California Seat Back Failure Lawyers
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Did you know that some cars have front seats equivalent to the safety and structure of a flimsy beach chair? Our firm has extensive experience when it comes to handling these seat-back failure cases.
We represented the mother of a 7-year-old girl who died as the result of seatback failure. The plaintiff and her daughter were rear-ended at 25 mph while traveling in a Ford Escort. As a result of the seat back failure, the mother's head struck the daughter in the chest, causing the young girl's heart to rupture. She also suffered from internal bleeding. We represented another young client who is paralyzed from the chest down due to seatback failure. You can watch their stories here along with an interview with auto defects attorney, Brian Chase explaining what took place when these car seats failed.
All auto accidents pose a threat for serious injuries such as fractures, head injuries, internal organ damage, scarring, disfigurement and spinal cord injuries. We help our clients secure fair compensation for medical bills, funeral costs, lost wages and all other related damages. If you or a loved one has been injured in California as a result of seatback failure, please contact us at 949-203-3814 for a free, comprehensive and confidential consultation.
Seat back failure is a serious vehicle defect in many automobiles that causes numerous catastrophic injuries and fatalities each year. Poorly designed and defective seats, for example, can collapse backward on impact resulting in devastating injuries to vehicle occupants. A seatback collapse causing a catastrophic spinal injury, for example, can occur even in a low-speed, low-impact rear-end collision.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) received 390 complaints regarding seatback failure in the year 1998 resulting in 112 injuries and one death. Many of these injuries could have been prevented had the auto manufacturer designed and manufactured these seatbacks using technology that has been available for decades now.
Causes of Seat Back Failure
Seatback failure occurs when the weight of a vehicle occupant forces the back of the seat to collapse. This can result from a faulty design, poor assembly or improper installation. If strong materials are properly assembled, it is much more likely that the seat will stay upright during a collision. When flimsy materials are used, the seatback frame may become deformed.
The two most common types of seatback collapse involve the failure of the seatback support system to maintain an upright position and the deformation of the seatback frame. Failures that have been attributed to the deformation of the mounting system that holds the seat to the vehicle floor or to a collapse of the vehicle floor pan are less common. Another common problem with seatbacks is the detachment of adjustable head restraints during an accident.
Why Seat Back Failures are So Dangerous
The main safety features in a vehicle are the safety belt and airbag system. If the seatback collapses, neither of these critical safety features will be effective in the event of a crash. The airbag will likely not protect the victim at all and the seatbelt may not be able to prevent the occupant from being ejected. In some cases, the lowered chair can act as a ramp, causing the victim to be jettisoned from the rear window.
Other potentially serious conditions that may arise include:
Loss of control: If the seatback fails while the vehicle is in motion, the driver may be unable to sit upright. This situation can make it difficult for the driver to avoid an accident before pulling over and coming to a stop.
Vehicle ejection: During a high-speed collision, a seatback failure can result in partial or complete ejection of the occupant from the vehicle.
Rear-passenger injuries: If there is an occupant in the back seat at the time of the failure, he or she may be crushed by the seat or the front seat occupant. A collapsed seat can also trap the rear passenger resulting in catastrophic and even fatal injuries.
Flying head rest: A defective headrest, in addition to failing to protect the head of the occupant, can also become a deadly flying projectile in the event of a high-speed collision.
Blocked exits: Vehicles are full of combustible fluids and gases. In the event of a car fire, a defective seat can trap the occupants inside the vehicle preventing them from escaping to safety.
Blunt force trauma: A vehicle occupant can get thrown around in the vehicle during a crash. This could result in severe head and spinal injuries, which could leave victims with permanent injuries and disabilities.
Defective Seatback Recalls
When a number of people have been injured in seatback failure accidents, the National Highway Traffic and Safety Administration (NHTSA) will likely conduct an investigation into the safety of the vehicle and determine if a recall is warranted. When a seat is deemed defective, the auto manufacturer may have to issue a recall.
In March of 2013, Ford recalled 230,000 Freestar and Mercury Monterey minivans that have third-row seats that could come lose because of rust issues.
In June of 2013, Tesla recalled Model S vehicles for faulty rear seat latches that allowed the seat to move during a crash.
Nissan recalled 11,000 Juke crossovers from model year 2012 for an incomplete welding issue that allowed the rear seatback to become loose in an accident.
Federal Safety Standards
Federal safety standards relating to automobile seatbacks have not been updated in a long time and are way too lenient. According to safety experts, who have studied seatback safety for decades, the seats in most of our automobiles are no better than lawn chairs. Automobile seats are only required to pass a strength requirement. They don't have to go through a crash test rating system although seatbacks routinely fail during NHTSA's 30-mph rear-impact crash tests (FMVSS 301).
FMVSS 207, the federal rule pertaining to seating systems in automobiles, has not been updated in more than three decades. This rule mandates that a seat must withstand a pull of 3,300 inch-pounds applied on the seatback in a rearward direction. Despite numerous petitions over the years to revise this standard, there has been no action on the part of NHTSA. The seatback strength in most vehicles needs to increase six-fold to provide a reasonable degree of safety to vehicle occupants in the event of a crash.
Important Facts about Seatback Failure
There are several vehicle models in which seatback failure is a routine occurrence and automakers are aware of these serious defects:
- Ford Motor Company has been aware of dangerous seats for over 30 years. This deadly problem was investigated by Ford in 1992, and the outcome was that the seats cause serious harm in the event of rear-end collisions. Ford did not make any design changes to combat the seriousness of the seat back failure. Our law firm has seen first-hand evidence of weak seatbacks in the Ford Escort and Ford Explorer models.
- Virtually every front seat produced by General Motors Corporation from 1970 to the mid 1990's was designed to collapse rearward in an impact in which there was a speed change of 15 mph or greater. According to documents obtained by CBS for its series on seats collapsing in rear-end collision in 1992, GM attorneys advised top executives that there standard seats could no longer be defended.
- GM knew, as early as 1966, that seat strength is directly related to occupant safety in a rear impact collision. They have known that the occupant survival depends largely upon a front seat structure that holds the passenger in an upright position, and yet, they have not upgraded their seats. A leading GM engineer, David C. Viano, in a 1994 internal GM study, projected that 376 to 470 lives could be saved each year and estimated that improvements would prevent 1,000 serious injuries each year in rear-end collisions if the company strengthened its seat backs.
- DaimlerChrysler has been known to have seats collapse as well. In 2001, a mother, one of our clients, was driving one of the manufacturer's minivans and was ejected from her seat during a crash due to a seat back collapse. The collapsed seat caused the mother to fatally strike her 8-month old child, who was in a car seat behind her. In 1999, a woman was rendered quadriplegic after an accident in which the driver's seat recliner bracket of a DaimlerChrysler Dodge Ram Pickup broke. This caused the seat to collapse backwards and eject the woman out of her seat, striking her head on the roof of the cab. This structural weakness exists in all 1995, 1996, and 1997 Dodge Ram extended cab models.
- Cars equipped with bucket seats and/or split bench seats have a higher risk for seat back failure. These models have been known to bend or collapse in rear-end collisions. They are unable to safely withstand impacts, even in a collision occurring at a speed as low as a 15 mph.
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