Seat belt injuries can occur when a defective seat belt fails to adequately protect a vehicle passenger in the second collision phase of an automobile accident. There are thought to be two collisions in an auto accident. The first collision is the vehicle's impact with another vehicle or object. The second collision is the passenger's impact with the interior of the vehicle, or in cases of ejection, impact outside the vehicle. The purpose of a seat belt is to minimize the injuries and damage caused in a second collision by reducing or eliminating injurious occupant contact with the vehicle's interior. Seat belt injuries often occur when there is a seat belt design, production, or installation defect.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration estimates that more than 2.9 million people suffered seat belt injuries in 2002. In that same year almost 43,000 people died as a result of seat belt injuries. The percentage of passengers who wear seat belts is at a record high in our nation at 79 percent. The number of people wearing their seat belt who suffer from serious seat injuries indicates that seat belt defectiveness is often the cause of damage in these accidents. In twenty percent of all rollover accidents seat belt failure is a main contributory factor to serious injury.
Seat belt injuries caused by defective seat belt design, production, or installation can be suspected under the following circumstances: serious and non-serious seat belt injuries were sustained by belted occupants in the same crash, the injured person is wearing a loose fitting seat belt, the occupant is found unbelted but insists that they engaged the seat belt prior to the accident, a belted occupant makes contact with the windshield during a collision, a belted victim suffers serious seat belt injuries with little vehicle structural damage, or the seat belt is found torn or ripped after an auto accident.
There are a number of seat belt design and manufacturing defects that can cause serious seat belt injuries. Faulty seat belts can cause inertial unlatching during an accident where a person is belted but the belt releases during an accident. False latching occurs when the belt feels and looks like it is engaged but comes loose in an accident. Material or weaving deficiencies can cause a seat belt to tear or rip, causing seat belt injuries in an auto accident. Seat belt retractor failure and faulty window shade belt design can result in excess seat belt slack during a collision which can cause seat belt injuries. Poor seat belt geometry, door mounted belts, and lap-only seat belt designs can also contribute to seat belt injuries.
A number of vehicles have been recalled or investigated because of faulty seat belt design, production, or installation. Fourteen million Chrysler vehicles have been recalled because of defective seat belt retractors that caused, or had the potential to cause, serious seat belt injuries.
If you, or someone you love, have been the victim of seat belt injuries where defective seat belts may be to blame, you may wish to contact a qualified attorney who can advise you of your legal rights in a case to recover your damages.
For more information on seat belt injuries, please contact us to confer with an attorney in your area.