All have defective rear seatbelts Volkswagen has been in the news frequently over the past few years as the carmaker has faced criminal and civil penalties over the emissions scandal as well as facing various recalls. A recent report out of Finland indicates that specific Volkswagen-made models, including the Seat Arona, the Seat Ibiza, and the Volkswagen Polo, all have defective rear seatbelts that may detach at high rates of speed or when making turns. The testing found that the middle belt buckle of the backseat can come undone when a vehicle is moving at a slightly higher than normal speed or making sharp turns, especially left turns. The study also found that a small change could help to avoid this defect, such as lengthening one of the belts by two (2) centimeters.
Volkswagen has acknowledged the defect and has vowed to recall all vehicles that are affected by the faulty seatbelt. While this particular report comes out of Europe, it still demonstrates that Volkswagen has not properly designed the rear-middle seatbelt on many of its European-sold vehicles.
Because Volkswagen plans to recall these vehicles to cure the defect, it would not be surprising if governing agencies in the United States begin to investigate Volkswagen vehicles sold in this country to determine if the vehicles share the same defective seatbelt as the European models. If so, Volkswagen may be facing massive recalls, affecting tens of thousands, if not hundreds of thousands of owners throughout the United States. Because the defective seatbelt poses a safety hazard to rear passengers, all Volkswagen owners should be aware of the seatbelt issue and cautious when allowing passengers to ride in the backseat of their vehicles.
Even though the Seat Arona, Seat Ibiza, and Volkswagen Polo models are not currently sold in the United States, Volkswagen has faced criticism for an unrelated seatbelt issue affecting the Volkswagen Tiguan, the small SUV which is available to consumers in the United States. Crash testing results demonstrate that the seatbelt webbing can come completely undone during an accident. Such a defect poses a safety risk to human life, just like the defective seatbelts affected three of Volkswagen’s European models.
The Catastrophic Consequences of Defective Seatbelts
Seatbelts have proven time and again that they do save lives. On rare occasions, seatbelts have been linked to some deaths, especially in cases where a person is unable to unbuckle his or her seatbelt when a car is on fire. However, in most cases, drivers and passengers are at greater risk of death if involved in an accident while not wearing a seatbelt as opposed to drivers and passengers who do wear seatbelts. For individuals who do wear a seatbelt as required by law, they are placed at risk for serious injury or death when a seatbelt malfunctions.
If a seatbelt comes undone, a passenger may be thrown to the front of the vehicle or even ejected from the vehicle during an accident. While cars, in general, have become safer, many manufacturers, including Volkswagen, have cut corners to try and get cars to the market faster. Selling a vehicle more quickly may increase sales in the short term, but it creates a world of trouble for car manufacturers, government regulators, and consumers when recalls are necessary to fix a simple design defect.
Injuries Associated with Defective Seatbelt Accidents
Defective seatbelts that do not function as intended can lead to severe injuries, some of which include the following:
- Traumatic Brain Injuries (TBIs);
- Cuts/Gashes/Open Wounds (especially when a person is thrown through the windshield of a vehicle);
- Internal Organ Injuries (such as a punctured lung);
- Internal Bleeding;
- Fractured Bones;
- Neck, Back, and Spinal Cord Injuries (many of which lead to partial or complete paralysis);
- Brain Death (vegetative state); and
Injuries or death sustained because of a defective seatbelt are especially heart-wrenching for victims and their loved ones because defects are often avoidable with proper design, testing, and manufacturing. As such, car manufacturers responsible for selling vehicles with defective seatbelts should be held accountable when their conduct results in an innocent person’s injuries or death.
Holding Car Manufacturers Responsible for Defective Seatbelts That Cause Injuries or Death
Individuals who suffer injuries or death that can be linked to a defective component on a vehicle, such as a defective seatbelt, can file product liability lawsuits against the manufacture of the car, and the production of the particular component if that company is different from the car manufacturer. For example, if a company other than Volkswagen made a seatbelt or its component, that particular company would likely be facing claims alongside Volkswagen. Drivers and passengers are supposed to feel safe when trying to get from point A to point B. Having a faulty seatbelt takes away any feeling that a driver or passenger will be safe if an accident happens.
Most drivers and passengers do follow the law and wear seatbelts, often feeling comfortable that they will be safer for wearing a seatbelt if involved in a car accident. While some car accidents are so serious that injuries or death may result despite whether a person is wearing a seatbelt, seatbelts can save lives. If a seatbelt fails, Volkswagen and any other car manufacturer responsible for making a defective component should be to blame and held responsible.
Filing a Product Liability Lawsuit
Injured victims and representatives of deceased victims may bring product liability lawsuits that include claims of defective design (as is the case with Volkswagen’s faulty seatbelts), manufacturing defect, or failure to warn about a known defect. Failure to warn claims can be very serious because in many cases, manufacturers are, in fact, aware of particular defects, and fail to notify consumers and governing agencies about the particular defect.
Some manufacturers would rather ignore a defect as long as possible to increase sales before too many people get hurt or killed. Until the injury and death toll rises to a point where a defect is known to the public, some manufacturers will simply not take action. For example, Takata, the manufacturer of numerous airbags subject to recalls, is facing multiple lawsuits that allege the company was aware of certain defects for nearly a decade yet continued to sell the defective airbags to multiple car manufacturers and consumers.
Lawsuits involving product defects as they relate to vehicles, such as the faulty seatbelts at issue, can be extremely complicated as engineering and automotive guidelines are often involved. As such, it is essential to work alongside a Product Liability Lawyer who handles defective car cases on a regular basis. With the assistance of a qualified lawyer, injured victims and loved ones of deceased victims will have a better understanding of whether they have a viable product liability claim.
Contact a Volkswagen Defective Seatbelt Lawyer Today to Schedule Your Free Consultation
If your car accident injuries involved a defective car component, such as a seatbelt or airbag, it is important to act quickly to discuss your legal options with a Product Liability Lawyer. With a team of nationally-recognized trial attorneys and litigators, Parker Waichman LLP is a firm that devotes its energy, dedication, and resources to helping victims injured or killed by defective products. To schedule your free Volkswagen seatbelt lawsuit consultation with a member of our legal team, contact Parker Waichman LLP today by calling (800) YOUR-LAWYER (968-7529).
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