Car Defect Poses Risk to Children in the Back Seat

A CBS investigation uncovered an issue with the design of the front seats in many vehicles, and it puts children who sit behind these seats at an increased risk of injury in a car accident. Through this investigation, the news organization brought the issue of seat back collapse to lawmakers and safety groups, but most manufacturers still have not admitted any issue with the design.

What is the issue?

The problem with these seat backs is that designers made them to yield — or collapse — backward in a rear impact accident. While this may help lessen the injuries to the person in the front seat, it can lead to serious injury for a child or other passenger seated in the back of the vehicle. The child can suffer crush injuries from the seat back, or head injuries from the adult who falls into the backseat.

Few studies are available to determine the extent of this problem, but a 2008 review of cases by the Association for the Advancement of Automotive Medicine found that children in the backseat had twice the risk of injury when the seat in front of them collapsed than those who rode behind a seat that remained in place.

CBS has found dozens of cases like this. Almost all car manufacturers use this type of collapsing seat, even though a fix could cost less than a dollar per vehicle, CBS reports.

How can I keep my children safe?

The Center for Auto Safety — along with several lawmakers from across the country — are working to encourage the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) to call for a new, safer seat back design. In the meantime, though, children continue to be at an increased risk during a rear-impact collision.

The NHTSA implores parents to keep their children in the backseat, away from deadly airbags. However, other safety experts now advise parents to place their children behind unoccupied seats when possible. If adults are riding in both front seats, the safest place for a child is behind the adult who weighs the least.

Who is liable for these injuries?

Technically, these seats meet or exceed the federal standards for safety in a passenger car. Some people are, however, questioning whether this standard — set in 1967 — requires updating for safety in modern high-speed crashes.

Some automakers even claim the seat backs are working exactly as designed, and their collapse is a part of dissipating energy from the crash. This does not mean that the manufacturers of these cars are not responsible for injuries sustained from the collapse of a seat back, however.

In March, a jury awarded a Texas family over $124.5 million in compensation to cover the medical care, ongoing care costs, and pain and suffering of their son who suffered injuries from a seat back collapse. While Audi argued that the seat back in the 2005 A4 Quattro behaved just as it should in the crash, the jury found that this put the child in the backseat at high risk of injury.

What do I need to know if my child suffers injuries due to this type of defect?

Cordisco & Saile LLC are Bucks County car accident lawyers who can help you hold the liable parties responsible after you or your child suffers injuries in a Pennsylvania or New Jersey crash. Whether a distracted or negligent driver causes the crash or a car defect exacerbates your injuries, we can fight for your right to compensation. Call our office today at 215-642-2335 to schedule a free case review.