Seatbelts are designed to save people lives in case of a car accident. If the seatbelt is manufactured improperly or is defective in any way, it will fail to provide occupants adequate safety in events of car accidents. In those situations, the manufacturer of the car may be held strictly liable for the increased harm to the victim. Specific laws covering products liability will vary somewhat from state to state. Also, each individual automobile manufacture may have different policies stated in their warranty provisions.
Those involved in car accidents suffer worse injuries because of a defect in the seatbelt. In those situations, the manufacturer of the car may be held liable for the increased harm to the victim. Seatbelt defects can be due to errors in manufacturing, assembly, and even flaws in the design of the vehicle. Failure to exhibit instructions or warning labels about seatbelts can also result in injuries.
There may be a defect in the design or construction of your seat belt. For example:
- Lap and Shoulder Belts vs. Lap Belt Only: Some older vehicles are only equipped with lap belt only seatbelts, which do not contain an upper torso restraint. These seatbelts have caused severe abdominal injuries, head and facial injuries, and fractures of the spine during a car accident.
- Tension Relieving Device: Some systems will include a devise to create slack on the shoulder belt. This is meant to keep the belt from restricting the occupant’s movement. However, the problem arises when these devices do not retract the belt back after the occupant has moved forward, resulting in permanent slack. This can result in spine fractures, head and facial injuries, and abdominal injuries during an accident.
- Defective Buckles: Sometimes, the buckle of the seatbelt will malfunction. If this happens, the occupant will not be fully restrained during a car crash and can suffer severe injuries.
- Passive Restraint Systems: Some safety belt restraint systems include an automatic shoulder restraint coupled with a manual lap belt. Sometimes car occupants will forget to buckle their lap belt because the shoulder belt is automatic. This shoulder belt may fail to completely restrain the body during an accident. The risks include strangulation, liver lacerations, paraplegia, and even decapitation.
- False Latching: Some seatbelts might be defective if it does not buckle properly or the latch easily comes undone without the individual manually unlatching the seatbelt. This can be dangerous in case of an accident.
- Excessive Seatbelt Slack: Seatbelts must be designed in a way that is properly fit around your body without having any excessive slack to allow your body to move around or move forward in an event of a car accident.
Even with the possibilities of a defective seatbelt, it is always recommended that a person wear a seat belt. Wearing a seatbelt is always a better idea than not wearing one because the injuries without a seatbelt are greater than the injuries with a defective seatbelt.
If an occupant of a vehicle was wearing the seatbelt properly, but the seatbelt failed to provide adequate safety in the event of a car accident, the occupant may seek compensation for his or her injuries. Compensation will include:
- Compensatory Damages: Compensatory damages reimburse injured parties for any financial losses such as medical bills, lost wages and income, physical injuries, and future medical bills.
- Punitive Damages: Sometimes punitive damages will be awarded to punish the manufacturer or wrongdoer to prevent future harms.
- Economic Damages: you may be able to recoup lost value of the car’s resale value. You may also be able to recover for loss of use of the car
- Personal injury recovery: if the defective automobile resulted in physical injuries to you, you may be able to recover for the costs associated with the injury
- Class action: If the recall has affected enough numbers of consumers, a class action lawsuit might be an available option
- Manufacturer reimbursement: Inquire whether you may be compensated for repairs or for a replacement vehicle
Drivers and passengers that are injured because of defective seatbelts can suffer very serious injuries to the head, brain, spine, chest, arm, and back. Victims of seatbelt defects can also suffer whiplash, internal bleeding, and injuries to their internal organs.
If you are injured in a car accident and believe that your injuries were worsened by a defective seat belt, an experienced personal injury lawyer can evaluate the merits of your claim. A products liability attorney can file any necessary paperwork and represent you in court. An experienced product liability attorney can also help negotiate larger settlements or obtain higher court awards for injuries that you have suffered.