Seat Belt Defects Can Cause Harm in a Crash
All new vehicles sold in the United States since 1968 must be equipped with a seat belt in all designated seats. Being buckled up helps keep you safe and secure inside your vehicle during a collision. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) reported that seat belts saved the lives of about 15,000 people in 2017. While seat belts help save lives, a defective one can have catastrophic consequences in an accident.
Common Reasons Seat Belts Fail
Although the national seat belt use rate is over 90 percent, seat belts don’t always work as intended. Some common reasons seat belts fail include the following:
- Seatbelt spool-out: This occurs when the seatbelt does not lock up but spools out by allowing too much slack in the belt. If the retractor malfunctions and does not lock properly, the person will be released to move forward during a collision.
- Poor seat belt geometry: The angle between the passenger and the seat belt should not be too shallow for seat belts to work correctly. When seat belt anchors are placed on the floor instead on the seat, this can create a shallow angle. Poor seat belt geometry can cause the occupants to move toward the roof during a rollover accident.
- Lap belt defects: Older vehicles only have lap belts in the middle of the rear seats. Injuries are common when a passenger slides under a lap belt, even if they have a shoulder belt.
- Door-mounted seat belts: This can pose a huge problem because if the door is torn off during a collision, the occupant can be ejected from the vehicle.
- Inadvertent unlatching defects: an accidental unlatch defect occurs when the passenger is belted, but the design allows the belt to be unintentionally enlarged during a collision. This happens when a part of the person’s body inadvertently hits the latch during a crash. The passenger is led to believe they are adequately buckled, but the buckle does not engage or is only partially engaged.
- Weakened webbing: The seat belt webbing must be capable of withstanding forces stronger than those experienced during car accidents. The webbing may have been defective if damaged or torn after the impact.
Common Injuries Caused by Seat Belt Failure
When a seat belt doesn’t work correctly, there is the potential for devastating injuries and even death. Some of the most common injuries due to defective seat belts include the following:
- Broken Bones: While a bone fracture is generally not life-threatening, injuries from broken bones can incur high medical expenses, rehabilitation costs, and lost wages.
- Traumatic Brain Injury: Severe head injuries may result in lifelong disabilities and often need surgery, hospitalization, and extensive rehabilitation.
- Spinal Cord Injury: Injuries to the spinal cord may result in permanent disabilities such as paralysis.
- Internal Injury: Blunt-force trauma may cause damage to organs, such as kidneys and lungs, leading to internal bleeding.
Watch the YouTube Video below to learn how to fix a stuck seat belt in your vehicle.
Sacramento Auto Accident Lawyers
I’m Ed Smith, a Sacramento car accident attorney. Cases involving seat belt failure are challenging and complex. If you have suffered serious injuries in an accident due to a seat belt failure, you have the right to file a compensation claim for your damages. Call our legal team at (916) 921-6400 or (800) 404-5400 for free, friendly, and compassionate case advice. You can also reach us online through our Contact Us form.
View our past case results on our Verdicts and Settlements page.
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