Every year seat belts save lives. When a seat belt is defective, people can get injured or killed in a crash who may have otherwise survived. If you or a loved one has been injured because of a defective product, please do not hesitate to contact the Law Office of Jeremy Rosenthal today for a free case consultation. Denver accident lawyer, Jeremy Rosenthal, has been practicing law in Colorado for over a decade. He is dedicated to helping his clients recover just compensation for the injuries they have suffered so they can move on with their lives. Call his office today at (303) 825-2223, or click here to fill out the online form.
Seat Belt Use Increased Over The Years
Seat belts have been in cars in some form since at least 1964. The shoulder belt wasn’t introduced until 1968, and the “integrated lap and shoulder belts” were introduced in 1974. However, even with though these life-saving devices were required to be in new passenger vehicles that were put on the market, they were not widely used. In 1982, a survey of people in 19 cities found just “11 percent belt use for drivers and front-seat passengers.” The first state to enact a seat belt law was New York in 1984. Other states soon followed suit, with every state, except New Hampshire, enacting some kind of seat belt law by 1996. Overall, seat belt use has improved dramatically in the past 30 years. In 1983, only 14% of front seat occupants used seat belts. In 2015, that number had improved to 89%.
There are two kinds of seat belt enforcement laws in the states: primary enforcement seat belt laws and secondary enforcement seat belt laws. Primary enforcement seat belts laws are laws where “a police officer can pull a vehicle over and issue a ticket just because a driver or passenger covered by the law is not wearing a seat belt.” A secondary enforcement seat belt law is a little different, under this kind of law, it “only allows a police officer to issue a ticket for someone not wearing a seat belt if the driver has been pulled over for some other offense.” Currently, 31 states have primary enforcement seat belts laws and 18 states, including Colorado, have secondary enforcement seat belts laws. In addition, the District of Columbia also has a primary enforcement seat belt law. The type of law makes a difference in seat belt use. According to the CDC, “[s]eat belt use in 2015 was 91% in states with primary enforcement laws but only 79% in states with secondary enforcement laws or no seat belt laws.”
Seat belts save lives by keeping vehicle occupants “in their seats during a crash” Without a seat belt, “people risk hitting things inside their vehicle and being ejected altogether.” In addition, “safety belts are designed to spread crash forces across the stronger bony parts of the upper body.” They reduce the number of “serious crash-related injuries and deaths” by about 50%. In 2013, seat belts saved about 12,584 people and “12,802 lives in 2014“. In bigger cars such as SUV’s, vans, and pickups seat belts reduces “the risk of a fatal injury by 60%.” In cars, the risk is reduced by 45%.
Defective Seat Belts Can Cause Injuries Or Death
Because of the number of lives that seat belts save every year, it is important that they work properly. If a seat belt is defective, it could cause a person to be injured or killed in an accident that they may have lived through had the seat belt worked properly. Car companies have issued recalls over the years because of defective seatbelts. For example, in April 2016, General Motors issued a recall for a number of 2014-2015 Chevrolet Silverado and GMC Sierra 1500s. The company did this because “the flexible steel cable that connects the seatbelt to the vehicle can fatigue and separate over time as a result of the driver repeatedly bending the cable when entering the seat.” Another recall was issued by Toyota in February of 2016, because of the rear seatbelt in its RAV4 SUV “could be severed in a crash, leaving passengers unprotected.” This recall affects vehicles manufactured between 2005 and 2014. However, in Japan, the recall extends to the 2016 models.
Liability For Defective Products
Consumers can hold companies liable for the defects in the company’s products, such as defective seat belts, when the defective product injures the consumer. There are typically three legal theories that are used in product defect cases: negligence, strict liability, and breach of warranty. When a lawsuit proceeds on the theory of negligence or strict liability, product defects are usually put into three categories:
- Manufacturing Defect: This kind of a defect is when there is an error in the manufacturing process that leaves a product different than how it was supposed to be designed.
- Design Defect: This type of defect occurs when the design of the product itself renders the product unsafe. Thus, a product would still be dangerous for consumers to use, even if the product was made to the exact specifications in the design plan.
- Failure to Warn: This type of defect occurs when a product does not have warnings included or does not have sufficient warnings included.
Under either negligence or strict liability, the plaintiff will have to show that the product is defective. However, with negligence a plaintiff has to prove fault on the part of the manufacturer or company. That is, that the manufacturer’s conduct fell below the applicable standard of care. Under strict liability, this is not a requirement. Rather, strict liability is “is a form of liability that “does not depend on actual negligence or intent to harm, but that is based on the breach of an absolute duty to make something safe.” Black’s Law Dictionary 998 (9th ed. 2009). Under strict liability, if a company puts a defective product on the market, they can be held if that product injures people even if the company was not negligent in creating that product.
The third theory that can be used in defective product cases is a breach of warranty. Warranties can be express or implied. Express warranties are those explicitly made by the seller. Implied warranties are warranties that by law come with a product. The two implied warranties that come up in products liability cases are the implied warranty of fitness for a particular purpose and implied warranty of merchantability.