Seatback Warning to Parents: Defects Driving Many Companies to Court
Parents — here is information you don’t want to miss.
According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), the safest place to put your child is in the backseat. Unfortunately, safety advocates are calling for policy changes following recent media reports drawing attention to numerous cases where defective seatbacks are causing both the driver and the back seat occupant to suffer injuries and even death.
The Center for Auto Safety (CAS), a nonprofit organization that serves as “…a voice for auto safety and quality in Washington,” found nearly 900 instances between 1990 and 2014 in which children seated behind front-seat occupants died in rear-impact crashes. The CAS found 22 lawsuits involving children who were seriously injured or killed by a seatback collapsing onto a child sitting in the rear seat.
There have been cases of seatback failures since the 1980s. Crash tests have shown that many General Motors Corporation (GM) vehicles’ front seats fold into the backseat during high-impact rear-end crashes. During a five-year period in the late 1980s, GM was named in almost 550 lawsuits and received nearly 5,600 owner complaints citing seatbacks as a safety issue. Ford has also defended hundreds of lawsuits involving seats used in various car, SUV, and truck models.
The NHTSA’s current safety standard that all vehicle seats must meet is decades old and has been criticized as being a low standard in rear-impact collisions. In crashes that occur at speeds of more than 30 miles per hour, those seatbacks are capable of crushing children who occupy the rear row.
The standards set by the NHTSA are not holding-up — reports show that injuries and fatalities are continually being attributed to defective seatbacks.
Car Seatback Failure Results
- Risk of injury posed to rear passengers who will be struck by rearward motion of collapsed front seats and passengers
- Loss of vehicle control by a driver when seatbacks collapse during rear impact
- Injury to rear passengers whose bodies may be trapped under the deformed plastic of collapsed front seats
- Reduced effectiveness of restraint systems when seatbacks collapse and allow the front seat passenger to slide rearward and impact rear seats, objects, and passengers
- Ejection of occupants who have slipped out from collapsed restraint systems as a result of seatback failure
- Injury to restrained front seat passengers during frontal impact when seats collapse from rear loading of lap belted or unrestrained rear seat passenger
The continued resistance from auto manufacturers to eliminate defective seatbacks means that people will continue to experience the tragic results. Unless the requirements change, many advocates suggest that fatal injuries will continue to occur.