A seat belt latch should never unlatch inadvertently. The only time it should unlatch is when the user chooses to unlatch it by pushing whatever apparatus is required to disengage the latch.
Sometimes a buckle will disengage on its own. Sometimes a latch plate will fail to securely lock into the buckle and will pull out with little or no effort. These are just two examples of some of the more common latch defects. Inertial unlatching, false latching and inadvertent unlatching are the most commonly encountered buckle defects.
Inertial unlatching is a situation in which a latch plate will release out of the buckle during a collision. This is commonly a result of an external force applied to certain components of the seat belt.
Allegations of inertial unlatching have been around since the 1970s and were disregarded by car manufacturers. Subsequently, evidence of inertial unlatching has made it a real issue and a viable defect claim. As a result, if a seat belt has become unlatched during an accident, we will investigate to determine whether it was likely the result of internal unlatching or the result of some other cause or failure.
False latching occurs when the latch plate looks, feels, and sounds like it is secured in the buckle, but is not securely locked in place. Chrysler’s Generation 3 seat belt buckles that were installed in many Chrysler products from 1993‑2003 were especially susceptible to false latching due to the spacing and structure of their buckles.
These buckles were laid out in a way that a user could fully insert the latch plate into the buckle but miss the entire locking mechanism and, therefore, never secure the buckle. A post‑collision analysis of the buckle can often indicate if false latching may have occurred.
Inadvertent unlatching can be caused by flying debris or flailing limbs contacting the buckle release button during a rollover or other collision. These scenarios are foreseeable in a collision, and seat belt buckles are intended to stay latched even in the presence of flying debris, hands, and elbows contacting the buckle release button.
Some buckles are better than others at preventing inadvertent deployment. Chrysler’s Generation 3 seat belt buckles that were installed in many Chrysler products from 1993‑2003 also were especially susceptible to inadvertent unlatching.
When a seat belt latch fails, the police report may incorrectly state that the occupant was not wearing a seatbelt. This may be corroborated by first responders and witnesses.
As a result, it’s important to interview witnesses that may have observed the occupant of the vehicle prior to the accident. It’s also important to understand the occupant’s history of seat belt usage. Can witnesses be found that can support a claim that the occupant never rode in a vehicle without wearing a seatbelt?
We Don’t Assume that Occupants Were Not Wearing a Seatbelt
Particularly in the case where an occupant died or sustained a severe injury and is not able to communicate, we want to find out whether it was more likely than not that the occupant was wearing a seatbelt at the time of the accident. Assuming that they were wearing a seatbelt, but are found to be unbelted by first responders, we want to find out what took place.
In accidents, there are also multiple parties responsible for the injuries. These can include not only the other driver but also product manufacturers such as automobile companies. In order to fully recover for our clients, we want to identify all those responsible for the damages and injuries so that each of them can be held accountable for their share.
If You Have Been Injured or a Family Member Has Been Killed as the Result of a Potentially Defective Seat Belt, Please Call Our Firm As Soon As Possible.
It is important that potentially defective seat belts that may have contributed to the accident be preserved. Locating and seeing this evidence preserved is one of our first tasks, as vehicle manufacturers would typically see this evidence lost or destroyed.
There is no obligation for our meeting, and no fees to us unless we recover for you. At our meeting, I can advise you about the options available for seeking recovery against those responsible.