Though seat belts are safety features that have saved thousands of lives since they became required by federal law in 1968, seat belts can cost lives as well — by failing. Victims’ families are legally entitled to a seat belt failure lawsuit, which can be provided by the Willis Law Firm.

What are Seat Belts?

You may think you know what a seat belt is and what it does, but that doesn’t mean you fully understand the nature of seat belts. They can be complex devices serving a variety of functions, depending on where in a vehicle they are placed and what they are designed to do.

Perhaps you could use some seat belt history.

As far back as the first days of primitive motorized vehicles, seat belts have been used. However, seat belts were not widely used until their installation became required by the National Highway Safety Bureau in 1968.

Since then, all passengers cars have had to have seat belts.

However, drivers and passengers were not required by law to wear seat belts until 1984. And even since that time, many Americans haven’t worn seat belts, as a cursory examination of auto fatality reports indicates. In crash after crash, deceased victims were found not to have worn a seat belt.

Now, each state has laws requiring occupants to wear seat belts or other safety restraints. Today, it’s estimated that three-fourths of Americans “buckle up for safety” and wear a seat belt in a moving vehicle.

Nature of Seat Belts

Basically, a seat belt or safety belt constitutes a restraining device with which vehicles such as cars, vans, SUVs and pickup trucks are equipped. (Did you know that many buses have no seat belts?)

In their earliest era, seat belts were geared solely to restrain the body of a driver or passenger at the waist. But soon they became designed to restrain the torso or upper area of the body too. These are what are called two-point seat belts.

Such restraints can be especially helpful when a vehicle is involved in a collision or makes an abrupt stop. Thanks to seat belts, occupants are restrained upon impact or stopping and are less likely to hit another occupant or part of the vehicle’s interior, or — even worse — be thrown from the vehicle.

Ideally, today’s seat belts also serve in unison with an even newer safety element: airbags. Each has a job to do to keep vehicle occupants safe. How Dangerous Are Seat Belts?

You might be surprised how dangerous seat belts can be. As a matter of fact, car manufacturers in America have made more than 1,000 seat belt recalls since 1996. That’s an average of more than 50 seat belt recalls per year.

Of course, this doesn’t change the fact that the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) estimates more than 220,000 lives were saved by seat belts from 1975-2006, and many more since then.

Seat Belt Failures

Defective design, manufacture, assembly or installation of seat belts all can contribute to catastrophic and deadly seat belt failures. Also, seat belts may have inadequate warning labels or instructions pertaining to their use.

“Inertial unlatching” is one form of seat belt failure. That means the impact of a crash which presses the seat belt’s wearer against the safety belt is stronger than the latch or buckle of the seat belt. As a result, the seat belt then becomes unbuckled or unlatched, and the wearer then becomes unrestrained. Inertial unlatching often occurs in rollover wrecks.

“Retractors” release or restrain a seat belt, as needed, but also can fail when they allow excessive slack or “give” in a shoulder or lap belt. Just inches of excessive “give” could be the difference between survival and fatality in a car crash.

“False latching” is another seat belt defect. Wearers may think their seat belt is latched or buckled properly, but that may not be true. In some cases, a buckle or latch fails to work properly, even though it appears it will do so.

Beyond these things, occupants in certain areas of a car may lack adequate restraints and, as a result, may be hurt in a crash. For instance, someone sitting in the middle of the back seat of some vehicles may not have a proper shoulder belt to accompany a lap belt.

Defective seat belt anchors, pretensioners or passive restraint systems also can contribute to seat belt failure in a crash, as can a seat belt’s webbing being ripped or torn.

In other words, many different things can go wrong with a seat belt, and those are not the driver’s or passenger’s fault.

Seat Belt Recalls

Car manufacturers such as Ford, Honda, Toyota and GM have issued many seat belt recalls over the years. Those may be because of errors in the original design, manufacture or assembly.

Auto manufacturers are legally responsible for seat belt defects which cause injuries in accidents.

Such seat belt Injuries can include injuries to internal organs, internal bleeding, pinched nerves, whiplash and impact injuries to the brain, head, torso, abdomen, pelvis or spine, along with broken limbs.

Seat Belt Lawyer

If someone in your family was hurt due to a defective seat belt, contact the Willis Law Firm for a free legal evaluation of your case. You may be due substantial payments for your medical expenses, lost salary and pain and suffering.

Notify a seat belt lawyer today, and find out where you stand in terms of collecting damages for a seat belt failure injury.

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