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Monday, April 18, 2016

Seat Collapses in Auto Accident are Deadly to Children

What are the causes of injuries to children in automobile accidents?

For decades, parents have been told to put young children in the backseat to avoid injury from an inflating airbag. What safety regulators and the auto industry failed to mention was the fact that seats can collapse in moderate to high-speed rear end collisions, causing serious injuries to passengers in the backseat.

Front Seat Collapse Dangers to Children

Children in safety seats are especially at risk, and government data shows an average of 50 children a year have died in rear-end collisions since 1991. It is unclear, however, what role front seat collapse played in these fatalities. One recent case involved a 13 month-old North Carolina boy in February 2014.

He was buckled into the backseat behind his father when the family’s dodge caravan was rear-ended. The impact cause the father’s seat to collapse backward and the child’s skull was fractured, killing him.

The real tragedy in all these accidents is that automakers were aware that when a seat collapses, passengers in the front seat can slide backward out of the seatbelt into the backseat, causing serious injury or death to themselves or passengers in the back seat. But they never alerted the public to the potential danger.

Calls for New Auto-Safety Standards

Now, the Center for Auto Safety, a nonprofit auto-industry watchdog, is calling for the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration to modify its child-seating recommendations. The group is also demanding that automakers be required to state in owner’s manuals that children should sit behind empty front seats or behind the lightest passengers.

The group previously petitioned the NHTSA last year to upgrade its seat back standard which was adopted in 1967. While agency officials acknowledged the standard is outdated, they also claim that injuries and deaths connected to seat failures are rare. Instead, the agency’s focus is on minimizing the occurrence of rear impact crashes by requiring automakers to make automatic emergency braking a standard feature.

The Center for Auto Safety, however, claims deaths caused by seat collapses are more common than the agency’s data suggests, and their petition to the NHTSA included a list of 64 lawsuits arising from injuries and deaths due to seat failures, 22 in which children were the victims. Most recently, Volkswagen AG’s unit was slammed with a $124 million damage award by a San Antonio jury in a case in which a child suffered brain damage and partial paralysis when his father’s 2005 Audi was rear-ended in 2012. The jury found that the automaker was 55 percent responsible for the child’s injuries.

It remains to be seen how long it will take the NHTSA to update its seat standards or issue new recommendations for the placement of children in backseats of automobiles. It is possible that automakers may act to improve safety standards as they are hit with more lawsuits. In the meantime, you are well advised to place your children behind an empty seat to protect them from harm. If you or a loved one has been injured in an automobile accident, a personal injury attorney can help you obtain the compensation you deserve.


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