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Auto Part Defects: Collapsing Front Seats

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.