Motor vehicle crashes are the leading cause of death for children in the United States. As parents, we try our best to keep our children out of harm’s way by ensuring they are always sitting in the back, buckled up and in an appropriate car seat according to their age and height. But did you know that children who are passengers in rear seats are at risk of injury because of a collapsing front seat during a rear-end crash?
From sedans to minivans to luxury vehicles, thousands of injuries are reported every year from seat back failure. Children who are passengers in rear seats of vehicles may suffer severe, life-changing injuries or death when struck by a collapsing front seat in a rear-end crash. And children aren’t the only ones at risk. While child passengers are more likely to sit in the back seat, an occupied collapsing front seat can be a hazard to any rear passenger.
We feel safe getting behind the wheel because we know that vehicle safety standards are in place. We rely on auto manufacturers to warn consumers about any potential dangers and fix those issues for the safety of the public. Unfortunately, this is not always the case.
The Dangers Associated with Seat Back Failure
For decades, regulators and manufacturers have been aware that occupied front seats are prone to collapse under the weight of their occupants during a rear-end collision. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) reports that from 1990-2014, nearly 900 children seated behind a front-seat occupant or in a center rear seat died in rear impacts of 1990 and later model-year vehicles. This data excludes collisions in which a rollover or ejection took place.
When a seat back fails during a crash, the front seat occupant risks violently launching into the back of the vehicle, or worse into the passenger behind them. If a child is sitting behind the faulty seat back, they are vulnerable to being struck or crushed when an occupied front seat collapses rearward.
Crash test videos demonstrating seat back failure are alarming, not to mention extremely terrifying.
Seat Back Failure Lawsuits
Every year, families whose children suffer serious injuries or death from seat back failure file lawsuits against automakers for this safety defect. For example, a family sued Audi after their seven-year-old son suffered consequences of seat back failure after their sedan was rear-ended in 2012. The driver’s seat broke during impact, catapulting the driver headfirst into the young boy. The boy, who now requires care for the rest of his life, suffered permanent brain damage, partial paralysis and lost partial eyesight. His brother, who sat behind the unoccupied front passenger’s seat, during the collision, was uninjured.
During the case’s deposition, an Audi engineer said their car was designed so someone in the back seat would “support the front seat with his knees.”
When a seat back fails to function as intended, back seat passengers face suffering the following injuries:
- Traumatic brain injuries
- Spinal cord injury
- Broken bones
What is Being Done to Improve Collapsing Front Seat Backs in Rear-end Crashes
The auto industry and NHTSA have known about poor seat back performance during rear-end collisions for decades. The Federal Safety Standard has not been upgraded since it was adopted in 1967. Back then, the standard was so low that even a banquet chair would meet the federal guidelines for seat strength.
In 1974, NHTSA announced intentions to develop a new standard that would cover the entire seating system. However, decades later, the agency abandoned the plan stating it needed “additional research and data analysis.”
In a seat back failure lawsuit, an engineer advised strengthening seat backs would cost “on the order of a dollar or so.” Still, NHTSA insists that after looking into the issue, it is very “challenging” to upgrade the standards due to the rareness of these types of crashes.
CBS conducted an investigation regarding seat back failure. After interviewing lawyers and reviewing court cases, the investigation identified more than 100 people who suffered severe injuries or death due to seat back failure related crashes since 1989. The majority of these victims were children.
It is important to note many collapsing front seat related deaths and injuries are not documented as related to seat back failure. With that said, automakers and federal agencies should address seat back failure even if the number of people suffering catastrophic injuries or death because of these failures is small.
Experts interviewed by CBS news reveal that BMW, Mercedes-Benz, and Volvo are voluntarily strengthening their seats well beyond minimum federal requirements while other automakers continue to turn a blind eye.
What Can I Do to Protect my Family From the Dangers of Seat Back Failure?
To protect your family, ensure everyone is wearing seatbelts before every car ride. Additionally, children should be in properly installed, height-and weight appropriate car seats or booster seats.
Nearly half of all car seats installed are done so incorrectly. Installing a car seat the right way reduces the risk of a fatal injury in a collision by 71 percent for infants and 54 percent for toddlers. You can visit a Certified Child Passenger Safety Technician in your area to ensure your little one’s seat is properly installed.
For further safety measures, advocates advise parents to seat their children behind an un-occupied seat or a lighter-weight front passenger.
How The Carlson Law Firm Can Help
Here at The Carlson Law Firm, we believe safety is a top priority which is why we have devoted decades to protecting the rights of injured victims. If seat back failure during a crash caused you harm, contact a qualified Seat Back Failure Lawyer immediately. You may be entitled to compensation.
At a time when you are most in need, you require a team that will support you throughout the often complicated process that lies ahead. Let us analyze your claim, navigate the legal system and pursue maximum compensation on your behalf. We have the resources required to protect your rights against large corporate auto manufacturers. Contact us today for a free, no-obligation consultation. We are available 24 hours a day, seven days a week. We care, we can help.