In 2002, DaimlerChrysler recalled 14 million vehicles because of “inadvertent buckle release,” or seat belts that inadvertently released in a crash due to a release button that protruded too high. The problem was that the release button could be hit by an elbow or other object in a crash. This defect often escaped detection because after the crash, it looked like the occupant was not wearing a seat belt.
This is just one example of a product gone wrong. Other examples include “false latching,” which occurs when the seat belt’s latch plate looks and feels like it is latched when inserted into the buckle, but is not fully connected. Any amount of force will cause a falsely latched buckle to completely release the latch plate.
“Spool out” is another seat belt defect. Under normal driving conditions, while the seat belt locking mechanism is in rest position, the sprocket that holds the seat belt is free to rotate. As the occupant leans against the webbing, the seat belt unreels. During an accident, the sprocket should lock with the seat belt restraining the occupant. Spool out occurs when the occupant begins to lean into the webbing, but the lock bar fails to engage a sprocket tooth. As the sprocket teeth skip over the lock bar, webbing spools out of the retractor resulting in seat belt “slack.” As little as a couple of inches of slack can result in catastrophic injuries.
Seat belts provide that last line of defense in a crash and should perform as expected every time. Slack & Davis attorneys have successfully represented plaintiffs in cases and lawsuits against manufacturers of defective seat belts. To learn more or for a free case evaluation, please contact the seat belt product liability attorneys at Slack & Davis.
Office of Defects Investigation (ODI)