Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Automobile Defect - Seat Failure

Seatback Failure – 2002 Ford Explorer

Jaime D. Jackson, Esquire recently settled a case against the Ford Motor Company involving the defective design of a driver’s seat in a Ford Explorer. The Ford Explorer was rear ended, the driver who was wearing his seatbelt was projected into the rear seat when the driver’s seat back collapsed rearward. The Explorer continued off to the side of the road, subsequently striking the guardrail. The driver was again projected forward into the seatbelt where he sustained a severe injury to his liver. Plaintiff alleged that the design of the Explorer seat was too weak, allowing it to collapse rearward. In a rear impact the only protection that an occupant has is the seat back and head rest behind him and the design of the seat should be strong enough to maintain the occupant upright within the safe confines of the seat. This case has been one of several “seat back failure cases” or cases involving the driver’s or passenger’s seat collapsing rearward in a rear impact, that Atlee, Hall & Brookhart has successfully handled against all of the big three American automobile manufacturers on behalf of its catastrophically injured clients. The seat is an occupant restraint and should not collapse rearward in a rear impact. Much like a seatbelt prevents an occupant from moving forward in a frontal collision, the seat should perform the same function in a rear collision and prevent the occupant from striking the interior of the vehicle. Unfortunately, many of the front seats in automobiles, on America’s highways, are not up to the task of protecting people in rear impacts. When a seat back collapses, the occupant may slide out from under the seatbelt, up the seatback and into the rear seat where they can strike their head and spine, resulting in significant brain injury, paralysis or death. If there is a child seated in the rear seat, collapse of the seatback can result in disastrous occupant-to-occupant contact between the child and the front seat occupant.