Seat belts save countless lives every year in the United States and around the world. In just 2016 seat belts in passenger vehicles were responsible for saving nearly 15,000 lives. The national rate of use is around 90%. However, seat belt malfunctions in a variety of vehicles have caused injury or death, resulting in investigations, recalls and legal action against the automotive industry.

Some common malfunctions and mechanical failures include:

Inertial unlatching occurs when a seat belt unlatches during an accident. A properly designed seat belt should remain latched when inserted. Many new cars feature anti-inertial unlatching buckles, but not all models new and old alike have this technology.

False latching is when a seat belt appears to be locked but comes free with nominal force. False latching can cause passengers to strike the interior of the vehicle or be ejected from the vehicle causing serious injury or death.

Seat belt durability is a key factor. The weaving and material of the belt itself in addition to seat belts that have too much slack and therefor load too quickly, can factor into disabling the belts protective webbing.

Torsion Bar failure is when the torsion bar mechanism, which is designed to let out the seat belt when there is no pressure on it so that an individual is not severely injured by the restraint being too powerful, lets too much of the seat belt release, resulting in the person not being restrained at all.

Recently seat belts have been called into question due to malfunctions surrounding pretensioners, devices that tighten passenger seat belts, and the potential for them to catch fire.

In September 2018 The Wall Street Journal reported that Ford Motor Co. would be recalling about two million pickup trucks following “reports of a seat-belt equipment malfunction that could cause smoke or fire,”. The model years of the vehicles in question range from 2015 through 2018.

Product Liability Claim

In certain situations, a seat belt malfunction or an insufficient seat belt design (lap belts) could leave the passengers of the vehicle more susceptible to serious injuries. In these cases, injured drivers and passengers can pursue a products liability claim, in which parties at fault may include the supplier, distributor, retailer, or manufacturer of the seat belt itself, or the automobile company where the seat belt was installed.

For instance, a jury in Philadelphia returned a $55.3 million verdict for a driver who became a quadriplegic because of a rollover accident in which his seatbelt failed. The driver sued Honda Motor Co., Ltd., the manufacturer of the vehicle he was in. The jury determined that the car’s seatbelt was defectively designed, that there was a safer alternate design that could have been used, and that Honda failed to warn consumers about the defective seatbelt, resulting in serious injury.

Contact Dana and Dana

If you or a loved one have been involved in an accident where a seatbelt may have malfunctioned, or a seatbelt was not designed with adequate safety restraints, contact our seat belt malfunction lawyers at Dana and Dana today. We have helped many people seriously injured in car accidents. We can and will help you get the results you deserve. Call (401) 232-4004 or fill out a contact form for help right now.