Defective Seat Belts


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Statistics have shown over the years that seat belts do save lives.  In fact, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration estimates that 10,000 lives are saved every year as a result of seat belt use.  Because of those facts and the introduction of laws requiring seat belt use, the percentage of use has increased.  In addition, while that number is still not at 100%, it is an improvement that reaps positive results for many thousands of people.  However, recent studies show that just because someone wears a seat belt, does not mean that it is saving them from injury or even death.  There is increasing information that there are numerous seatbelt defects that cost as many as 6,000 lives in a recent year, or up to 20% of all injuries and fatalities.

Causes of Defects in Seatbelts

There are a number of reasons that may result in seat belt accidents.  Unfortunately, at this time, manufacturers are not as responsive to these complaints and are not moving as quickly to repair them as manufacturers in other fields.  Some of the most common defects reported in recent years include the following:

  • Inertial unlatching - the release mechanism on a seat belt may be initially released if pressure is put on the back of the latch, during frontal collisions, rollovers, and side impacts.  If pressure is put on the latch from the back, either from some other part of the seat or from a human pressure point, such as the pelvic bone, the belt may unlatch and release the occupant.
  • Excessive slack - the belt relaxes its pressure to make the occupant more comfortable.  When sudden and heavy braking or impact occurs, the seat belts are supposed to retract and tighten, but defective seat belts do not always do so.
  • False latching - a seat belt appears to be latched and sounds like it has engaged, but it has not done so.

Accidents and Defective Seat Belts

While the statistics concerning seatbelt defects is disturbing, the experience of having engaged a seat belt yet finding it is defective is even worse.  Since one of the most dangerous consequences in a traffic accident is being thrown from the car and suffering additional impact injuries and even death, a defective seat belt may be a tragedy waiting to happen.  Car owners should have their seat belts inspected along with other parts of their automobile.  Defective seat belts should be replaced and remedies should be sought from the manufacturer.

Getting Legal Help

If a defective seat belt is only finally discovered as the result of an accident and injury or death, the victim does have recourse.  As with any other product liability, those finding a seatbelt defect can contact a product liability attorney and file a civil suit against the manufacturer and the seller for compensation.  That is a consumer’s right, and product liability lawyers are skilled at helping them protect that right.

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