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Defective Seat Belts

Did You Know?

Crashes in which a vehicle rolled over accounted for more than half of all single-vehicle crash deaths. (NHTSA)

Every year hundreds of people are injured as a result of defective or dangerous seatbelts and seat belt accidents. Seatbelts perform a central role in occupant protection. Properly designed seatbelts should restrain the occupant by preventing ejection and minimizing the occupant's violent movement within the vehicle during the crash event. Unquestionably, seatbelts have saved thousands of lives. With the introduction of mandatory usage laws, many more Americans are now wearing seatbelts compared to prior decades.

As a consequence of more frequent usage, design flaws in seatbelts have become apparent. The most common of these design defects and failures involve seat belt buckles that fail to hold or restrain on impact, shoulder belt that allow too much slack (window shade seat belt design), shoulder belt retractors that skip or fail to hold under load, automatic or door mounted seatbelts that kill and maim when the door opens during a rollover or crash, shoulder only belt strangulations and neck injury defects and dangerous lap only seat belt injuries and deaths.  

Common Injuries Incurred from Defective Seat Belts

  • Traumatic Brain Injury  
  • Closed Head Trauma
  • Other types of Head and Brain Injuries
  • Spinal Cord Injuries
  • Paraplegia
  • Quadriplegia

Seat Belt Failures and Defects Include:

  • Seat Belt Buckle Inertially Unlatching During Rollover or Collision
  • Shoulder Belt Retractors that skip or fail to hold under load
  • Shoulder Belt that allow too much slack (window shade seat belt design)
  • Automatic or door mounted seatbelts that kill and maim
  • Shoulder only belt strangulations (clothes line effect) and neck and spinal injuries
  • Dangerous Lap only seat belt injuries and deaths in rear seat and center seating positions
  • Chrysler Generation 3 / GEN 3 Seat belt Buckles Inadvertent or Unintentional Unlatching or Releasing During Crashes  

How to Suspect Seat Belt Failure

Both serious and non-serious injuries to belted occupants. For example, if one belted occupant walks away while another belted occupant is paralyzed or suffers a serious head injury.

  • An injured occupant is found wearing a loose-fitting seat belt. 
  • An occupant is found unbelted but either the occupant or other passenger insists he or she was seat belted. 
  • An occupant in a frontal collision makes contact with the windshield. 
  • A seriously injured belted occupant in a vehicle with limited structural damage. For example, if there is limited roof crush and limited intrusion into the occupant compartment during a rollover yet a belted occupant sustains head or neck injuries.
  • Serious injuries in a minor to moderate collision. When a restraint system works properly, occupants typically should not receive serious injuries in minor or moderate speed collisions.
  • The seat belt webbing is torn or ripped or the seat belt is pulled loose from its anchors. 

If seat belt failure is suspected, make sure to take pictures or try to preserve the vehicle and seat belt system because these types of cases are difficult to detect. It is always safer to wear a seat belt than to not wear a seat belt. The most effective safety protection available today for passenger vehicle occupants is lap/shoulder safety belts combined with air bags. However, if a seat belt is defective, serious injuries can occur in addition to the injuries sustained from the accident itself. If you are injured as the result of a defect in a seat belt, you may have a products liability case against the manufacturer of the defective restraint system.  



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