Auto Accidents and Defective Seatbelts – More Common Than You Think

Oct 22, 2015 — by Chris Olsen
Tags: Auto Accidents Personal Injury Wrongful Death

Two cars in an accident, head on to passenger doorAccording to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, 40 thousand people die annually from seat belt failure, and three million suffer injury. In some cases, a defective seatbelt may contribute to serious injury. The purpose of any seatbelt is to stabilize the passenger when the car stops abruptly or is in an auto accident. If you’ve been in a collision, and your seatbelt did not function as it should have, you can turn to an attorney to file a legal claim against the manufacturer of the defective seatbelt. To learn more about auto accidents and defective seatbelts, contact our San Diego, CA practice today.

Types of Seatbelt Defects

A three-point seatbelt has been required of auto manufacturers since 2007. The three-point belt fastens to the car at the shoulder and on either side of the lap. Passengers in the front and back seat of all vehicles - coupes, sedans, trucks, SUVs, and vans - are required by law to buckle up. Children must be secured in infant carriers, toddler seats, or booster seats. If you do your part to follow seatbelt law, but your seatbelt fails, your trust in the auto manufacturer is violated, and you can seek legal ramifications.

The following situations may indicate that a seatbelt is defective. The list is not comprehensive. If your situation differs, call us for a personal consultation. We can advise you on how to determine whether a seatbelt defect may be to blame for your injuries.

  • Belt buckle unlatches on its own
  • Belt buckle does not fasten completely
  • Fabric of belt rips or is otherwise weak, flawed, poorly sewn
  • Retractor/tension sensor does not lock belt in place upon impact/braking
  • Too much slack in seatbelt, will not tighten
  • Design is flawed (door-mounted or lap belts, torso belts, for instance)
  • Warning light failure (unbuckled belt light does not come on)
  • Anchor points are loose

Situations that May Indicate Defective Seatbelts

If one of the above seatbelt defects does not describe your situation, consider these scenarios that could indicate seatbelt dysfunction.

  • Car occupants were belted in, and multiple passengers suffered significant injuries in the auto accident
  • Though the seatbelt was fastened, the passenger came in contact with the windshield or roof of the vehicle, or was ejected from the car during a collision
  • Though the seatbelt was fastened and “clicked,” it was unbuckled after the collision
  • A passenger who was belted in sustains significant injury during a minor collision

Always Call Police

If you are in an auto accident, call the police. You need an official report filed. Keep in mind, however, that an officer may assume that a passenger who is not wearing a seatbelt may have not had the belt fastened prior to the accident. If you were in a fastened seatbelt but it unlatched during your accident, or if a passenger who was wearing a seatbelt was ejected from the car, an expert needs to examine your/the passenger’s body for signs of seatbelt failure. The belt itself will also need to be examined by a professional investigator.

Seatbelts Should Save Lives

The National Safety Council reports that seventy-five thousand lives were saved because of seatbelts in the period between 2004 and 2008. We also know that 75 percent of passengers wear a seatbelt regularly. When they function properly, seatbelts do save lives! However, poor design, defects, and flaws in seatbelts can result in serious injuries or death. Auto manufacturers must be made accountable for providing unreliable seatbelts to consumers. If you sustained injury in a car accident because of a faulty seatbelt, call us today for a legal consultation.

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