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Motor Vehicle Defects: 1992 Ford Escort Faulty Seatbelt System

Most motor vehicle defect attorneys will admit that faulty seatbelts in the 1992 Ford is a dangerous design defect. In 1994, Ginger Brockman was driving her 1992 Ford Escort toward McKee, Kentucky at about thirty-five miles per hour. Patti Ann King was in the front passenger's seat. When a pickup truck traveling in the opposite direction attempted to turn in front of them, the pickup collided with the Escort.

The Escort's front-seat "automatic belt" restraint system had a two-point motorized shoulder belt that automatically locked in place when the occupant closed the door. It also featured a knee bolster designed to restrain the lower torso and a manual lap belt. King was described as an "avid seatbelt user." But at the time of the car accident, King was wearing only the automatic shoulder belt and not the manual lap belt.

King suffered massive personal injuries in the Ford Escort car accident. The extent of his injuries include several fractured ribs and a fractured collarbone; lacerations to both lungs; and a tear to the left auricle of her heart. She ultimately died of a lack of oxygen to her brain as a result of her heart and lung injuries.

King's estate filed a defective product suite against Ford, alleging that her personal injuries were the result of seatbelt defects in the Escort's restraint system. The case went to the jury on two distinct theories: that the "automatic seat belt restraint system was defective and unreasonably dangerous to the consumer" and that Ford failed to warn consumers of the potential dangers associated with the restraint system.

Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard 208 gives car manufacturers options on what kinds of restraint systems they can use, and the version of FMVSS 208 in effect in August 1987 (when the Escort was first manufactured) set forth three specific options. Option One is automatic seat belts with or without air bags. Option Two is automatic shoulder belts or air bags, plus manual lap belts for lateral car crashes and rollovers, with a seat-belt warning system. Option Three is a lap and shoulder belt protection system with a seat-belt warning system-- which is where Ford fell short.

At trial, the jury found that Ford was liable for the defective car design and awarded damages in excess of $1.8 million to King's estate.

"The Escort's specific design was defective in this case because it failed to use load limiters (limiters that are integrated into the seat belt retractor system to allow seat belt webbing to release in a controlled manner)," observed auto product liability attorney, John Bisnar. "And because it didn't relocate the knee bolster and belt anchor to adequately protect passengers in the event of a car crash. Ford also failed to provide adequate and proper warning that the passive two-point shoulder-belt assembly was not to be used without also using the manually latched lap belt. It further failed to provide adequate and proper warning of the dangers of severe personal injury in using the passive two-point shoulder-belt assembly without latching the manual lap belt."

"Year after year, unsafe restraint systems have caused countless injuries and deaths," said Brian Chase of the nationally recognized Bisnar Chase Personal Injury Attorneys auto products liability firm. "The King family is to be commended for confronting Ford Motor Company and holding them accountable for a seat-belt system that was demonstrably not crashworthy and not warning passengers of the inherent risks. We can only hope that these motor vehicle defect lawsuits, and the many lawsuits we have filed against Ford will convince them to design safer seat belt systems and prevent others from being needlessly killed."

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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