A Winnipeg mother says Manitoba Public Insurance's new policy around car seats is putting children's safety at risk.

The auto insurer will no longer replace all car seats involved in collisions. The quiet policy change that came in May 1 means coverage is now determined on a case-by-case basis.

"I feel like that's inappropriate. These are children's lives on the lines here," Whitney Joubert told CBC News.

Joubert learned the new policy the hard way when she went to replace the car seats that were in a vehicle rammed in a hit-and-run.

Her children were not in the chairs at the time, but MPI told her to replace the seats and she would be reimbursed, she said.

"I was told by MPI to go ahead and drop off the old seats as well as the receipts for the new ones," she said.    

But before Joubert could do that, she received a message that there had been a mistake. The policy that covered the replacement of child seats in any collision ended May 1, 2015, prior to her claim. 

The new policy only insures child seats involved in "moderate" to "severe" collisions.

"I was very upset," said Joubert. "I started researching it ... and the Transport Canada website clearly states that any car seat involved in any crash should be replaced whether children are in them or not, because they do not guarantee safety.

"I feel like they're gambling with children's lives. Not every family can afford to go out and purchase new seats."

MPI defends new policy

MPI spokesperson Brian Smiley said the policy was changed primarily to bring it in line with other agencies and provinces, including Saskatchewan.

"Child safety is a major priority of ours. This isn't just strictly a dollars and cents decision," he said. 

"As we began to dig into [it] a little bit deeper, we realized there were other safety organizations and insurers that had this policy in place ... looking at the circumstances of the crash ..." 

Prior to the policy change, MPI replaced as many as 5,000 car seats every year, not all of which needed to be replaced, Smiley said.

"Many of those child car seats, and I had personally looked at them, and they were involved in a collision of five to 10 km/h — very very minor damage to a vehicle â€” but we were replacing those seats," he said. 

Under the new policy, adjusters will look at various aspects of the crash to determine whether the seat needs replacing, Smiley said.

If anyone has questions about the integrity of a child seat, it can be taken to one of seven Winnipeg fire halls or a certified car seat technician for inspection.

Joubert said she's still not confident car seats involved in any collisions are safe.

"We're talking about very young children and parents who are at the mercy of the insurance company."

Corrections

  • Car seats should be taken to one of seven Winnipeg fire halls or a certified car seat technician for inspection, not to St. John's Ambulance as originally reported. MPI initially supplied incorrect information.
    Sep 16, 2015 3:14 PM CT