When it works properly, the seat belt and the airbag are indisputably the most important safety devices in an automobile. However, when they work poorly or completely fail to work, serious injuries and even death can occur.
Millions of vehicles on the road have defective seat belt systems. Defective systems are incapable of providing reasonable protection in otherwise survivable accidents. Our attorneys have handled numerous cases involving seat belt defects and have learned that many of these defects have been known to the auto industry for years.
Our attorneys have tested the seat belts and proven that many of the current belt systems do not properly hold the occupant in the seat. Excessive movement of the occupant in a rollover can cause serious injury or death by allowing partial ejection of the head and body through the side window.
While investigating these cases our attorneys have learned seat-belt related failures are specific to rollover-prone SUVs and light trucks.
Rob Ammons talks to NBC news about air bags that don’t deploy even after a major accident
Seat belt defect attorney Rob Ammons talks to CBS news about the new Texas seat belt law mandating seat belts in new school buses.
Common Seat Belt Defects
Our seat belt defects attorneys have discovered some of the more common seat belt defects include:
- Latchplate and Buckle inertial unlatching & false latching: Inertial unlatching occurs when the seat belt becomes unlatched during a collision, allowing the latch plate to pull out of the buckle. Though the auto industry denies that a seat belt can inertially unlatch, recent testing has demonstrated how accident level forces can cause the buckle “pawl” or button to depress and release the latch plate. Millions of vehicles have seat belts that are susceptible to this phenomenon.
- Retractor failure: During an accident, the seat belt retractor “locks” the seat belt webbing and holds the occupant in place. When the retractor fails to properly lock, excessive webbing leads out of the retractor and results in seat belt slack. Sometimes as little as a few inches of slack can mean the difference between an injury-free event and catastrophic or fatal injuries. In a frontal collision, for example, a snug shoulder belt should restrain the occupant in the seat and prevent injurious contacts with the steering wheel and windshield. A slack or loosely fitting shoulder belt might allow the occupant to move forward and contact these objects. Retractors can fail to lock because of design defects as well as manufacturing defects. One failure mode of certain “direct drive” retractors is a phenomenon known as “skip-lock” or “skipping” – which occurs when the retractor lock bar hits the tip of a ratchet tooth and bounces away instead of engaging the root of the tooth and locking the webbing. Auto manufacturers vehemently deny that skip-lock can occur, but it has been documented in the literature as well as in General Motors’ internal research projects.
- False latching: This occurs when the latch plate looks, feels and even sounds like it is latched when inserted into the buckle but is not fully engaged. Minimal amounts of force will cause a falsely latched buckle to completely release the latch plate. When a seat belt is falsely latched or becomes inertially unlatched, the occupant is essentially unbelted and unrestrained and moves as though he or she were never belted in the first place. Such occupants are frequently ejected or found unbelted inside the car. Though the occupant was properly belted before the seat belt became unlatched, the police report will often list the occupant as being unrestrained. Cases involving inertial unlatching or false latching frequently arise when either a surviving occupant insists he or she was belted or when other occupants confirm that the deceased occupant was wearing a seat belt.
- Torn or Ripped Webbing: When the seatbelt tears or is ripped in half during an accident, something has gone terribly wrong. Seat belt webbing is designed to withstand the forces of most survivable collisions without ripping or tearing. Torn or ripped webbing might occur because of a defect or manufacturing flaw in the webbing itself, such as material or weaving deficiencies. Ripped or torn webbing might also be the consequence of some other vehicle defect. Any defect that allows excessive slack or payout of the webbing can cause the belt to be “snap-loaded” – loaded too rapidly, which can sever the webbing. Sharp or protruding edges of vehicle components can also cut through the seat belt.
Evidence that a seat belt failed because of design or manufacturing defects is often subtle and can be difficult to detect. Each seat belt defect lawyer at The Ammons Law Firm is trained to spot any of these common seat belt defects and many more. If a belt failure is suspected, the most important thing to do is preserve the vehicle and the seat belt system. It is extremely difficult to prove that a seat belt failed without the physical evidence. The Ammons law firm seat belt defect attorneys help our clients find results that bring their families relief after seat belts fail in automobile accidents.
Air Bag Defects
According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), more than 41,000 people nationwide were killed in car accidents in 2007. Another 2.5 million people in the United States were injured in motor vehicle crashes during this same time period.
Manufacturers routinely install air bags in almost all vehicles to improve accident outcomes. Air bags are supposed to make drivers feel safer because they are designed to inflate on impact, keeping drivers from hitting the steering wheel, dashboard or windows. Yet oftentimes manufacturing defects can result in air bags that are dangerous, and even deadly. Faulty air bags can cause injuries such as facial fractures; head, neck and spinal cord damage; blindness; ruptured eyes; burns and severe bruising.
