Defective Seat Belt Injuries
Seat belts are among the most basic safety devices that have the greatest impact on saving lives after a car accident. The purpose of a seat belt is to keep the driver or passenger in their seat during a crash and protect them from being thrown around inside the vehicle. It also reduces the likelihood that an occupant will be thrown from the vehicle after an accident. However, when a seat belt is defective, it can give passengers and drivers a false sense of safety. In the event of an accident, a defective seatbelt can lead to serious injuries or even death.
It has been nearly 50 years since the government mandated all vehicles were to be outfitted with seat belts. Seat belts continue to be required in all cars, trucks, and vans in the U.S., including a three-point safety restraint for all designated seating areas.
In addition, the District of Columbia has one of the strongest seat belt laws in the country. Since 1997, D.C. has required seat belt use by drivers and passengers. Violations of the seat belt law can result in a ticket and 2 points on your driving record. Children who are not properly restrained can result in the driver getting additional fines and points. Drivers are responsible for the seat belt use of their passengers.
According to the Metropolitan Police Department, traffic accidents are the leading cause of death in the U.S., and wearing seat belts is the most effective way to reduce the number of traffic accident fatalities. In the year 2000, an estimated 11,000 lives were saved in the U.S. because of seat belts. Half of all fatalities involved people who were not wearing seatbelts.
How Seat Belts Work
The seat belt mechanism in a modern automobile can be more complicated than most people realize. There may be multiple mechanisms in place that retract the seat belt webbing in the event of an accident. This acts to pull the occupant into the seat and prevent the body moving around from the force of an impact.
A collision sensor can detect the signs of an impact. This includes a sudden change in direction or sudden speed change because of an impact. The seat belt retractor may detect the sudden changes in speed and lock the seat belt webbing to prevent the seat belt from extending out. Sudden braking or a sudden change in steering wheel direction could cause the retractor to engage.
The seat belt retractor system will take out the slack of a seat belt across the occupant's body, helping to restrain them in their seat. However, a load limiter may also allow a small amount of the seat belt webbing to move to absorb some of the force of the impact. The crushing of the vehicle and the supplemental restraint system of the airbags will also absorb some of the force of the impact.
Some of the most serious injuries in an automobile accident can occur when a passenger or driver is not fully restrained. The impact of the body against the steering wheel, dashboard, side door, windshield, or side window can result in serious head trauma, broken bones, and internal injuries. A seat belt can help to prevent these injuries. However, for a seat belt to be effective, it has to work properly.
Defective Seat Belt Recalls
Most people think of a seat belt as a relatively simple device. However, they are still subject to a number of recalls here in the U.S. Over the past 20 years, millions of vehicles have been recalled related to possible seat belt defects. General Motors, Nissan, and Toyota have all recalled vehicles because of potential seat belt defects.
In a GMC recall, a metal cable that connected the seat belt to the vehicle could weaken over time. The cable could separate from the body of the vehicle in an accident, compromising the safety features of the seat belt. In another recall, millions of Toyotas had a potential defect which could result in cutting the webbing of the seat belt. There were at least two reports of people being injured or killed in an accident due to this seat belt defect.
Washington DC Defective Seatbelt Attorneys
If you or a loved one was injured due to a defective seat belt, the car company should pay for their negligence. Dealing with an injury involving a vehicle defect can be complicated. You may have a difficult time dealing with the insurance company, identifying who is responsible, and making sure they pay for your injuries. At Gilman & Bedigian, our personal injury attorneys have decades of experience aggressively pursuing compensation for injury victims and their families. If you or someone you love has suffered an injury in a car accident in the DC area, please contact our law offices as soon as possible.