Toyota Motor Corporation is issuing an auto defect recall for about 370,000 Tacoma Access Cab trucks for potentially faulty seatbelts. According to a news report in The Detroit News, the screws that attach the seatbelt pre-tensioner to the retractor within the assembly of the 2005-2011 trucks can become loose over time due to repeatedly and forcefully closing the access door. Toyota issued an alert stating that if the screws loosen completely, the pre-tensioner and the retractor spring cover could detach from the seatbelt retractor. This in turn can affect the seatbelt’s performance.
This safety recall covers 342,451 trucks in the United States as well as 27,000 in Canada. Toyota officials say no crashes or injuries have been reported in connection with the recall. However, the automaker did tell the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration that it initially got two reports of problems in the U.S. market as early as November 2011. Two reports, one each from a truck owner in Canada and the United States earlier this year, prompted an internal investigation, which showed that the four screws that fasten the pre-tensioner to the retractor were completely unthreaded.
Defective Seatbelts Can Be Deadly
There is no question that seatbelts save thousands of lives each year and are invaluable as a safety device in the event of car crashes. However, when these crucial safety devices do fail, serious injuries and even fatalities can occur. Seatbelt failures can occur as the result of flawed design or a manufacturing defect. When injuries or fatalities occur as the result of a defective seatbelt, an expert can examine the restraint system and help determine if the seatbelt performed as intended during a crash.
Complexity of Accident Investigations
Often times, when accidents occur and victims are ejected from a vehicle, we see police departments make the determination that the victim was not buckled up. In our experience as seatbelt defect attorneys, we have observed that these assessments may not always be accurate. Many law enforcement agencies do not have the expertise or the resources to determine whether a person was ejected because he or she was not wearing the seatbelt or as the result of restraint system failure.
There are many questions to ask. Did false latching occur? Did the seatbelt come loose due to a manufacturing or product defect? Was the webbing weak? Are there bruises or marks on the body of the victim that indicates that he or she was buckled up at the time? These are all very important questions that must be asked and answered after a crash. It is crucial that the vehicle involved in the crash is preserved so an expert can thoroughly examine it for any product defects, malfunctions or design flaws. The best auto defect law firms will have the resources and the network of experts necessary to conduct these independent investigations and to determine the facts of the case.