Injuries in Auto Accidents When Car Seats Break
On an October 28, 2015, segment of CBS News Investigates, individuals described the devastating effects on their lives that resulted from auto makers’ low standards for testing the strength of car seats to ensure they will not break during car accidents. According to CBS, all the manufacturers have to do is put a brace across a seat, attach it to a winch, and pull – and they can pass the federal standard. Car crash experts showed that even a banquet chair could pass the test, which does not bode well for Missouri drivers. As a St. Louis personal injury attorney, this fact leaves me very concerned about the potential for harm to Missouri drivers and passengers in car crashes.
Every day, an average of three children die in car accidents, and another 470 are injured. Of those, 11% are sitting in the rear seats, which is the recommended location for children. However, National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) standards are so low for the strength of the seats in front of them that children in rear seats are at substantial risk of injury in motor vehicle collisions.
The parents of a 16-month old child had their lives changed forever when their mini-van was rear-ended at 55 mph. The child was sitting in the seat behind her father, whose seat broke after collapsing on impact and struck the child in the face, killing her. Crash tests have demonstrated what can happen when a seat collapses. The seat is launched backwards and slams into a child’s face. Children are not the only individuals at risk for injury in these accidents. Drivers’ heads crash into seat backs, sometimes resulting in injury, paralysis, or death. For example, a 70 year old woman was paralyzed in 2011 when the seat of her vehicle broke after being hit from behind. People harmed in automobile accidents like these may have claims against the auto makers for product liability. If a loved one was killed, their family members may choose to bring a wrongful death suit against the manufacturer as well.
Sadly, according to car crash experts, auto makers have been aware of the problem for decades. What is more troublesome is that the NHTSA also has known for many years. In fact, in 1992, the NHTSA, whose job is to look out for the safety of the public, warned of the danger of seat breakage and cited examples of “major or fatal injuries” when seat backs collapse. Even after stating in 2000 that the NHTSA would be “looking into the seat back issue within a year,” the standard as of 2015 is the same as it was in the 1960s. In fact, the NHTSA abandoned research into the issue 11 years ago despite the continued high risk of harm, personal injury or death to drivers and their passengers.