A Hill Law Firm family member was involved in an accident back in the 1990s. He was rear ended by a vehicle that traveling approximately 35 miles per hour. At the time of the impact, his driver’s seat back broke and his body was slammed backwards into the back seat. He walked away from the car accident, but he was one of the fortunate ones.
Seat back failures are dangerous for both the front and rear seat occupants. These defects often result in major catastrophic injuries. The front seat passenger’s body is thrown backwards into the rear seat cushion, often times injuring their spine or causing total or partial paralysis. Their head may also come into contact with the rear seat passenger seated behind them, resulting in head and brain injuries to both occupants. The rear seat passengers in these vehicles are frequently infants or children. Unfortunately, deaths may also result from the forces involved in this type of collision for both the front seat and rear seat occupants.
There are three basic ways a seat back can fail during a rear end collision, which involve the following areas of an automobile seat:
- The area between the seatback and the cushion frame, also known as the “pivot” area;
- The seat track connection area where the seat slides backward and forward; and
- The area where the seat fastens to the floor.
The national standard for seats in passenger vehicles within the United States, Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard (FMVSS) 207, was originally enacted in the 1970s. The standard requires the seat back in your vehicle to be able to withstand approximately 20 times the weight placed on the seat. Unfortunately, however, the standard does not require that the seat be tested with the weight of a person. By not replicating a person in the seat at the time it was being tested under the federal standard, critics of the standard claimed that it was outdated and not a “real world test.” Some auto manufacturers, such as Mercedes, however, tested their seats with the weight of a person, while most American and Japanese manufacturers did not.
In February of 1992, 60 Minutes ran a two-part report about the hazards associated with seat back failures. Following this report, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) began studying the effects of seat back failures and injuries in rear impact collisions.
In 1995, the popular show Dateline likewise ran a story about the inadequacies of FMVSS 207. During the broadcast, the FMVSS 207 test, which is the national standard for seatback strength in the United States, was performed on an aluminum lawn chair. The lawn chair PASSED the test.
If you have a family member that has been injured or killed by a seatback defect or failure, call the San Antonio Automotive Seatback Failure Lawyer at Hill Law Firm for assistance.