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Defective Seat Belts: The untold story

Wayne Wright
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The highly-touted safety restraints have an astounding record of recalls – at least 25 since 1995.  Some of the world’s top automakers, including Ford, GM, Fiat Chrysler, Toyota, Subaru, Suzuki and Porsche, among others, have recalled their cars for seat belt problems.

Just six months into 2015, nearly 3 million cars and trucks, over a range of model years, made by Fiat Chrysler, Kia, GM and Ford, were recalled when manufacturers discovered their seat belts were defective.  While seat belts have indeed saved scores of lives in collisions over the years, they have also caused deaths and serious injuries when they malfunctioned during an accident.

Seat belts are complex devices

All parts of a seat belt are designed to work in sync.  But one or more of a seat belt’s parts can break in an accident, causing it to fail.  Seat belts are attached to a retractor mechanism with a large internal spool.  Belts are wound around the spool.  A spring inside the spool keeps the belt tight.  Retractors also have a locking mechanism.  In an accident, the locking mechanism is supposed to keep the spool from rotating.  Another device called a pretensioner is designed to tighten the seat belt in a collision.

Seat belts also have load limiters.  They release a small amount of extra webbing to prevent the belt from seriously injuring a car’s occupants when it suddenly jerks back in a collision.  The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA)  warns that after a collision, seat belts should be replaced.  The federal agency considers them “single-use items” that are designed to work only once.

Seat belt failures

Seat belt malfunctions can generally be attributed to poor design or mistakes on an auto maker’s assembly lines as cars are manufactured.  The belts can fail for a variety of reasons.  Latches on the buckles may not lock.  Other buckles may seem to lock but their parts may not be entirely engaged. Retractors may break or fail to work properly.  Front seat belts may not be anchored in the proper position.  Steel cables holding seat belts to the body of the car can weaken over time.  Or, they may be attached to the floor or door, leaving the driver in danger of being ejected in case of an accident. Electrical malfunctions can make seat belts and air bags suddenly inoperable.  Belt buckle latch assemblies can block the seat belt from fastening.  Seat belt pretensioners can suddenly malfunction, loosening seat belts. Seat belt webbing can twist and defects in its fabric can cause it to rip or tear.

When seat belts malfunction they can cause grave injuries to the head, throat, chest, spinal cord, intestines and other internal organs.  They can also break bones and cause serious cases of whiplash.

Wayne Wright lawyers’ expertise can benefit you

Wayne Wright lawyers are familiar with all types of seat belt malfunctions.  Wayne Wright can help victims whose seat belts failed to protect them due to a manufacture’s design flaw or assembly line mistake.  The firm has been representing accident victims for more than 30 years.  It has successfully secured compensation for those hurt by a device that should have prevented their injuries.

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