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Federal Officials Investigate Seatbelt Failures in Volkswagen SUVs

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has launched an investigation into Volkswagen AG’s latest Tiguan SUV after the vehicle’s front seatbelts failed in two government crash tests. According to a Bloomberg news report, in two tests conducted in December, the driver’s seatbelt webbing completely separated where it loops through the tongue latch, which clicks into the buckle, according to a memo posted on the agency’s website. These seatbelt failures occurred during separate frontal impact tests where the vehicle crashed into a rigid barrier at 35 mph.

Failures did not occur in Volkswagen’s internal testing and the company intends to determine the cause of the different results in NHTSA’s tests, a spokeswoman for the automaker said. She said the Tiguan “was designed to meet or exceed safety standards” and has performed well in tests conducted internally and by third parties such as the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS). The probe covers about 129 VW Tiguans from the 2018 model year, which went on sale last year.

Seatbelt Failure Can Be Catastrophic

There is no question that seatbelts save lives. However, when seat restraint systems fail to work as intended, the consequences can be devastating. There are design and manufacturing defects in seat restraint systems that could lead to serious issues. For example, some seatbelts could come unlatched just due to the force or impact of a collision. False latching is another serious problem with seatbelts. This is where your seatbelt looks and feels like it is secured, but it might not be fully engaged. In such cases, even a minor impact such as a fender bender could cause the seatbelt to release and leave you unprotected.

When the webbing is defective, the belt might rip due to the force of a collision. This often occurs because the material used for the webbing is defective. In some cases seatbelt retractors that are meant to hold the occupant in place might be defective. When a seatbelt doesn’t work as intended, occupants may get partially or fully ejected and this could of course result in major injuries or even death.

Why You Need an Experienced Lawyer

Spotting seatbelt failure is not a simple matter. Law enforcement agencies often don’t have the resources or the knowledge to detect seatbelt defects. They might incorrectly conclude that the occupant wasn’t buckled up when the real issue was seatbelt failure. An experienced seatbelt defect lawyer can spot red flags such as a loose-fitting seatbelt, ripped webbing or when the occupant was ejected in a crash, but his or her body has bruises from wearing the seatbelt. You need an experienced auto defect lawyer on your side who has handled seatbelt defect cases successfully and held negligent automakers accountable.


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California Personal Injury Blog