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Seat Back Malfunctions in Rear-End Auto Accidents

As a personal injury firm, we deal with motor vehicle accident cases on a daily basis. The vast majority of incidents involve a conflict between two drivers or some kind of insurance discrepancy. However, some cases are unique in that they center around a defect with the plaintiff’s car– seat back failures are a common example. 

When a vehicle is involved in a rear-end collision, either with another vehicle or some kind of object or landmark, occasionally the front seatbacks of either the driver or passenger (or both) will malfunction, causing the seat(s) to fly backward. 

Risks of Seat Back Malfunctions 

A seatback malfunction is a problem for several reasons– the first of which is that it can take a relatively mild incident and make it much more dangerous by incapacitating or otherwise displacing the driver. The second and more important reason is that it poses a health risk not only for those in the front being thrown back, but also for any passengers in the back who are crushed by the falling seats. 

Typically, those passengers are children. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has reported that, in the 24-year span from 1990 to 2014, almost 900 children died after being involved in rear-end collisions while seated behind a front passenger, for vehicles made from 1990-onwards. 

Aside from death, the driver and/or passengers in a car that has experienced a seat back malfunction can also sustain the following injuries:

  • Concussions and Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI)
  • Whiplash and other neck injuries 
  • Back and spine injuries 
  • Paralysis
  • Broken bones
  • Torn ligaments and soft tissue damage 

Defect Causes/ Legislation

In most cases, seatback malfunctions arise from a combination of poor manufacturer design and lackluster installation. Unless you’ve replaced your seat with an aftermarket product, auto manufacturers are responsible for ensuring the efficacy of the seatback function in your vehicle. 

Every car should be designed with the possibility of collision as the top priority, however, most automakers frequently scimp on costs by implementing cheaper materials that do not properly support the weight of a passenger after a crash.

Oftentimes, when they are questioned about these decisions, their answers are comically inadequate. After one family in Texas successfully sued Audi over their son’s permanent brain damage that resulted from a seatback failure, one of the company’s engineers said that the original intent of the design was to have the passenger support the front seat with their knees. 

Almost all of the legislation regarding car safety is remarkably old– the Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard, which is the standard that governs seat safety, has not been updated since its adoption in 1967. The NHTSA stated in 1974 that they would overhaul the seating criteria, but the project has been abandoned for years. 

As a result, automakers have taken it upon themselves to set their own standards, and therefore avoid more stringent regulations. However, as personal injury attorneys, we will never stop holding them accountable for cutting corners and putting drivers and their children at risk. 

Contact Us

If you or a loved one has been involved in a motor vehicle accident and experienced a seat back malfunction, contact a medical professional right away to address any immediate health concerns. Then call the experienced team of seat back malfunction attorneys at Van Law Firm

Call (702) 529-1011 today to get your case started with a free consultation. Our staff of knowledgeable personal injury and car accident lawyers can recover multiple forms of compensation, from medical costs to property damages and lost wages.