Over 200,000 Toyota FJ Cruisers Recalled Due to Risk of Seatbelt Failure


March 19, 2013

Despite the many recent advancements in motor vehicle safety that have made occupants of cars, trucks and SUVs safer, seatbelts remain the most effective protection from serious injury in a car accident. Safety enhancements like crash avoidance systems and airbags have provided valuable supplemental forms of protection to vehicle occupants. However, seatbelts remain the best way to keep drivers and passengers within a vehicle and to reduce the risk of contact with a dashboard, steering wheel, windshield or other hard surface. Unfortunately, seatbelts only reduce the risk and degree of injury if they function as intended. Toyota™ has just announced a recall of 209,000 FJ Cruiser SUVs due to a risk of seatbelt failure, according to a report in CNN Money. The recall serves as a reminder that defective vehicle restraint systems can still endanger the safety of motorists.

While front seatbelts are mounted on a metal pillar between the front and backseat in most vehicles, they are mounted to the back doors in the FJ Cruiser. The SUV has rear-hinged doors so the front and rear door open like a clamshell. Because the backdoor may be repeatedly shut with significant force, a metal piece of hardware inside the door upon which the retractor is mounted can crack. If the lower belt anchor cracks, the front seatbelts can break off the mounts.

While Toyota has not reported any injuries caused by the defect to date, consumers with FJ Cruisers subject to the recall should contact the manufacturer to arrange to have the problem corrected free of charge. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has not yet reported the recall, but vehicle owners can visit www.toyota.com/recall for details on which vehicles are involved, or call Toyota at 1-800-331-4331.

While it is too early to tell if this seatbelt defect will lead to injuries and traffic fatalities, seatbelt failure during a collision can substantially increase the severity of injury. Seatbelts that function properly save the lives of approximately 17,000 vehicle occupants annually according to researchers at James Madison University. The Naval Safety Center reports that when seatbelts function as they are designed to operate, they virtually guarantee that the person restrained will not be ejected from the vehicle. Vehicle ejections in SUV rollover accidents and other motor vehicle collisions pose a high risk of severe injury because the vehicle occupant is not protected by the chassis and body of the vehicle.

While there are many defects that can compromise the effectiveness of a seatbelt in a collision, some of the most common include:

Faulty Latch: Some vehicle occupants believe that they have fully latched their belts and even hear the latch click into place. Because the latch is defective, it only appears to be fully engaged, which is referred to as “false latching.”

Defects in Seatbelt Webbing: The material used to manufacture the belt may be defective so that it splits or tears under the force of impact generated by a motor vehicle collision or when it comes into contact with sharp edges in a collision.

Malfunctioning Retractor: When the body is thrown forward in a collision, the retractor device is designed to lock to prevent contact with hard surfaces or vehicle ejection.

Improper Plate Latch: When the latch plate is defective, it may not securely attach to the latch and cause the belt buckle to disengage during a collision.

Faulty Torsion Bars: Some seatbelt systems include torsion bars that twist and fail when excess force is exerted on the device. When this happens the seatbelt will unspool so that the occupant is no longer securely restrained.

Car accident lawsuits involving seatbelt failure are complicated because insurance companies typically argue that the injury victim was not wearing a seatbelt. Our experienced Georgia defective vehicle car accident attorneys at Montlick and Associates are committed to holding automakers responsible for unsafely designed and manufactured vehicles. Montlick and Associates is available to provide effective legal representation to clients throughout all of Georgia and the Southeast, including but not limited to Albany, Athens, Atlanta, Augusta, Columbus, Gainesville, Macon, Marietta, Rome, Roswell, Savannah, Smyrna, Valdosta, Warner Robins and all smaller cities and rural areas in the state. No matter where you are located our attorneys are just a phone call away, and we will even come to you. Call us 24 hours a day/7 days a week for your Free Consultation at 1-800-LAW-NEED (1-800-529-6333). You can also visit us online at www.montlick.com and use our Free Case Evaluation Form or 24-hour Live Online Chat.

Category: Auto Accidents

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