Though seat belts have saved many lives since they became required in vehicles in 1968, they have cost lives too. Seat belt failures have led to injury or death in many crashes, and victims of such defects may need a seat belt failure lawyer.
How widespread are seat belt defects? American automakers have issued over 1,000 seat belt recalls since 1996. That’s a lot of seat belt failures.
Many seat belts on which Americans rely for protection have failed for a variety of reasons. Such failures are crucial and can bring about serious injuries or even death.
That’s not to say seat belts aren’t vital to Americans’ protection, because they are. An estimated 225,000 lives were saved by seat belts used by drivers or passengers in traffic accidents between 1975 and 2006, says the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.
But exactly what constitutes a seat belt? Essentially, a seat belt is a restraining device used in motor vehicles such as SUVs, vans, cars and light trucks. At first they were designed only to restrain the body at the waist, but for most of seat belts’ history they’ve also restrained the upper part of the body, functioning as what’s known as “two-point” seat belts.
Additionally known as a “safety belt,” a seat belt can be vital when an auto or vehicle makes a rapid and sudden stop or is involved in a collision. Due to seat belts, drivers and occupants wearing them are less apt to strike part of the vehicle’s interior or other passengers upon impact.
Persons wearing seat belts also are far less likely to be thrown out of a vehicle in a severe collision. Persons not wearing a seat belt often are ejected from vehicles during rollover crashes, and many of them die.
Today’s seat belts also position the user to benefit from another safety device, that being airbags.
Though seat belts may seem like a relatively modern device, their use goes back to the 19th Century. But they weren’t required to be installed in American-made vehicles until 1968, as a National Highway Safety Bureau mandate.
That didn’t mean cars’ occupants were required to wear them — and many did not. No law required wearing a seat belt until 1984, when states began passing laws requiring drivers and occupants to wear seat belts. The first such law was passed in New York.
Such laws penalized drivers and occupants for not wearing seat belts, via fines, so Americans started buckling up more often. An estimated 75% of Americans in vehicles regularly wear seat belts today. Still, the remaining 25% is a huge number of people, and many of them die in car accidents.
Seat belt defects can be due to errors in the manufacture or assembly of a seat belt, or due to inherent flaws in the design. Seat belts also may not exhibit instructions or warning labels, as needed.
One form of seat belt defect is “false latching.” In this case, the user may believe the seat belt is buckled or latched adequately, and yet that is not the case. Some latches or buckles fail to latch, even though they may appear to be latched. One response to such defects is a “lock for the latch” technique that’s applied to the design of the seat belt’s buckle or latch.
Yet another seat belt defect is as “inertial unlatching.” When this occurs, the force of an accident which pushes a wearer against a seat belt is more powerful than the buckle or latch of the seat belt. Then the seat belt becomes unlatched or unbuckled, and the wearer is unrestrained, as if not wearing a seat belt at all. This seat belt defect can be a problem especially during rollover accidents.
Also, some vehicle occupants who are sitting in certain spots in the vehicle may not have the benefit of proper restraints and thus suffer injury in a traffic accident. They may not be provided with shoulder belts to go with a lap belts since they’re occupying middle or rear seats.
Still another case of seat belt defects involves “retractors.” These restrain or release the seat belt, as is needed. A retractor can fail by supplying too much “give” or slack in a lap or shoulder belt. Even just a few inches of extra slack may be enough to lead to serious injury or even death.
Seat belt’s webbing, when torn or ripped, may cause a seat belt failure at the crucial time of a traffic accident. Mistakes in the manufacture of a seat belt can lead to a seat belt tearing apart and utterly failing during a traffic collision.
Other types of seat belt defects can be defective pretensioners, anchors, passive restraint systems or door-mounted seat belts.
Persons using a defective seat belt in a traffic accident can have injuries to the head, brain, chest, abdomen, spine or pelvis, as well as upper or lower fractures of the extremities, or legs and arms.
Victims of seat belt defects also can suffer whiplash, internal bleeding, injuries to the body’s internal organs and pinched nerves.
Numerous seat belt recalls have been issued by such automakers as GM, Honda, Ford and Toyota. Such a seat belt recall may be due to mistakes in the design and manufacturing of seat belts — mistakes for which the automakers are responsible.
These mistakes lead to seat belt recalls. But for some Americans, a seat belt recall can come too late.
Those who suffer injury from a defective seat belt have the legal right to claim financial compensation for their injury losses with a seat belt defect lawsuit, defective product lawsuit or defective seat belt lawsuit.
Our law firm has helped thousands of injured persons get the payments they deserved. We have knowledgeable product liability lawyers and seat belt failure attorneys to fight for your rights. We can seek economic recovery for victims’ medical bills, lost salary and pain and suffering due to their defective seat belt injury.
Notify us of your defective seat belt injury, and we can provide you with an experienced seat belt failure lawyer. Together, we can claim financial recovery — and justice — for your defective seat belt injury.