Strom Law Firm Columbia SC

Seatbelt Defect Lawyers

South Carolina Seatbelt Accidents and Defects Lawyer

Seatbelt accidentsMany people don’t know that a seat belt can malfunction and fail to protect you in the event of an accident. They can come unfastened because of the inertial forces on the buckle, they can reel out improperly causing the occupant to slide through the belt, they can latch incorrectly, and they can tear. If an occupant is ejected, police officers usually report that the occupant was unbelted. When emergency room doctor hears that the patient was ejected, they routinely write that the patient was not wearing a seatbelt. And if the occupant dies, the family may believe that their loved one was not wearing a seatbelt, even if they routinely wore a seatbelt on a daily basis.

What are Some Common Seatbelt Defects?

There may be a defect in the design or construction of your seat belt. For example:

  • Lap and Shoulder Belts vs. Lap Belt Only – Some older vehicles are only equipped with lap belt only seatbelts, which do not contain an upper torso restraint. These seatbelts have caused severe abdominal injuries, head and facial injuries, and fractures of the spine during a car accident.
  • Tension Relieving Device – Some systems will include a device to create slack on the shoulder belt. This is meant to keep the belt from restricting the occupant’s movement. However, the problem arises when these devices do not retract the belt back after the occupant has moved forward, resulting in permanent slack. This can result in spine fractures, head and facial injuries, and abdominal injuries during an accident.
  • Defective Buckles – Sometimes, the buckle of the seatbelt will malfunction. If this happens, the occupant will not be fully restrained during a car crash and can suffer severe injuries.
  • Passive Restraint Systems – Some safety belt restraint systems include an automatic shoulder restraint coupled with a manual lap belt. Sometimes car occupants will forget to buckle their lap belt because the shoulder belt is automatic. This shoulder belt may fail to completely restrain the body during an accident. The risks include strangulation, liver lacerations, paraplegia, and even decapitation.

Seatbelt Strangulation: Avoiding the risk of seatbelt injuries:

A few tips:

  • Teach children that seat belts are not toys.
  • Be aware that most shoulder belts have a retractor with two locking modes – an emergency locking mode and an automatic locking mode.
  • To lock the retractor (i.e. switch it from the emergency to automatic locking mode): Slowly, without yanking, pull the shoulder belt all the way out. As the belt goes back into the retractor, a ratcheting (clicking) sound may be heard. The belt cannot be loosened without unbuckling the belt and letting most of it go back into the retractor.
  • For any child:
    • Make sure that any shoulder belts nearby to the child are switched to their locked mode.
      • Buckle any nearby shoulder-lap belts. Slowly, without yanking, pull the shoulder belt out to the very end. As you let the belt go back in you will usually hear a ratcheting (clicking) sound – this is normal.

This will prevent the child from being able to wrap the belt around their neck. Don’t forget to snug the belt up after pulling it all the way out.

A defective seat belt can be frightening for any driver. With the proper wearing of seat belts, thousands of lives can be saved per year. But a defective seat belt can be a hidden danger in any type of car, essentially negating any safety precautions that a functioning seat belt would provide. Defective seatbelts can cause serious injury to the spinal cord, head, ribs, chest, and internal organs.

Seatbelt Defects: When Your Seatbelt Fails in an Accident

You are required by law to wear your seatbelt in South Carolina, and all major automakers stress the importance of wearing your seatbelt to reduce the likelihood of injury in a serious accident. Although statistically you are better off wearing a seatbelt in the event of an accident, the reality is that seatbelts can and do fail. When a seat belt fails to work in the event of an accident, serious injuries and wrongful deaths can result.

Seatbelt failures can be the result of poor design or a manufacturing defect. Regardless of the cause, the most important evidence in a seatbelt defect case is the seatbelt system itself.

By looking at the seatbelt system an expert can often determine whether the belt performed as intended or not. The clues are not always readily apparent, but if a vehicle occupant is injured or killed under suspicious circumstances, then precautions should be taken to evaluate if a seatbelt failure occurred.

As a general matter, seatbelts are intended to keep occupants restrained in their seats and to minimize undesired movement during an accident. If the seatbelt does not adequately contain an occupant, then the injured victim may have a product liability claim. For example, if an occupant is ejected despite being belted, then a defective seatbelt may be to blame. Other examples of seatbelt failure include the unlatching of a belt during an accident, the failure of the seatbelt to lock up on impact, or the inability of the belt to adequately protect children.

As South Carolina Seatbelt Defect attorneys we can help

If you suspect a seatbelt defect to be the cause of a serious injury or death, contact us today for a free evaluation of your case (803) 252-4800. As seatbelt defect lawyers we have experience in litigating accidents involving these types of defects, and stand ready to bring our knowledge to bear for consumers injured by a defective seatbelt.