Defective Seat Belts in Kentucky Car Accidents: Creating a False Sense of Security


While seat belt use provides the most effective safety protection from traumatic brain injuries, internal organ damage, spinal cord injuries and other permanently debilitating injuries, a defective seat belt can create a false sense of security that leaves vehicle occupants unprotected during a collision.  There are conscientious vehicle occupants who suffer more significant injuries or lose their lives because of the failure of some component of their seat belt.  Vehicle manufacturers have not made significant changes to seat belts for decades despite a widespread awareness that safer designs exist because cost has been emphasized over safety.  While it is hard to imagine the sense of shock and distress drivers and passengers experience when their seat belt fails during a car crash, the physical toll is evidenced by horrific injuries and fatalities.

Those who suffer more severe injuries during a collision because of a defective seat belt might have a claim for financial compensation based on product liability law, but these cases can be challenging.  Police reports prepared during a collision where a vehicle occupant is ejected during a road departure accident or rollover crash will typically indicate that the ejection victim was not wearing a seat belt.

Unless the fabric weave of the belt tears, there may be little evidence visible to the investigating officer to distinguish non-use of a safety restraint from failure of the restraint system.  However, our experienced Kentucky defective seat belt car accident lawyers work with industry experts to examine vehicles following collisions to determine if vehicle defects contributed to a collision or resulting injuries.  It is not uncommon for vehicle occupants to dispute a police officer’s conclusion that another occupant who was injured was not wearing a seat belt based merely on the fact that the occupant was ejected from the vehicle.  These types of factual disputes can complicate personal injury and wrongful death lawsuits.

There are a variety of seat belt defects that may contribute to more severe injuries during a motor vehicle collision that include:

Defective Retractors: The retractor device on a seat belt is engineered to operate much like the mechanism on household pull down retractable blinds.  When sudden pressure is applied the mechanism snaps back so that the strap is held tight against the body of the driver or passenger.  When the device does not fully retract or jams because of a defect, the slack in the seat belt can constitute the difference between minor cuts, sprains, dislocations or bruises and catastrophic injury.

Substandard Webbing of the Belt: When substandard materials are used in manufacturing the weave of the nylon, fabric or polyester, the webbing may be susceptible to rips or tears during a collision.

No Shoulder Harnesses: Some newer vehicles and many used vehicles do not equip all seats with shoulder harnesses.  According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), seat belts are fifteen more effective when they also include a shoulder harness.  The shoulder harness reduces the risk of vehicle occupants being thrown against a hard surface like the steering wheel or dashboard of a vehicle.

Inertial Unlatching: The force of a collision can cause the buckle mechanism on a seat belt to detach, but this type of defect usually necessitates expert testimony to explain how the buckle can become detached during a rollover collision.

False Latching: If the buckle is defective, the latch may sound and feel like it has become fully engaged but only be partially latched.  During the force exacted on the buckle during a crash, the tongue of the seat belt may detach from the buckle.

If you are injured or lose a family member in a car crash in Louisville or the surrounding areas of Kentucky, you may have a right to pursue financial compensation from a negligent driver, vehicle manufacturer, public entity or other parties depending on the specific circumstances.  Our experienced Kentucky defective vehicle accident lawyers at the Bruce Law Group can answer your questions and explain your rights.  We offer a free consultation so call us today at (502) 489-8887 or contact us via email.