On Thursday May 20th, 2010, California personal injury and auto defect lawyer, Brian Chase, was featured on Los Angeles’ FOX 11 Ten O’Clock News to discuss defective seatbacks in automobiles. Chase has represented victims of a variety of auto defects, but in recent years, two of his cases have dealt with people whose lives have been drastically changed by injuries resulting from seatback failure.
One of Brian’s cases represents a woman who was rear-ended while waiting at a stop light. The impact from the car caused her seat in the vehicle to collapse and fly backwards. The seat fell into a reclined position and she slipped from her seatbelt harness towards the rear until her head struck the rear passenger seat. She suffered catastrophic injuries from this accident and is now an incomplete quadriplegic.
Another case Brian has led is very similar and on behalf of a woman who was driving her mother and daughter in a Ford vehicle. When they were hit by another car from behind, her seatback collapsed, as previously mentioned, allowing her body to slip through the seat harnesses. She flew toward the rear of the car, but her daughter was seated behind her. Her daughter was struck in the chest and died from her fatal injuries.
Brian discussed during the news report that these accidents happened at extremely low speeds – as low as 15 MPH – and it is because seats in about 95% of vehicles on the road today are built so poorly that they collapse with such low impact in rear-end collisions. In fact, the report describes seats in vehicles to have a framework and structural design no stronger than that of a metal beach chair.
“Why are they built so poorly?” is the next question. According to the report, governmental regulations regarding seats and seatbacks are extremely weak. National Highway Traffic and Safety Administration (NHTSA) manufacturing standard FMVSS 207 only requires that automobile seats meet this low safety standard, nothing more. Few vehicles on the road, including Mercedes vehicles, are free of defective seatbacks.
Despite the fact that it may cost no more than $5-6 per seat to make them stronger, automobile manufacturers have continued to install unsafe seats that cause accidents that claim lives.