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Injuries Caused by Defective Seatbelts

By Butler Prather LLP on June 6, 2022

Individuals need to be able to count on their seatbelts to work in the event an accident occurs. Seatbelts, while they may not be able to prevent all injuries, are often able to prevent catastrophic injuries and even fatalities. However, when a seatbelt is defective, this can lead to serious consequences.

Seatbelts are Essential Safety Devices

When we examine information available from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), we can see that out of the nearly 24,000 individuals who lost their lives in vehicle accidents in 2020, more than half of them or not wearing seatbelts. This was a 4% increase from 2019 numbers.

The NHTSA says that seatbelts saved an estimated 15,000 lives and would likely have saved more than 2,500 additional lives if individuals had been wearing seatbelts during a recent reporting year.

What Can go Wrong?

Seatbelts are not designed to prevent injuries completely. Their purpose is to prevent individuals from sustaining catastrophic injuries and from losing their lives in a vehicle accident. It is not uncommon for individuals to still sustain some type of injury when a vehicle accident occurs, and some of these injuries may even be caused by the seatbelt itself.

When a car accident occurs, the seatbelt will tighten and prevent individuals from moving very far inside the cab. This can lead to significant bruising across the areas where the seatbelt comes into contact with the body as well as internal organ damage, depending on the force of the vehicle crash.

However, there are times when seatbelts do not function properly. Defective seatbelts can lead to significant injuries aside from what would typically be expected in a vehicle accident. Additionally, defective seatbelts can cause injuries even if an accident has not occurred. Some of the main ways that seatbelts can fail include the following:

  • Unlatch during an accident. The forces of a collision could cause the buckle to release when it otherwise should not. If this occurs, the entire purpose of the seatbelt would no longer be relevant, and occupants could be significantly injured due to striking other objects in the vehicle or flying throughout the vehicle cab.
  • Fail to protect occupants of certain sizes. Unfortunately, the designers of seatbelts often under look smaller-sized occupants, and not just children. Smaller adults often find that seatbelts do not cross their bodies properly, including the lap and shoulder belt. These poor designs can lead to significant injuries that would otherwise not occur on a larger person.
  • Spooling out. When a crash occurs, seatbelts are supposed to lock up. However, if the seatbelt locking mechanism fails, the seatbelt could spool out and allow the occupant to be thrown forward as if they were not even wearing a seatbelt at all.
  • Tearing or ripping. In extreme circumstances, the seatbelt could rip or tear at some point along its fabric portion and lead to individuals being thrown about the cab when an accident occurs.

Defective seatbelts can occur in a wide variety of ways, including faulty material used for webbing, poor designs, or a manufacturing or assembly error. In the event a defective seatbelt causes injuries, it may be possible for individuals to recover compensation from the seatbelt designer, manufacturer, or auto manufacturer.

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Posted in: Car Accidents

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