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July 23, 2007

Seat Back Failures in Rear-End Crashes Put Our Children At Risk

I came across a blog article written by Florida personal injury attorney Sean C. Dominick. The topic of his blog is seatback failure - something very close to my heart, because here at Bisnar|Chase, we have represented numerous individuals who have suffered heart-rending losses because the front seats in many of our cars touted as "safe" are simply not sturdy enough and collapse in rear-end collisions. And who is most at risk in these crashes that involve seatback failures? Children!

According to the most recently available numbers, there were estimates of 1,100 deaths and 1,600 serious injuries in 1990 because of seat back failures in rear-end collisions. And I'll bet there are many more accidents now and that the majority of the victims are children, whose faces are used shamelessly in vehicle commercials by the very same auto makers who can so easily prevent these seat back collapse deaths if only they had changed the seat back design by applying proven safety measures and technology that have been readily available for decades.

Most of us know that we should keep our young children out of the front seats of our vehicles because of the danger of larger seatbelts and of course, airbags. But is the back seat really safe? Consider this. In a rear-end accident, the mechanism holding up the back of the bucket seat can break causing the seat to collapse back and the occupant to fall back violently. The impact of a front seat passenger's fall on anyone, especially a child sitting in the back seat could be powerful enough to seriously injure or kill the child. Strangely enough, it's the child, whose parent conscientiously buckles them in to the rear seat, who is most likely to suffer horrific injuries as a result of these seatback failures.

I absolutely agree with Mr. Dominick who rightly points out that there are no known auto industry "... crash tests (performed) using instrumented dummies to evaluate the forces imposed on children in the rear seat in a collision," by the auto makers. Again there is the looming question: How can auto makers claim they are designing a safe vehicle when they are not doing the necessary tests to design that safe vehicle? Or maybe as my partner, Brian Chase, believes, they do not need to do the testing, they know what the results will show. Mr. Chase has conducted extensive testing of front seat collapse with instrumented dummies.

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