We have also seen public safety messages and campaigns related to seat belts, such as “buckle up for safety” and “click it or ticket.” Despite the widespread publicity promoting the importance of seat belts if one is involved in a serious car accident, there is an important piece of information that is not widely known to the public. Thousands of drivers dutifully buckle their seat belt and that of their children every time they get behind the wheel, only to find that their safety belt does not provide the protection that was promised. Thousands of Americans have been killed or suffered catastrophic injuries during auto accidents despite conscientious use of their seat belts, because their belts have suddenly become unlatched or otherwise failed.
Seat belt manufacturers, and U.S. automakers that install seat belts, have known for over three decades that seat belt buckle systems were designed to be inexpensive. The cheap design and fabrication leaves car occupants particularly vulnerable to a variety of seat belt failures during serious car accidents, often resulting in catastrophic injuries or fatalities. At the Atlanta based law firm of Montlick and Associates, Attorneys at Law, we have been helping the families of those injured or killed in serious car accidents for over 39 years.
The seat belts installed in many vehicles are based on old technology. There have been numerous advances in passive restraint systems over the past two decades, but industry standards that guide the manufacture of seat belts and buckles have remained largely unchanged during this period. There are literally billions of automobiles that are still equipped with buckles based on what many believe is outdated technology from the 1960s.
What is more alarming is that most American drivers are not even aware that their vehicle’s seat belts possess serious defects which could cause them to fail in a serious auto accident. Unfortunately, the auto industry has largely kept these defects hidden to avoid the cost of recalls and increased manufacturing costs. In a lawsuit against one large automaker, it was established that the company changed its plan to incorporate more current and safer seat belt technology because it was determined it would save the company $1.90 per vehicle. Some large U.S. automakers that have used more current and safer seat belt designs have later decided to revert back to the older technology, even though it would only save a small cost per vehicle.
While there are a wide array of reasons that a seat belt may be defective and fail, there are a few types of failures that are most common:
- False Latching: When the car occupant attempts to buckle the seat belt, the latch plate appears, feels and sounds like it is latched. Despite appearances, the latch is not fully engaged so it releases during a serious accident.
- Inertial Unlatching: The extreme force of an auto accident can cause the button on the seat belt to depress causing the buckle to become unlatched. This is a particular problem during rollover accidents.
- Defective Seat Belt Webbing: If the webbing material in the seat belt is manufactured incorrectly it can tear or can be torn by sharp seat components.
- Faulty Retractors: Seat belt retractors are designed to work much like retractable blinds. Sometimes the retractors are defective, allowing slack to remain in the seat belt. A little extra slack can mean the difference between surviving an accident with no serious injuries and being badly hurt.
- Lack of Shoulder Belts: Many automakers only use lap belts in the back seat and middle seats. The failure to provide shoulder belts can lead to serious head and neck injuries.
- Door Mounted Automatic Shoulder Belts: These seat belts pose a risk of the occupant being ejected if the car door opens during a crash and the passenger forgets to add the lap belt.
These are only a few examples of seat belt defects that can lead to catastrophic injuries or fatalities during a serious auto accident. At Montlick and Associates, Attorneys at Law, we know that many times following an auto accident those who diligently buckle up may incorrectly appear to not have been wearing a seat belt in the aftermath of a car accident. Our Georgia defective seat belt injury attorneys will carefully investigate the circumstances of a car accident, and when appropriate, will use experts to analyze whether a seat belt failure may have contributed to your or your loved one’s injuries. Montlick and Associates, Attorneys at Law, assists auto accident victims throughout the entire State of Georgia, including but not limited to the cities of Albany, Athens, Atlanta, Augusta, Columbus, Macon, Marietta, Rome, Roswell, Savannah, Smyrna, Valdosta, Warner Robins and all smaller and rural towns in the State. No matter where you are in Georgia, we will travel to meet with you. Call us today for your Free Consultation at 1-800-LAW-NEED (1-800-529-6333), or visit us on the web at www.montlick.com.