Defective Seat Belts
In 1968, the National Highway Safety Bureau began requiring vehicle manufacturers to install seat belts in their cars. Since that time, seat belts have saved thousands of lives and prevented many serious injuries. Unfortunately, seat belts have also caused a fair number of injuries as well, often because their design or assembly was defective. In these cases, injured parties can hold the responsible parties accountable for their negligence by filing a product liability claim in court. Filing this type of claim can be difficult, especially for those without legal representation, so if you were injured in an accident because your seat belt was defective, you should strongly consider speaking with an experienced product liability attorney who can explain your legal options.
How Seat Belts Work
Although seat belts were initially manufactured to strap only at the waist, their design has since shifted to strap across both the waist and the chest. This design was intended to help prevent second impacts in vehicle collisions. Primary impacts involve one vehicle striking another car, building, or other obstruction. Properly functioning seat belts are then intended to prevent a person from suffering a second impact, in which he or she strikes the interior of the vehicle or is ejected from the vehicle entirely. Defects in the design, production, or installation of a seat belt can result in a seat belt failing to perform this function, leaving a car’s occupants vulnerable in the event of an accident.
Types of Seat Belt Defects
Whether seat belt defects are the result of a manufacturer design error, a problem with assembly, or an issue with installation, they can cause serious injuries. Some of the most common types of seat belt defects include:
- False latching, which occurs when the user believes that a seat belt is appropriately buckled, but the latch only appears to be latched;
- Inertial unlatching, which occurs when the force of a collision causes a buckle or latch to come undone, leaving the wearer unrestrained;
- Retractor failure, which occurs when a belt becomes slack during an accident;
- Defective seat belt webbing, which occurs when tears cause a seat belt to fail completely; and
- Pretensioner failure, which occurs when a seat belt linkage detaches because the connector is not fully latched during assembly.
While some of these defects are obvious, others are more difficult to identify, so car accident victims are encouraged to keep an eye out for the following signs of a defect:
- More than one vehicle occupant sustained serious injuries, but the seat belt is still intact after both impacts;
- A seat belt is found to be loose after an accident;
- A seat belt is found unclipped or torn after a collision;
- A belted passenger is ejected from the vehicle or makes contact with the windshield;
- The injured occupant is unbelted, but insists that they were belted before the collision occurred; or
- A belted victim sustains serious injuries, although there is only minor damage to the vehicle.
If you discovered evidence of a seat belt’s failure after an accident, please call our legal team today.
Call Today for a Free Case Evaluation
To learn more about defective seat belts in car accidents, please contact our experienced product liability attorneys who can examine your case and explain your legal options. Please contact Michael P. Fleming & Associates, P.C. at 737-201-0543, or contact us online today.