Seatback collapse to blame for crash fatalities

It’s a parent’s worse nightmare: to survive an auto accident only to find out that your child, who was safely strapped in their car seat behind you, has not.

It’s a sad reality for many Americans, and knowing that it could have been prevented hasn’t helped. The culprit? Your very own seatback.

In rear-end collisions, the front driver and passenger seats of many vehicles can collapse backwards, launching the occupants into the backseat area. The result can cause death, or life-changing injuries like permanent paralysis as a result of spinal cord injuries or serious head injuries to both the front and back seat occupants.

Auto safety experts have been demanding reform for years, stating that the seatback standards for automakers set by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) aren’t strict enough. The federal agency insists it has looked into the issue, but holds that it would be too challenging to upgrade the standard because such accidents are considered rare. The agency stopped reviewing changes to the standard back in 2004.

A 2008 study released by The Association for the Advancement of Automotive Medicine found that children with seatback deformation occurring directing in front of them, doubled their chances of injury risk.

Up until this point, the majority of research has been focused on frontal and side impact crashes as these directions are most common. There are about 1.7 million rear-end accidents on U.S. roads annually.

A recent victory for seatback collapse safety came this past June, when a Texas jury awarded a more than $124.5 million verdict against the automaker Audi, after a 7-year-old boy suffered permanent brain damage, partial paralysis, and partial loss of his eyesight when the driver’s seat his father was sitting in collapsed. The boy’s brother, who was sitting behind the unoccupied front passenger seat was uninjured.

Unfortunately for most consumers, there is no way of knowing just how safe your vehicle’s seatbacks are until it is too late. However, Mercedes, BMW and Volvo have strengthened their seatbacks well above the NHTSA standards to protect against failures during a rear-end collision.

The cost for vehicle manufacturers to upgrade their seatbacks to something more robust? Only a few dollars per seat.

How to keep your child safe

-Place children in the rear-middle seat.

-If possible, place children in third-row seats

-If unable to place child behind empty seat, place them behind the shortest, lightest passenger.

-Ensure that child safety seat is rear-facing.

What we can do for you

These types of personal injury cases can be very difficult and expensive to try, because of the evidence, expert testimony and crash reconstruction necessary. If you or someone you love has been injured or killed in an accident involving seatback collapse, we here at The Carlson Law Firm are eager to help. Please contact us today for your free consultation.


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