Defective Seatbelt Injury Cases in California

In a recent period of just nine years, 23,125 motor vehicle occupants were killed in California. Studies suggest that more than half of these people were not properly restrained by a seatbelt in the accidents that took their lives. There is no question that seat belts play a major role in the safety of drivers and their passengers. By some estimates, seat belts prevent more than 12,000 deaths per year in the United States.

Although seat belts have greatly improved traffic safety over time, some seatbelts don’t function properly and cause people to suffer serious – or even fatal – injuries. Millions of seat belts have been the subject of consumer product safety recalls in the past year. Unfortunately for consumers, these seatbelt recalls often come far too late, with many people having suffered severe injuries before the manufacturer or the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration realizes that something is wrong.

If you or someone you love was hurt in an accident and you believe that a defective seatbelt was to blame, you should understand the rights that every consumer has under California law. This post provides a basic introduction to faulty seatbelt lawsuits in California. First, we talk about the types of injuries that can be caused by a seatbelt malfunction. Then, we talk about some common causes of seatbelt failure. Finally, we give an overview of how an experienced California defective seatbelt lawyer can file a lawsuit on behalf of an injured person in order to secure compensation for his or her injuries.

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What Types of Injuries Are Caused by Defective Seatbelts?

Because of the configuration of a standard seatbelt, most seatbelt injuries are limited to the head, neck, torso, arms, pelvis, and thighs. When a seatbelt fails to function properly in an accident, injuries might include traumatic brain injury, spinal cord injuries, fractured or broken bones, severe bruising, whiplash, internal organ damage, muscle and tissue damage, and skin lacerations. Tragically, a seatbelt failure in a serious accident can be fatal.

The injuries caused by seatbelt malfunctions are serious and are usually worthy of financial compensation. If you were involved in an auto accident and believe that a seatbelt caused your injuries or made them significantly worse, you should speak to a lawyer who handles faulty seatbelt lawsuits to discuss your legal rights.

What Causes Seatbelt Failure?

A seatbelt malfunctions when it fails to safely restrain a driver or passenger of a motor vehicle. A defective seatbelt can fail in an accident or may cause injuries even without an accident. There are several common causes of seatbelt failure, including:

  • Weak latches or buckles
  • Defects in the seatbelt webbing, which should withstand the force of an accident
  • Issues with the seatbelt anchors that bolt the seatbelt to the body of the car
  • Problems with the automatic seat belt retractor, which is designed to store the seatbelt once unbuckled
  • An improperly functioning electronic control unit (or “ECU”)
  • Technical or mechanical problems with passive restraint systems (these types of systems “automatically” belt a driver or passenger once activated)
  • Improperly functioning “pretensioners,” which are supposed to lock the seatbelt in the event of a sudden movement or accident

If you believe that one ore more of these factors contributed to the injuries you sustained, you should speak to a California attorney who specializes in product liability law. An attorney will help you understand whether filing a defective seatbelt lawsuit is the right course of action for you and can tell you how much your case might be worth.

A Faulty Seatbelt Lawsuit Can Get You the Compensation You Deserve

If you live in California and were injured by a defective seatbelt in a car accident, you have certain legally recognized rights. All products sold in the state, including vehicles and seatbelts, must function properly. When a manufacturer (or supplier or seller) puts a faulty seatbelt on the market and it causes injuries, the manufacturer, supplier, or seller may be strictly liable under a legal theory called strict product liability.

In order to establish strict product liability in California, an injured consumer must prove the existence of three elements. An “element” is a critical building block of a lawsuit: without any of the following elements, the consumer’s claim will fail. The elements of a strict liability action for a faulty seatbelt in California are:

  1. The seatbelt was used as it was intended to be used or in a reasonably foreseeable manner. This includes any reasonably foreseeable misuse, abuse, changes, or alterations to the seatbelt by the consumer.
  2. The seatbelt was in defective condition at the time it left the possession of the manufacturer, supplier, or seller that has been sued.
  3. The defective seatbelt was the legally recognized cause of the injured person’s bodily injuries and other damages.

There are three ways in which a seatbelt might be defective under California law. A seatbelt may have a design defect, which means that there is an inherent problem with the design of the restraint that causes it to be unsafe. Another type of seatbelt defect is a manufacturing defect, which occurs when a problem in the manufacturing, assembly, or installation process causes the seatbelt to be dangerous to consumers. Finally, a seatbelt might have a marketing defect. This happens when the manufacturer fails to include proper instructions for seatbelt use in the car’s manual or markets the seatbelt in such a way that consumers do not use it properly.

How Can a California Seatbelt Injury Lawyer Help?

If you were injured in a serious accident as a result of a seatbelt malfunction, you should contact an experienced California seatbelt injury lawyer right away. Sometimes, filing a product liability lawsuit against the company that manufactured your seatbelt or vehicle can be the only way to get the compensation you deserve after an accident. An aggressive law firm will pursue your rights to the fullest extent of the law, allowing you to focus on recovering from your injuries and returning to the life you enjoyed prior to your accident.

Andy Gillin

Andy Gillin received his Bachelor’s Degree from the University of California at Berkeley and his law degree from the University of Chicago. He is the managing partner of GJEL Accident Attorneys and has written and lectured in the field of plaintiffs’ personal injury law for numerous organizations. Andy is a highly recognized wrongful death lawyer in California.