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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 Personal Injury Attorneys, 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.

So how safe are the bucket seats in the lower priced vehicles today? The federal safety standards are so archaic and out-of-date that even garden chairs meet those standards. The National Highway Transportation Safety Administration has been petitioned time and again to strengthen its existing standard. They have received complaints of seat backs collapsing in more than two dozen different cars, including models made by all of the American automobile manufacturers. The standard is so inadequate that the majority of the petitioners are asking for an increase at least 6-fold. That would increase the pull that a seat must withstand from 3,300 inch-pounds to about a 20,000 inch-pounds.

Auto makers know and understand the inadequacy of their products, but they continue to deny those defects and continue to fight every effort that is being made to improve those standards. Of course, all they are concerned about are profits and the bottom line. These seatbacks are made of flimsy metal that cannot even tolerate the effects of a minor rear-end collision. Can you believe that a low speed rear end collision can kill your child? Worse yet, if you are sitting in front of your child, you will be the one causing the injury.

One of our clients, Stephanie Collins went through exactly that. Her 7-year-old daughter, Crystal, died a day after a low-speed rear-end collision that caused the Ford Escort seat back to fail. The front seat seatback with Stephanie sitting in it, slammed back and Stephanie’s head hit Crystal’s chest due to the forces of the rear impact. Where was Stephanie supposed to put her dear daughter? Where in that car would her daughter have been REALLY safe?

These weak seats are not just in Ford Escorts. They are in other Ford vehicles such as the Taurus and Explorer; vehicles made by General Motors and DaimlerChrysler as well. They include compact cars, larger cars, trucks, sport utility vehicles and even minivans – all marketed as “family vehicles” and branded with a five-star safety rating that means nothing to consumers who continue to suffer major injuries and tragic losses.

Check out Ford’s Lincoln line of cars. The Lincoln seats are the strength that is needed to protect the back seat passengers. It isn’t like the auto makers do not have the technology to build stronger seats, they already do.

If you or a loved one has been the victim of seatback failure injuries, please call me, John Bisnar, for a free consultation. In my eyes, these auto makers are as good as criminal offenders. Their disregard for human life and the well-being of their consumers, who place trust in their products, is appalling to me. Enough is enough. They need to pay for their actions! Also, for more information, visit our comprehensive Seat Back Failure Web site.

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