Among people ages 1-54 in the U.S., motor vehicle crashes are the leading cause of death. For most people over age 4, using a seat belt is one of the most effective ways to reduce injuries and save lives in a crash. Unfortunately, millions of people decide to forgo wearing a seatbelt and forfeit this valuable protection. But, what happens if you do wear a seat belt and it doesn’t perform as it was intended?
Seat Belts Save Lives
The truth is that seat belts, when they work properly and when used, save lives. In 2015 alone, nearly 14,000 lives were saved in the U.S. by seat belts. South Carolina has a primary enforcement safety belt law requiring that every occupant of a motor vehicle wear a seat belt or be secured in the proper child restraint system. As of 2016, South Carolina is at a 93.9% seat belt use rate compared to the national average of 90.1%.
Some people mistakenly believe that seat belts are unnecessary thanks to airbag technology, but this isn’t the case. Airbags are supplemental and meant to work with a seat belt. They are also not as effective in certain types of crashes. A seat belt helps prevent injury and death in several ways:
- Preventing ejection from the vehicle;
- Spreading crash forces over a wider area of the body;
- Shifting crash forces to the strongest parts of your body’s structure;
- Permitting your body to slow down gradually; and
- Protecting your head and spinal cord.
These are priceless protections that help many people who wear a seat belt. Unfortunately, these devices can fail and lead to catastrophic outcomes.
How Often Do Seat Belts Fail?
Seat belts fail with startling regularity in motor vehicle crashes and lead to severe injury and even death. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) reports that roughly 3 million people each year suffer injuries and 40,000 people die because of seat belts that fail during crashes. When a rollover accident occurs, a failed seat belt is one the primary factors leading to injury or death. The most disturbing thing about these injuries and deaths is that they are entirely preventable.
How Do Seat Belts Fail?
Some of the most common causes of seat belt failure include:
- Retractor failure. This occurs when the tightening of the seat belt or lock fails to engage, which was supposed to protect the occupant.
- Latch failure. A seat belt’s buckle can inadvertently unlatch, which renders this protective device useless.
- Spooling. This takes place when too much of the seat belt’s webbing is unraveled, which allows excessive movement of the driver or passenger.
When an accident occurs, and your seat belt fails, it is vital to have a thorough investigation and preserve evidence. Just because a law enforcement officer doesn’t notice the failure at first glance, that doesn’t mean there was not an issue.
Who is Responsible When a Seat Belt Fails?
If you or someone you love has been seriously injured because of a failed seat belt, both the manufacturer of the vehicle, and of the seat belt could be to blame. Vehicle manufacturers are responsible for designing and constructing a safe car or truck that meets the latest safety standards. There may have been a flaw in their production or design process that led to the failure of the seat belt.
The seat belt itself could also have a design or construction flaw. When an automaker chooses a parts supplier, they generally purchase pre-made parts that are ready to install in the vehicle. Defects in those parts could trace back to the original designers.
Speak with an Experienced Products Liability Attorney
When you are seriously injured in a car accident through no fault of your own, you have the right to expect full and fair compensation for your losses. These may include medical expenses, lost wages, and pain and suffering. There may be several negligent parties in your case, including another driver, a vehicle maker, and a parts manufacturer.
At Peake & Fowler, we not only have experience with some of the most complicated auto accident cases but products liability issues as well. Our qualified legal team will protect your rights and fight for the payments you need and deserve. Contact our Columbia office now at (800) 946-9461 to schedule a free consultation.