At The Ammons Law Firm, our air bag defects attorneys immediately take the steps necessary to help you obtain all of the compensation to which you may be entitled. When an air bag deploys, it inflates with a force approaching 2,000 lbs. and a speed of up to 200 mph. It is not surprising, then, that injuries often occur when drivers and passengers are seated less than 10 to 12 inches from the steering wheel or dashboard.
Ammons Law Firm air bag defects attorneys understand air bags were designed for individuals approximately 5’8” in height and weighing 180 pounds. As a result, air bags pose a substantial hazard to shorter motorists and especially to children. Our air bag defects attorneys are trained to look for the specific problems with air bags that lead to injury. An air bag may fail to deploy upon impact, deploy with too much force, inflate at the wrong angle, or inflate too slowly.
Our air bag defects attorneys can identify problems inherent with many defective air bags. Air bags sometimes deploy when they should not such as in a very low impact situation or when there is no crash at all.
Since air bags were first introduced in 1990, millions of vehicles have been recalled due to air bag defects. As recently as October 2008, Nissan recalled more than 200,000 vehicles after the company discovered a potential air bag sensor problem.
The Ammons Law Firm air bag defects attorneys have resolved many air bag matters and decide the best strategy for handling your unique case. Our air bag defects attorneys can help recover money for your pain and suffering, emotional distress, medical bills and lost wages or other financial damages.
Recalled or Defective Air Bags
With so many drivers taking to the roadways across the country, it is important to consider different ways to optimize highway safety. This includes ensuring that all the moving parts of a vehicle are in working order and not at risk for defect or failure in a way which can lead to dangerous, injury-causing accidents.
Unfortunately, defects or errors do happen and can often affect individual parts of a vehicle that are critical to its overall safety, even those that are not visible, like air bags.
The main function of an air bag is simple – protection. In the event of a collision, an air bag can help prevent more serious injury and may deploy from a number of areas in the vehicle, including:
- Steering wheel
- Above side windows
- Within the seat
Although air bags vary from vehicle-to-vehicle (depending on the make and model), one thing is clear – it is critical that they are in working order and free from any potential defect, including those outlined in safety recalls.
When a Recall Is Necessary
A vehicle may be recalled if its manufacturer or the National Highway Traffic Safety Commission (NHTSA) has determined that the vehicle or any of its equipment, including car seats, tires and air bags, are creating an unnecessary, unreasonable safety risk, or in cases where the vehicle or its parts fail to meet basic safety standards.
Typically, safety standards are compromised by some sort of defect, or an issue existing in the motor vehicle or equipment that poses a major risk to overall highway safety. Sometimes, these defects are strictly performance-based and may be easier to detect, while issues with parts like air bags may not be made clear until a collision occurs.
When a recall occurs, manufacturers are responsible for notifying those registered with the affected vehicles and are required to correct the issue through repair, replacement or refund, if necessary. In rare cases, a recall may be so severe that it can require a manufacturer to repurchase the vehicle.
Personal Injury Due to Defective Products
Although air bags are meant to be life-saving, a defect in an auto product or manufacturig process can prove increasingly dangerous, especially in situations where the air bag fails to deploy, or (in the Takata case) explode.
In addition to worsening injuries caused by the collision, a defective air bag may pose risk for new injuries, including:
- Head trauma
- Spinal trauma
- Broken bones, including those around the head and face
- Cuts, bruises or abrasions due to force
In some cases, air bags or other defective parts in recalled vehicles have been known to cause severe, debilitating injuries, or even death, depending on the circumstances.
Have you or someone you know suffered personal injury due to a defective air bag or failed safety recall? If so, you may have grounds for a personal injury claim, which can help address the many financial challenges that victims often face.
Get Help from Seat Belt and Air Bag Defect Attorneys in Houston, Texas
Based out of Houston, Texas, The Ammons Law Firm LLP proudly advocates on the behalf of personal injury victims, including those dealing with seat belt and air bag defect injuries. Our firm’s knowledge of this area of law is unparalleled, and our team of legal specialists possesses the skills, experience and resources necessary to assist clients from all over the country.
We understand that dealing with injury is never easy, especially if it has come as the result of another’s negligence. Let our seat belt and air bag defect attorneys work with you to secure the justice and restitution you deserve.
We are proud to offer new clients the convenience of a free initial consultation, in order to address your claim as quickly as possible. To schedule yours, call the seat belt and air bag defect attorneys at The Ammons Law Firm LLP at (866) 523-1603.