While there is a myriad of regulations addressing the safety of seatbelts and airbags, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has not significantly updated seatback strength requirements since 1967. This belies the fact that seats and seatbacks are actually an integral part of a vehicle's safety system.
The auto industry has known for decades that even at speeds as slow as 25 miles per hour, seat and/or seatback failures have significantly contributed to serious injuries and fatalities in auto accidents, especially those involving rear-end collisions. Nearly every major auto manufacturer in the United States and abroad has been accused in a court of law of manufacturing unsafe seats and seatbacks.
Bucket seat seatbacks in certain car models have been particularly cited for bending or collapsing and causing injuries in rear-end collisions. The risk for injury is especially high for shorter adults or children who sit in the rear behind an occupied front bucket seat. Seat and seatback failures that have been known to have caused injuries and fatalities in auto accidents include:
- Defectively flimsy front seatback bends during impact, allowing the heads of the occupants in the front and back seat to collide with each other
- The mechanism holding up the back of a bucket seat breaks, causing the seat to collapse and the passenger to fall backwards violently
- Collapsing seatback results in passenger being thrown away from the safety of airbags and seatbelts
- Passenger is ejected from car or driver loses control
- Occupants are thrown around the car, making it difficult for them to get out of the car after an accident
- Seat ramp is improperly designed or does not slant upward, diminishing the chance that the passenger remains in his or her seat in the event of an accident
- Seat is torn from the car during impact because it was not attached according to government requirements
One reason car seat safety has been overlooked or purposely compromised is that fuel economy requirements have been strengthened. Only by requiring a minimum level of safety performance by seats and seatbacks in dynamic crash test conditions will the incentive by manufacturers to compromise safety for fuel efficiency in this area be removed. Unlike car seats, shoulder harnesses and seatbelts are required to perform adequately in crash test conditions in which a test vehicle collides with a wall at 30 miles per hour.
If you or a loved one was killed or seriously injured in an auto accident in which you suspect a defective car seat or seat back was involved, consult with an experienced defective product attorney. You or your loved one may be entitled to compensation for the potentially wrongful death or injuries suffered.
Contact us today to find an experienced product liability attorney near you.