Seat Belt Failure
Wearing a seat belt in a motor vehicle is now not only considered common sense, but it is also the law. Yet, even when we follow basic safety practices, accidents and injuries still occur. In some cases, defective seat belts can fail to do their intended job, sometimes with tragic results.
Seat Belt Failure Accidents in the U.S.
Seat belt failures are more common that most people realize. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), estimates that as many as 3 million people each year are injured when seat belts fail and up 40,000 people die from this preventable auto defect. In rollover accidents, seat belt failure is one the primary factors that contributes to serious injury.
The Second Collision and Seat Belt Injuries
Experts divide a motor vehicle crash into several phases. Phase one is when a motor vehicle hits another car or object, and phase two is when the vehicle’s occupants suffer either impact with something inside the vehicle or other objects.
It’s during this second collision phase when seat belt failure can cause the most injury to a passenger. Seat belts are meant to minimize this injury, yet when they fail for a variety of reasons, harm and even death can result.
When a defective seat belt is involved, injuries can occur to the head, chest, abdomen, spine, and extremities. Victims of these accidents might suffer from extreme whiplash, pinched nerves, internal bleeding, and other injuries to the body’s internal organs. The extent of the damage and the way it impacts you depends largely on which organ is affected and how quickly you seek medical treatment. Different organ injuries are detailed below.
Punctured lungs are a serious threat to car accident victims. A pneumothorax occurs when you break a rib and it punctures the lung. However, you can also puncture your lung on a sharp object. When this occurs, the lung deflates and collapses, making it difficult and eventually impossible to breathe. This type of injury requires immediate treatment.
A brain bleed may be one of the most dangerous injuries you can suffer in a car accident, due in large part to the unpredictable outcomes of this type of injury. When you suffer brain hemorrhaging, oxygen cannot reach different parts of the brain. If those parts of the brain do not receive oxygen in time, they die, leaving victims with permanent impairments.
For example, a victim could lose their ability to speak, form new memories, or regulate their emotions. A brain bleed can also leave victims with permanent brain damage, due to the enormous amount of pressure put on the brain.
Internal bleeding is a very serious injury that can quickly become fatal. Damage to the blood vessels can cause blood to leak into the cavities of the body. Common symptoms of internal bleeding including a pale complexion, fatigue, abdominal pain and bruising, fainting or feeling lightheaded, and feeling cold. Anyone with these symptoms after a car accident should seek emergency medical attention.
Abdominal Aorta Aneurysm
The abdominal aorta supplies blood to the lower part of your body. If it is compressed during a crash, it may rupture and cause an aneurysm. It typically leads to massive internal bleeding and is often fatal.
Damage to the spleen often leads to rupture. Victims generally need surgery to recover from this injury.
What Could Go Wrong With Your Seat Belt?
Unfortunately, there are design, manufacturing, and even installation flaws that can lead to your vehicle having faulty seat belts. Here are just a few of the most prevailing seat belt defects.
- Inertial unlatching– While auto industry leaders claim that this doesn’t happen, some tests have proven that the force during a crash can cause certain types seat belts to become unlatched.
- False latching– Your seat belt might look and feel as if it’s securely attached, but it might not be fully engaged. If it isn’t, even a minor accident could cause the belt to release and leave you unprotected. Just over a decade ago, Takata recalled more than 8 million vehicles (12 Makes) for this issue.
- Webbing defects– Seat belts are constructed to withstand tremendous degrees of force, so a belt that rips for any reason likely has a defect in the material.
- Retractor failure– When an accident occurs, the seat belt retractor is meant to lock and hold the occupant in place. If this locking device fails or if excess slack is released, the results could turn deadly.
- Poorly-mounted systems– The most effective seat belt anchor systems are mounted to the vehicle’s seats. Other locations can create poor seat geometry. The seats must function together with the seat belts. If these also fail, the effectiveness of seat belts will diminish.
These are just a few of the things that could go wrong with your seat belt causing injury. The further bad news is that, if your seat belt becomes unlatched during an accident due to a defect, an insurance company or defense attorney can claim that you weren’t wearing one at all and ask for a reduced award due to your own perceived negligence. If these are possibilities, don’t hesitate to contact one of our experienced seat belt failure attorneys to protect your rights.
How to Detect Seat Belt Failure
Detecting seat belt failure isn’t always a straightforward matter. The effectiveness of your vehicle’s seat belts should be evaluated based on the facts of your particular accident and injuries. Based on past cases and experience, here are just a few signs that may indicate a seat belt problem:
- A person injured in the accident was found with a loose-fitting seat belt.
- An injured vehicle occupant isn’t wearing a seat belt but maintains that they were wearing one at the time of the accident.
- A seat belt shows ripped or worn webbing.
- There are serious injuries in a minor collision accident.
- A front seat occupant makes contact with the windshield.
- There is a discrepancy in the seriousness of injuries from belted occupants. For example, one person walks away with another suffering major injuries.
Who is Responsible for Seat Belt Failure?
If you’re injured because of seat belt failure in a vehicle, both the manufacturer of the product and the vehicle could be at fault. Designers of seat belts work to create a system that will protect vehicle occupants in some of the most extreme conditions, but they don’t always work as planned.
Seat belts are tested by both the product creator and the vehicle manufacturer, to make sure that they adhere to certain safety standards. Even if the tests are passed, standards can change, or defects in manufacturing can arise that make the products less effective. Automakers may also be slow to adopt new seat belt technology in the vehicles, which could lead to modern cars having antiquated systems.
Seat Belt Injuries and Potential Damages
Seat belt failure may be difficult to detect, but the related injuries are often quite serious. If you’re involved in an accident with a seat belt failure, the proper investigation may be able to identify the design or manufacturing defect that was the likely cause of your injuries. Victims who have been harmed by defective seatbelts might receive compensation that consists of compensatory and/or punitive damages.
Compensatory damages will reimburse you for such things as medical care, lost wages, disability, and even suffering from the seat belt-related injuries. Punitive damages are sometimes awarded to victims as a means of punishing companies for wrongdoing. These damages can be significant, and they discourage manufacturers from releasing defective products or forgoing important safety testing in the future.
If You’ve Been Injured Due to Seat Belt Failure
If you or a loved one has been injured due to seat belt failure, you have the right to claim financial compensation for those injuries with a defective product lawsuit. Most law enforcement officers who investigate these accidents miss a potential defective seat belt and it may take hiring an expert with accident reconstruction experience to uncover the truth.
Our law firm has helped many clients receive the payments they deserve. Let our knowledgeable product liability lawyers and seat belt failure attorneys fight to protect your rights. Contact us to schedule a no-cost, comprehensive consultation today. Contact the Peake & Fowler Law Firm at (803) 788-4370 and one of our Injury Attorneys will help you with your Seat Belt Failure matter.
Peake & Fowler Law Firm, P.A., is located in Columbia, SC and serves clients in and around Newberry, Lexington, Sumter, Allendale, Orangeburg, St. Matthews, Bishopville, Florence, Blythewood, State Park, Eastover, Columbia, Elgin, Irmo, Hopkins, Ridgeway, Lugoff, Ballentine, West Columbia, Kershaw, Camden, Dusty Bend, and Richland County, Lexington County, Calhoun County, Orangeburg County, Sumter County, Kershaw County, Newberry County, Fairfield County, Lee County, Clarendon County and Florence County.