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Motor Vehicle Defect: 1997 Dodge Caravan Faulty Seatback

Most motor vehicle defect attorneys will admit that the 1997 Dodge Caravan's defective seatbacks pose a dangerous product liability. In 2000, Robert Bennett was driving his 1997 Dodge Caravan in Ocala, Florida. His wife Vickie was seated in the passenger seat. Both were properly wearing their lap/shoulder belts and the vehicle was traveling within the lawful/posted speed limit. Sadly, this would be a drive they would remember with dread for the rest of their lives.

When the Bennetts were rear-ended by another vehicle, their Caravan spun out of control, veered off the road and rolled over. During the initial impact, Vickie Bennett's seatback collapsed and the Caravan's passenger side sliding door flew open. Vickie slid rearwards under her seatbelt and was ejected through the open sliding side door, which had opened.

"Seatback strength is inadequately minimal in most American vehicles," noted nationally recognized auto product liability lawyer, John Bisnar. These seats are little more than upholstered lawn chairs, withstanding on the average just 3200 inch-pounds of bending moment before failing rearward. Although 3200 inch-pounds may sound like a significant standard, it has, from the very start, been widely criticized in the automotive safety community. It is in no way an improvement over earlier designs. In fact, production seats from the 40's and 50's have been found to substantially exceed this standard. Moreover, besides its low threshold force requirement, this standard does not simulate what occurs to the seat and the forces imparted to occupants in real world crashes."

As a result of their car crash, both Vickie and Robert suffered severely and needlessly. Each sustained bodily injuries, pain and suffering, on-going disability, disfigurement and mental anguish. In addition, there were all the mounting expenses of hospitalization, medical and nursing care and treatment. Plus loss of earnings, and the on-going loss of their ability to earn money. These losses continue to threaten the enjoyment and livelihood of both Bennetts.

The Bennetts subsequently filed suit against Chrysler, contending that Chrysler's seat design was defective and that the car maker had known for over 20 years that their passenger seat, seatback assembly and seatback recliner mechanism would collapse upon a reasonably foreseeable and otherwise survivable impact and rollover.

"This egregious and sustained effort to conceal potentially dangerous defects from the public is reprehensible," said John Bisnar. "What's even more regrettable is that such efforts are increasingly ubiquitous in the car industry. Both foreign and domestic car makers have a record of denying accountability for their blatant disregard for their consumers' safety."

"While seat belts and shoulder harnesses have been mandated to meet dynamic crash test conditions in which the test vehicle collides with a concrete wall at 30 miles per hour, no similar requirements exist for seatbacks in rear-impact collisions," Noted nationally recognized product liability lawyer, Brian Chase. "Tests dramatically illustrate how a seatback can collapse in a rear-impact car crash and still meet Federal performance requirements."

The suit further asserted that its passenger side sliding door and adjacent structure, including the sliding door hinge and latching mechanisms, would fail upon a reasonably foreseeable and otherwise survivable impact and rollover.

"It's no small task taking Chrysler to court," noted Brian Chase. "We applaud the efforts and sacrifices of the Bennetts and injured consumers like them who confront today's giant car makers and hold them accountable for their defective products and uncrashworthy vehicles. It is our hope that these lawsuits will convince automakers to improve their vehicles and make them safer for consumers."

If you or a loved one has suffered serious injuries as the result of a defective auto part or vehicle, contact the experienced California auto products liability attorneys at Bisnar Chase Personal Injury Attorneys for a free consultation. We will use our extensive knowledge and resources to achieve the best possible results for you and your family.


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