Product Liability – Unsafe Seatbelt – SUV Rollover
Jaime Jackson recently settled a case involving an unsafe seatbelt that allowed our client to be ejected during the course of a SUV rollover.
Our client was properly wearing her seatbelt while driving her SUV on a back country road when the vehicle left the roadway and rolled over multiple times. During the rollover sequence, slack was introduced into the seatbelt system and our client was ejected out the driver’s window. She sustained a catastrophic brain injury and now requires a guardian and full-time care givers.
The key to the case was extensive testing which showed that this particular seatbelt system would lock and then become unlocked, releasing seatbelt webbing as various forces were applied to the vehicle during a rollover sequence. Because the seatbelt webbing was released from the retractor, the seatbelt became loose allowing the driver to be ejected.
This case was highly technical in the fields of automotive engineering, seatbelts. It also involved field of medicine, specifically brain injury causation and caring for individuals who have tragically sustained a significant brain injury.
A rollover accident is always serious and will put a vehicle’s design and safety equipment to the test. This type of accident has the potential to expose a myriad of defects. Therefore, it is important to first review why it happened, and second whether the vehicle and its safety systems adequately protected the occupant. If the occupant was not adequately protected, an analysis of the injuries may expose defects in areas such as the roof, seats, or as in this case, a seatbelt. In addition, while the technology to make vehicles safer with rollover airbags and canopies that will deploy in rollover collisions was available certainly before 2002, numerous vehicles even to this day continue to fail to be equipped with the safety features. Safety should not be considered “optional equipment” for the American public.