Insurance companies get final say over when to pay to replace car seats after a wreck

Devon Jackson decided to Get Gephardt when an insurance company told her it wouldn't pay to replace her child's car seat after she was in a crash. (Photo: KUTV)

(KUTV) — Devon Jackson is worried. Earlier this year, she was in an accident. The crash didn't cause too much damage to her car but, make no mistake, it was a serious impact. The other car was totaled.

When she reported the wreck to her child's car seat manufacturer, Jackson says she was told that she “should definitely replace” the car seats.

She asked the other driver's insurance company, Bear River Mutual, to pay to replace them, but Bear River told her, ‘no.’

In a voicemail, Bear River told Jackson, “We will not be replacing your car seats as they do not fit the requirement of [the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration].”

Jackson was incensed.

“It's hard for me to understand putting a few hundred dollars above a child's safety," she said.

NHTSA recommends car seats be replaced following a “moderate or severe crash," but said the seats "do not automatically need to be replaced following a minor crash."

In a statement to Get Gephardt, Bear River wrote that it takes car seat safety seriously and always follow NHTSA guidelines, including destroying car seats after a moderate or severe crash so they can't possibly be used again.

Bear River went on to emphasize that it thinks Jackson’s kid’s car seats are fine since her car suffered only "minor damage,” in the impact.

Still, in the end, Bear River decided to make an exception for Jackson and will be replacing her seats.

Jackson says she is relieved.

“The only way to know if a car seat is unsafe is if it fails in a future accident," she said.

That’s true, according to the Consumer Reports Auto Testing Center’s director of operations. Jennifer Stockburger says Consumer Reports’ testing shows that, just because a car seat looks OK on the outside, doesn't mean it's okay on the inside.

The testing center puts car seats through crash tests and then analyzes how they hpld up.

"We actually look at the internal components as part of our analysis,” Stockburger said. “There's often deformation [and] energy management features that have been crushed or used, or even cracking that you just can't see with the naked eye."

There's no law in Utah that forces an insurance company to pay to replace a car seat after a wreck, according to Insurance Commissioner Todd Kiser. What an insurance company will be required to pay for comes down to what is written in the policy.

Get Gephardt reached out to the major auto-insurers to ask about their polices on car seats. We found a mixed bag of responses.

State Farm wrote that it goes by NHTSA guidelines as well.

“State Farm believes NHTSA's position is supported by research available to date and adopts it as a guideline (unless otherwise provided by state law) for Child Safety Seat replacement decisions,” a spokesperson wrote. “If a customer has questions about their individual claim circumstance, they should contact their claim handler.”

AAA and All State take a more liberal stance.

“While every insurance claim is different, it is our policy to replace damaged car seats upon request,” a AAA spokesperson said.

“If a customer requests the seat be replaced, they will replace it,” said All State.

State Farm says they evaluate claims on a “case by case basis,” and don’t’ have an overarching policy on replacing car seats.

Progressive Insurance did not respond to our inquiry.

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