Car seats are designed to stay in place when there is an auto accident, or at least that is what most consumers believe. We know the dangers of being thrown hard against the dashboard or windshield in the event of a crash, and this is why almost every state requires vehicle occupants to wear a seat belt. We also know the dangers of small children being hurt in a car crash, which is why every state has some type of law requiring child car seats. But there is a lesser known danger that the auto industry has done very little to address; seat back failures.
What is a Seat Back Failure?
The seat back is the upright portion of the car seat, and in most passenger cars, the front seats are the only ones that have them. Some larger SUVs, minivans, and full-size vans have back seats that also contain an upright portion (seat back). Seat backs can be adjusted by drivers and passengers for comfort, and they are also there to reduce the momentum those sitting in these seats experience if there is a crash. This should keep them safer and minimize the chances of a serious injury.
What most people never think about is what would happen if the seat back could not stay in place during an accident. Seat back failures happen when the force of a collision causes the upright portion of the seat to collapse backwards. When this happens, the seat back can land on top of one of the back seats, crushing whomever or whatever is situated there. If there are passengers in the back seats, these seat occupants can be seriously injured. And if one of the rear seat occupants happens to be a child, there is also a risk of them getting trapped underneath that collapsed seat back.
Seat back failures can also cause severe injuries to front seat occupants as the momentum of the backward collapse can cause their head and body to be thrown hard against an object or person or whatever is situated behind them.
Seat back failures can result in a wide range of injuries, which include:
- Fractures/broken bones
- Head and facial injuries
- Traumatic brain injuries (TBI)
- Back and neck injuries
- Spinal cord injuries and paralysis
- Wrongful death
Investigation shows Government and Auto Industry not doing Enough to Prevent Seat Back Failures
Most people assume that back seats are safe to ride in, and that the last thing they need to worry about is a seat back collapsing on a rear seat occupant. We assume that government standards are adequate, and that automakers are doing everything they can to make their seat backs safe. Unfortunately, this is not the case.
During a 2016 investigation by CBS News, it was found that seat back safety standards are extremely low, and in fact, the government has not updated the standards since 1967. At that time, the standard was so low that even a banquet chair would qualify. The government has studied the idea of raising the standards for the past four decades or so, but to date, no action has been taken.
CBS also found that automakers have known about the potential problem with seat backs since at least the mid-1990s, and during the past three decades, more than 100 individuals (that we know of) have been killed or seriously injured because of a seat back failure. According to one industry engineer, the cost to make seat backs safer for consumers would be “on the order of a dollar or so”.
With the cost of making their seat backs safe being so minimal, you would think that automakers would do this on their own without the government telling them they have to. Several companies have had recalls over this issue; including Toyota, Honda, Nissan, and Audi. But CBS named only three companies that have taken steps to make cars with seat backs that are well above the paltry government safety standards. These are BMW, Volvo, and Mercedes-Benz.
Injured in a Seat Back Failure? Contact a Skilled Auto Accident Lawyer
Faulty seat backs do not fail nearly as often as many other types of vehicle defects, but these statistics do not matter if it happens to you or someone you are close to. Seat back failures can cause serious and catastrophic injuries, and if this has happened to you, it is important to hold those responsible fully accountable; not only so you can receive full and fair compensation, but also to help ensure that this does not happen to others in the future.
At Burge & Burge, we are ready to go to work for you and to aggressively pursue that just compensation you deserve. For a free consultation with one of the experienced Alabama personal injury lawyers, call our office today at 205-251-9000. You may also send us a message through our online contact form.