The Threat of Defective Seat Belts
Of the more than five million vehicular accidents all across the U.S. in 2012, more than 2 million drivers and passengers required treatment in emergency departments, while more than 30,000 lost their lives. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) believes that if only all drivers, who got involved in accidents, wore a seat belt, then the number of injuries and deaths could have been cut by at least half.
A seat belt is a crash-safety device that keeps vehicle occupants from sustaining serious or fatal injuries during crashes. It is designed to prevent their bodies from colliding into a vehicle’s hard interior surface or with another passenger, or from being thrown out of the car. To be truly effective and, so, be capable of providing the protection it is intended to provide, a seat belt should be a combination of shoulder and lap belts.
Seat belts have kept drivers safer since the 1950s. There are times, however, when these fail to totally immunize anyone from getting injured, like when the force created during impact if very strong (such as the force created upon the collision of two speeding vehicles) or if there is a defect in design or material of the seat belt. In these situations, rather than save lives, it can even be the cause of serious injuries or even death.
In 1995, as many as 8,428,402 vehicles in the U.S. that have been equipped with seat belts from Takata Corporation of Japan were recalled were recalled. The seat belt’s buckle was discovered to be latching and then automatically releasing, releasing during accidents, or failing to latch. In November of 2015, Tesla Motors Inc. also decided to recall its entire all-electric Model S fleet due to a single incident wherein its sedan’s seat belt assembly broke. Besides these two flaws in design or material, some of the other defects that were commonly reported about seat belts included:
- Lap-only belt designs. Lap belts never really did a good job of providing protection; these rather caused more injuries and death during accidents;
- Ripped or torn webbing. Seat belt webbings are strong and do not rip or tear easily. Poor material or flaws in weaving, however, can render the webbing to be less strong than it should be; and,
- False latching and inertial unlatching. This happens when the latch plate feels and appears latched when, actually, it is not. Even the least amount of force can cause a falsely latched buckle to release the latch plate.
Defective seat belts can only be the result of an error committed because of carelessness or negligence. Due to this, what has been intended as a safety device has, instead,become a threat to life. Defective seat belts are products of negligent manufacturers and, under the tort law, innocent victims are given the right to seek compensation from parties whose actions unjustly cause injuries to others.
Car defects and malfunction lawyers from the law firm Schuler, Halvorson, Weisser, Zoeller & Overbeck, P.A., hold auto manufacturers fully responsible for the dangerous products they distribute. Thus, if injuries are sustained due to these defective products or, worse, if these cause death, then the victim or his/her family should never delay pursuing a legal action against the liable manufacturer.