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South Texas

The Problem of Defective Seatbelts

One of the best defenses against serious injury in a car accident is properly functioning seatbelts; as far as safety experts and agencies are concerned, seatbelts are the undisputed king of safety devices, because in a crash, inertia will cause the occupants of the vehicle to keep moving forward at the speed the vehicle was traveling, unless something is there to stop them from smashing into a dashboard or through a windshield. That something is a properly functioning seatbelt.

It’s this simple; when every occupant of the car wears a seatbelt, everyone will stay in their seat in a crash and most will be safer. Thanks to public service campaigns and mandatory seatbelt use laws, Americans now buckle up in record numbers, which means they are trusting seatbelts to keep them safe more than ever and they expect them to work, by minimizing the injury-causing potential of a crash.

Unfortunately, however, it’s possible that millions of vehicles on the road are equipped with defective seatbelts that will not provide reasonable protection in otherwise survivable accidents and, tragically, most won’t realize it until they get into an accident, even though a number of these defects have been known by the auto industry and federal regulators for a long time.

Common Seatbelt Defects Include:

Inertial Unlatching – Sometimes, a defective latch and buckle mechanism can lead to inertial unlatching, in which the inertia of the collision causes the seat belt to spontaneously become unlatched, causing it to pull out of the buckle. For years, the auto industry has denied that such a phenomenon happens, but recent research has demonstrated that it can happen and it is believed that millions of vehicles are susceptible to this problem.

False Latching – This problem happens frequently, when the latch plate, when inserted into the buckle, looks, feels and even sounds as if it is fully latched, even though it is not, which means that any force at all can cause the buckle to completely release the latch plate, which is roughly the same as not being belted at all and being unrestrained in the passenger compartment. As one can guess, when this happens, occupants are frequently thrown against the steering column, dashboard or the windshield or even ejected from the vehicle, all of which can cause severe injuries.

Ripped or Torn Webbing – The webbing in a seatbelt is supposed to be designed to survive almost anything that is thrown at it without tearing or ripping, so when a seatbelt’s webbing is torn, it is almost certainly a manufacturing or design flaw. In many cases, this happens when the seatbelt becomes too loose, which can cause the belt to snap back too rapidly, thus putting excess stress on the webbing, or it can be the result of sharp edges protruding due to some design flaw in the vehicle.

Retractor Failure – The seatbelt retractor is supposed to lock the seatbelt in place when there is a crash, but sometimes the belt develops too much slack, which can be a major factor leading to serious injury. In a front-end collision, the shoulder belt should be snug and tight enough to keep the occupant in the seat and away from dangerous hard surfaces, but if the belt fails to retract properly, the result can be devastating. Retractors can fail for a variety of reasons, although most are due to design and manufacturing defects

Texas Auto Defect Lawyers

There are also a lot of design problems common with automotive component parts, and defective seatbelts often make injuries far worse than they would otherwise be. Often, seatbelt performance is difficult to detect and highly dependent on the facts surrounding each accident. It takes a specially trained and experienced attorney to look into the situation and determine whether or not a defective seatbelt was a factor and then to gather all the physical evidence proving that to a judge or jury. The Auto and Truck Accident Attorneys at the Gutierrez Law Firm have the experience and the knowledge to get you the best possible recovery, when seatbelts, or any other vehicle safety device, fails to protect you or your loved ones in a crash. If you have been in an accident, give us a call today.