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UPDATED: Mar 13, 2020
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For the most part, only items that are permanently installed in your vehicle are covered under the auto insurance coverage. After-market stereos, GPS systems, luggage and bike racks are all excluded under most policies. One notable exception to this rule is child car seats, which are generally protected against damage by all insurance policies. If you have an infant or toddler, their car seat should be covered under your collision or comprehensive coverage; similarly, if the car seat is damaged in an accident that another person causes, that person’s liability insurance should pay to replace the seat.
What Coverage Protects a Car Seat?
The coverage that applies to a child car seat depends on the cause of the accident. Whatever coverage applies to the rest of the damage will also apply to the car seat. For example, a rear-end accident would be paid under collision, while fire or theft would be covered under comprehensive.
You need the appropriate coverage in order to pay for the vehicle’s damage and the replacement of the car seat. This means that if you carry only liability insurance, you cannot replace a car seat through your own coverage, although you may be able to obtain reimbursement from another carrier if they are liable for your accident.
When Should I Replace My Car Seat?
If the car seat was in use at the time of impact, it may be a good idea to replace it even if it does not appear to have sustained any damage. Car seats come with special locking mechanisms in their seatbelts that are designed to safely contain infants and children. When stressed, these locking mechanisms fail to work a second time, meaning they will not provide appropriate protection during a second accident.
If you have any doubt about the safety of your child seat make sure to contact the manufacturer as each manufacturer has different protocol for replacement, installation and/or maintenance.
The replacement rule usually only applies to front and rear-facing child restraints for infants. Booster seats and other toddler restraints use a different type of seatbelt that is not automatically damaged by an impact. If you don’t see any physical damage to the booster seat, you may not need to replace it. To be on the safe side, though, you should have a professional look at it as soon as possible.
How Do I Get My Car Seat Replaced?
When you file your auto insurance claim, be sure to let the insurance company know that you had a child car seat in your vehicle at the time of the accident. State whether it was in use at the time and what type of seat it is so that the person taking the claim can make a note for the adjuster.
Once the claim has been filed, you will need to figure out the information for a replacement. If you still have the receipt for the original car seat, you can submit this to the insurance company for reimbursement. If not, you will need to find a seat of similar kind to the one that was damaged.
In the event that the original model is no longer available, you will need to find the closest car seat to the one that was lost. If the replacement car seat is worth more than the one that was damaged, the insurance company will only pay for the original value, not the full replacement. You will need to pay the rest out of pocket.
When bringing your vehicle in for an inspection following a claim, you should bring your car seat with you even if it’s already been inspected by a professional. The adjuster will want to confirm the brand and type of car seat in addition to checking for damage. In most cases, the adjuster will also dispose of the car seat for you after the inspection so that it does not end up being re-circulated and posing a safety hazard to someone else.
In most cases, insurance companies handle these claims through reimbursement, so you will need to submit a receipt for the purchase and wait for a check to arrive. In most cases, you will fax or mail the receipt, and the check may arrive separately from the rest of your settlement for the accident. Note too that your deductible applies to the loss, so if there is no damage beyond the car seat replacement, the replacement may not be covered if it costs less than the deductible.