Automakers all around the world as well as the federal government –
the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) – are
being lambasted in the news after recent studies have revealed that the
seatbacks of most automobiles will collapse violently during rear-end
collisions. The result can be the driver or front seat being catapulted
into the backseat area of the vehicle, resulting in their own serious
injuries, the serious injury of anyone back there, or both. In particular,
children strapped into safety seats can do nothing to prevent the driver-to-passenger
collision and have been reported to suffer catastrophic injury because of it.
A Texas jury recently granted a $124.5 million verdict in a case involving
a collapsing seatback. The driver was thrown into the back of the car,
causing permanent brain damage to his young son sitting directly behind
him; his other child was unharmed and had been positioned behind the empty
passenger seat. An expert witness in that case claimed that automakers
knew of the problem, and another in an earlier case said that it would
only cost them a few dollars to prevent.
Gross Negligence Causes Serious Injuries
According to the expert witness who testified in the case against German
auto manufacturer Audi, front seats that can recline are usually only
braced on one side, where the reclining mechanism is placed. This causes
an imbalance and general weakness in the chair’s structure, causing
it to collapse. If another metal brace is added to the other side and
across the chair, which would take a few dollars of metal and labor to
install, the seatback is far less likely to collapse.
Audi defended itself, stating that the seats were designed specifically
to collapse to absorb the force of an impact, and that an adult in the
backseat was meant to support the front with their own knees. There are
clear problems with a safety design that relies on having an adult passenger
in the vehicle seated in a particular spot and that simultaneously encourages
the dismantling of its own internal components in a crash. Even so, Audi’s
lawyer claimed that the company was proud of its design and a company
representative said that they were displeased with the verdict.
What is Being Done to Help Consumers?
Tracing the case back to the NHTSA, evidence and internal reports suggest
that the organization knew of seatback failures for at least a decade.
They claim they did not take corrective action to enforce new seatback
safety standards because despite seatback collapse being a common problem,
the resulting injuries are rarely severe enough to call for investigation.
Before the NHTSA can legally take action, a certain percentage of all
car accidents need to experience the same problem or cause the same injury. So their
hands are more or less tied on the issue right now.
With Audi openly expressing its dissatisfaction with the verdict, it does
not appear that automakers are going to take the initiative and correct
the problem, either. In the meantime, consumers must drive carefully and
be willing to take matters into their own hands when something goes wrong
by filing injury claims against negligent companies. If you have been
hurt by a
defective or dangerous product in Florida,
contact Stuart Personal Injury Attorney Lauri J. Goldstein. She and everyone else on our staff wants you to be granted the maximum
compensation for your injuries, and we will do everything in our power
to ensure that happens.
Call 866-675-4427 to set up a
free initial consultation today.