Volkswagen Seatbelts Can Unbuckle at High Speeds Resulting in Injury or Death
Tests revealed a potentially fatal flaw in several models of Volkswagens. The back-middle seat belt can become unfastened during high-speed driving. This design defect has led to the car manufacturer issuing a recall of 411,000 cars. Volkswagen is offering a free repair to consumers who purchased the affected vehicles. The company also informed consumers that the back-middle seat should not be used in these models until the repairs had been made.
Impact of the Recall
The seatbelt issue was identified in several vehicles, including the Volkswagen Polo, the Seat Ibiza, and the Seat Arona. Vehicles from 2017 and 2018 are impacted by the recall. Finnish car magazine, Tekniikan Maailma detected the flaw. The magazine tested several vehicles from each make and model to ensure that the defects were not isolated to just one vehicle. The issue was found in multiple vehicles and on multiple occasions.
Volkswagen describes the defect as the possibility of the seatbelt unfastening in certain rare situations but maintains that they are offering a solution because safety is a “main priority” for the company.
How Does the Seatbelt Unlatch?
The problem occurs in these models when the car is driven at high speeds and either make a left turn or quickly changes lanes. Volkswagen says it would only be likely in situations where five passengers were in the vehicle. The middle seatbelt buckle in the back of the vehicle is located slightly higher than the back-left seatbelt buckle. During certain maneuvers, the buckle can collide into one another, and the middle belt fastener can be unintentionally released.
According to Volkswagen, the company has created a solution for the flaw. The company created a new belt lock fixture that is designed to prevent the unintentional unbuckling of the seatbelt. The company will replace the buckles at no cost to consumers.
How Common are Car Recalls?
Cars are increasingly subject to recalls in the United States. Tens of millions of vehicles are recalled every year. While that might seem to suggest that dangerous cars are being sold at high numbers, on average, vehicles are actually becoming safer all the time. According to Consumer Reports, the expectations for vehicle safety have been going up, leading to manufacturers being subject to more scrutiny. Consumers and regulators are partially responsible for the higher safety expectations, and so is the industry itself.
The National Highway Transportation Safety Administration (NHTSA) has been issuing massive fines to manufacturers who are not diligent about informing federal agencies when defects are detected. Lawsuits filed by consumers and by the government are also pushing companies to be more transparent about flaws and to be more careful about ensuring that the vehicles they sell are meeting the new safety standards.
While many recalls are issued when the risks are remote and before anyone has suffered any harm from the vehicles, other recalls are issued because the flawed vehicles have caused numerous injuries and deaths. For instance, a defect in General Motors’ ignition switches killed 50 individuals, if not more. Another headline-grabbing recall was issued of Takata airbags, which injured dozens of people and killed 15. The Takata recall was referred to by the NHTSA as the “largest and most complex recall in U.S. history.”
When Are Vehicle Recalls Issued?
When a manufacturer or the NHTSA discover a defect in a vehicle that makes the vehicle unsafe or causes the vehicle to be in violation of minimum safety standards, the manufacturer or the NHTSA will issue a recall. In many cases, the manufacturer will issue the recall before the NHTSA is involved in the issue. It is rare that the NHTSA has to force a recall.
The manufacturers have to come up with a solution that makes the vehicle safer and keeps the vehicle in compliance with regulations. Often there is a simple repair or replacement. Sometimes a refund is issued, and in very rare circumstances, the vehicle might be brought back by the company. The consumer does not have to pay for the repairs or remedies; they are offered for free by the company.
Are Car Manufacturers Liable for Defective Vehicles or Parts?
If a car manufacturer sells a car that is unsafe because of a defect, then that manufacturer will likely be held liable if anyone is injured. Product liability claims arising out of defects that are the result of a bad design, a manufacturing error, or a failure to inform consumers of a risk created by the product. A design defect occurs when a manufacturer develops a product that is unsafe when it is made properly and used properly. The seatbelts in the Volkswagens are a design defect because the company designed the seatbelts and overlooked a possible inherent flaw in the buckles used and the placement of those buckles.
How Will a Recall Impact Liability?
Companies that file recalls can still be on the hook for injuries resulting from their defective products. It is also critical to understand that when a company issues a recall, this does not mean that the company is admitting liability. However, companies that fail to issue recalls of defective products place themselves at high risk of being found liable, of being ordered to pay punitive damages, and of being fined by the United States government.
Consumers Demand Vehicle Safety
Consumers who suffer injuries because of dangerous products have the right to hold the manufacturer liable. This process ensures that companies are going to remain mindful of consumer safety when they design and manufacture products. This process is all the more critical when the product in question is the vehicle that we rely on to keep us safe. With tens of thousands of people killed in car accidents in the United States, it is crucial that car manufacturers are held to high safety standards.
Free Volkswagen Seatbelt Lawsuit Case Review
If you or a loved one suffered a serious injury because of a failing Volkswagen seatbelt, or any other vehicle defect, contact the experienced product liability attorneys at Parker Waichman LLC today at 1-800-YOURLAWYER (1-800-968-7529) for a free consultation.
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