. However, it is recommended that drivers obtain additional insurance coverage just in case they are involved in more serious car accidents that result in more substantial injuries or damages. It is important to keep in mind that once policy limits have been reached, an at-fault driver will be required to pay out-of-pocket for any expenses stemming from the injuries and/or property damages suffered in a car accident.
Do I Have to Replace a Car Seat After a Car Accident?
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (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. However, NHTSA asserts that car seats do not necessarily need to be replaced, depending on the severity of the crash. According to the NHTSA, a minor crash is one in which all of the following conditions apply:
- The vehicle was able to be driven away from the crash site.
- The vehicle door nearest to the car seat was not damaged.
- None of the passengers in the vehicle sustained any injuries in the crash.
- If the vehicle has airbags, the airbags did not deploy during the crash.
- There is no visible damage to the car seat.
Lastly, the NHTSA warns that drivers should never reuse a car seat that has been involved in a moderate to severe crash.
What Else Should I be Aware of Regarding Car Seat Replacement?
There are a few considerations you should make regarding car seat replacement:
- If your car insurance company seems reluctant to cover the cost of a replacement car seat, you should consider showing them a copy of the car seat manual (the manufacturer’s instruction manual will likely advise that a car seat cannot be used again after a moderate to severe car crash).
- Some insurance companies will only cover the cost of replacing a car seat if it was actually occupied by a child passenger at the time of the accident (this policy will vary based on the insurance company).
- You are not necessarily obligated to receive the exact same model that you had before after a car crash. For this reason, you may need to purchase another size if your child was about to outgrow his current car seat at the time of the accident.
- Keep all receipts and documents related to your expenses after a car crash in case you have any problems with getting reimbursed for the replacement.
- If your insurance company gives you a problem with reimbursing the cost of your car seat after an accident, you may want to consider finding another insurance company.
- Make sure that you follow all safety instructions from the car seat manufacturer when you install the new car seat.
If an Insurer Refuses to Replace Your Damaged Car Seat, Please Contact Us Today
If you’re in need of car seat replacement after an accident and the insurer you are working with refuses to replace it, please contact the Palermo Law Group. Our Oak Brook personal injury law firm consists of knowledgeable attorneys with over 20 years of experience handling personal injury cases and obtaining successful settlements. We will reach out to the insurer on your behalf in order to get the seat replaced. Please contact us today to schedule a free consultation appointment.