By now, everyone understands that
children riding in a car are safer in a child safety seat placed the backseat
in the event of an auto collision. Seat belts, booster seats for older children
and approved child safety seats have become the norm for families wanting to
protect their most precious cargo.
It almost defies reason then that
federal standards that oversee the safety of the front seatbacks in passenger
vehicles haven’t been updated for 50 years.
As incredible as that sounds, a
CBS investigation found that the core of the seat of most family vehicles is no
more substantial than a flimsy aluminum lawn chair. Even with padding or a leather
surface, a seat so inadequate passes the antiquated standards of the National
Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA).
Crash test videos show that when
hit from the rear, the front driver and passenger seat can collapse backward
into whatever or whoever is in the back seat. At the same time, upon the
seatback collapse, the front passengers can be launched backward often out of
CBS reports that 100 people have
been severely injured or killed due to seat back failures since 1989. Most were
children. Seventeen children have died in the past 15 years alone, reports CBS,
in otherwise survivable crashes.
Friedman Research Corp.,
analyzing data from 1990 to 2014 from NHTSA, found 898 children died in rear
impact crashes when they were seated behind a front-seat occupant or in the
center rear seat.
The reason for the discrepancy in
the numbers is that the national database does not capture seat back collapse
NHTSA reports 29% of traffic
accidents involve a rear-end collision, either at a low or high speed.
Parents buy what they believe to
be the safest vehicle they can for their family, but even a five star safety
rating does not address this major seatback standard failure.
Seat Failures Can Be Fixed
Sometimes, we learn the most from
trials where discovery shows a jury what an industry knows but would rather
In 2012, the family inside an
Audi sedan was rear-ended in San Antonio, Texas. A seven-year-old boy was in the seat behind
A Texas jury awarded the family $124.5
million in compensation because the father’s driver’s seat collapsed onto his
son, causing the boy permanent brain damage, partial paralysis, and loss of
His younger brother sat next to
him, but behind the front seat which wasn’t occupied. He was fine.
The jurors decided Audi exhibited
gross negligence, but even still, it met or exceeded NHTSA safety standards. An
engineer testified at trial that the seats are working the way they are
supposed to. By collapsing backward they absorb the energy from the impact, but
at what cost?
It didn’t help Audi’s case when
jurors were told that the “fix” that is needed to make the seatbacks stronger costs
just a few dollars per seat.
Most major automakers have these
flimsy seats except Mercedes, Volvo, and BMW, which have upgraded their safety
Seat Back Failure Design
The Center for Auto Safety has
filed a petition with the NHTSA to fix this serious defect that has existed for
50 years. The Center wants a new seatback failure standard and a warning to
A small study from the
Association for the Advancement of Automotive Medicine determined that there was
a doubling of the injury risk for children in the back seat behind drivers in
most major automobiles. It found that rear impacts account for 15% of all
tow-away crashes involving children bucked into the rear seats, though severe
rear-end crashes are less common.
Adding to the problem, a child
safety seat puts the child a bit closer to the front seat and potential impact.
Biloxi Personal Injury Law Firm
So, what is a parent to do if
they do not own a Mercedes, Volvo or BMW?
One thing we can all do is contact the NHTSA and demand stronger upgraded
seat back standards for all vehicles. Next, look for other automakers who have
decided to upgrade seat back safety standards on their own.
If you or a loved one has been
injured in an automobile crash, please contact the experienced and
compassionate lawyers at Reeves and Mestayer. We understand how to investigate
a crash and all of the components of your personal injury lawsuit.
Let us help you seek compensation
for pain and suffering, injury, property loss, and lost wages. You can reach
Reeves and Mestayer at our Biloxi office at 1-855-558-2977 to schedule a complimentary to discuss your
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