There are thought to be two collisions in an auto accident. The first collision is the vehicle’s impact with another vehicle or object. The second collision is the passenger’s impact with the interior of the vehicle, or in cases of ejection, impact outside the vehicle. Seat belt injuries can occur when a defective seat belt fails to adequately protect a vehicle passenger in the “second collision” phase of an automobile accident. The purpose of a seat belt is to minimize the injuries and damage caused in a second collision by reducing or eliminating injurious occupant contact with the vehicle’s interior. Seat belt injuries often occur when there is a seat belt design, production, or installation defect. There are a plethora of injuries that may occur as a result of a defective seat belt or from failure of a seat belt: spinal cord injury, brain or head injury, paralysis, internal injuries, amputations, broken bones, concussions and fatalities.
Our firm is currently involved in several defective seatbelt cases. In one case, Riley v. Ford, the Riley family had left a high school football game in south Mississippi, headed to their home. On the way, another vehicle struck their vehicle, causing their vehicle to go out of control, into the median, and flip. During the process, the seatbelts failed to hold in the mother and one of their children, a precious five-year-old child. The mother’s legs were ejected out of the window and the vehicle came to rest on her legs, causing serious injury. A bracket which held the buckle assembly for the daughter’s seatbelt broke during the rollover process. The Riley’s daughter was partially ejected and killed.
We recently settled a products liability case in Clarke County, Ala. The case, Clark v. General Motors, arose from a single-vehicle rollover crash involving a 1999 Pontiac Grand Am that occurred on February 6, 2008. During the low speed rollover crash, Leanne Clark’s seatbelt opened up and she was ejected from the car. As a result of the seatbelt’s failure to restrain her during the rollover, Ms. Clark is now a paraplegic. Another company designed and manufactured the seat belt system, including the buckle used in the Grand Am. Both defendants knew the seatbelt would be used in foreseeable rollover crashes and that the buckle had failed previously in other rollover crashes. Despite this knowledge, the Defendants failed to test the buckle to ensure it would withstand a rollover crash and refused to implement a system to collect field complaints. This case was settled for an amount that is confidential against both defendants. We also agreed not to mention the name of the other Defendant in the Report.
If you need more information about seatbelt defects, contact Labarron Boone, Mike Andrews, or Ben Locklar at 800-898-2034 or by email at Labarron.Boone@beasleyallen.com, Michael.Andrews@beasleyallen.com, or Ben.Locklar@beasleyallen.com.
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