Why Vehicle Seats Commonly Fail During Crashes

Defective seat backs are a common flaw, even in modern-day vehicles. Rarely do consumers give a second thought to the design or utility of seat backs in a crash. Unfortunately, the seat back mechanism in most passenger vehicles traveling on U.S. roads is less structurally sound than a lawn chair you can purchase from a discount retailer.

So, what exactly can go wrong with a seat back? Listen to Langdon & Emison partner Bob Langdon as he recalls one of the most meaningful seat back failure cases he has handled during his 40-plus year career.

Far too often, our attorneys have seen significant, sometimes fatal injuries occur to passengers sitting in rear seats of vehicles because a front seat back collapses or flings backward and strikes the passenger in the back. These are often catastrophic injuries, usually blows to the head.

When a seat back fails, the seatbelts and airbags are often completely ineffective, leaving passengers with little or no protection. In these cases, we’ve seen seat occupants suffer severe injuries, such as paralysis.

In recent defective seat back cases our firm has handled, we have seen critical design flaws, including:

  • The seat had the propensity to fail and collapse backward during reasonably foreseeable crashes causing enhanced injuries to occupants during the crash.
  • The manufacturer did not design the driver’s seating system and driver’s seat back such that it would not fail, break, or collapse backward during reasonably foreseeable crashes.

Why do Automakers Make this Error?

In short, because of money. We have found time and again in our practice that auto manufacturers are equipped with the knowledge that extra safety precautions could save lives, but they choose not to install them. We have seen, for instance, General Motors engineers design safer seats to be more protective on impact, but the company chose not to put them in all vehicles because such a wholesale change would call too much attention to the fact that the old seats were not as safe. In short: GM chose profits over human safety.

Contact Langdon & Emison

Langdon & Emison is recognized as one of the nation’s leading law firms in auto product liability litigation and routinely handles cases involving defective seat backs and other vehicle defects. We have obtained record multi-million dollar verdicts in seat defect cases, including:

  • $59 million jury verdict in a case involving a reclined seat failure.
  • $43.1 million jury verdict on behalf of a woman who became quadriplegic after the seat back in her car failed when she was rear-ended while waiting at a stoplight.

If you or a loved one has been involved in a car accident during which a passenger seat broke or failed in some way, contact our firm for a free consultation at 866-931-2115 or click on the chat button. We will evaluate your potential case at no cost or obligation to you.