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Reclining Car Seats & Increased Injury Risks

man smiling while driving

A man driving with the windows downMotor vehicles have come a long way since they first appeared on our public roads and highways. Today, cars and trucks are complete with all the modern technologies and bells and whistles that allow drivers and passengers to make their experiences in the car more efficient, comfortable, and fun. While modern safety advancements such as airbags and seat belts have made vehicles safer, some advancements have actually introduced new risks to consumers. This includes reclining car seats.

If you’ve ever reclined your seat in a late model vehicle during a road trip, or have plans to take a road trip this summer, moving your seatback can certainly be a great way to relax during those long and uncomfortable rides. Unfortunately, that modern day function can be deceptively unsafe, and put you at an increased risk of suffering serious injury or even death in the event of a car accident.

An article recently published by The Legal Examiner takes a closer look at reclining car seats and how they pose risks on par with safety issues like defective tires. As the article notes, many consumers aren’t as familiar with the dangers posed by their car seats as they are with those posed by faulty tires or airbags, but major automakers the likes of Ford, Toyota, GM, and others have been well aware of those dangers for decades. There are a couple major reasons for that:

  • When car seats are reclined, three-point seat belt restrain systems (which use both a lap and shoulder belt) are rendered more or less useless due to passengers being moved away from the shoulder harness.
  • More space between the seat belt and a passenger’s chest and shoulders increases risks of serious injuries or death in accidents, particularly when accidents cause the body to slam against the seat belt, or slide under the seat belt.

Despite knowing these risks as far back as the mid-1960s, auto manufacturers have been aggressive in lobbying Congress to prevent regulations that would address the risks created by reclining car seats and decreased seat belt effectiveness. Because of these lobbying efforts, there are still no laws or federal minimum standards, Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards (FMVSS), to address the risk and protect consumers. Automakers don’t even have to provide warnings (which is why so many people don’t know about the dangers of reclining car seats), or make any alterations that would reduce hazards, even though there have been a number of suggested and affordable solutions, including:

  • Limiting the range and maximum recline position of reclining car seats.
  • Improving seat belt systems to “integrated seat belts” that would incorporate safety belts into the seat design, improve geometry, and eliminate the dangers created by gaps between a passenger’s shoulder and the shoulder strap.
  • Requiring warnings to consumers about the dangers of reclining their seats too far, or implementing automated warnings (similar to current seat belt warning systems when a seat belt is not engaged) that would notify occupants when their seats have been reclined too far.

Car Accidents, Reclining Seats & Personal Injury Lawsuits

The auto industry’s unwillingness to take reasonable measures in addressing a long-known safety risk is unfortunately not uncommon. Whether it be the automotive industry, commercial trucking, or another consumer-based industry, it is often the case that major corporations inject large sums of money into politics in order to influence legislation in their favor – typically, legislation that allows them to protect their bottom line and prioritize profits, even at the expense of public safety.

As is also common, voluntary changes like the proposed updates to reclining seats or seat belt systems will likely not be made until auto makers are compelled to do so by law. Until then, consumers are tasked with learning about the risks they face, and taking steps on their own to address them. However, that’s not always possible nor likely, which is why it then becomes a matter of litigating cases in a public sphere in order to help victims injured as a result of these issues secure the compensation they deserve, raise awareness, and hopefully prompt needed safety changes.

At Biren Law Group, our legal team is well aware of how corporations prioritize profits over people, and how that financial focus can compromise the attention they give to safety hazards faced by consumers and the general public. We also know how to protect the rights of victims and families affected by dangers companies knew or should have known about, and protect their rights in the civil justice system through the filing of personal injury or wrongful death lawsuits.

While car accident cases involving reclining car seats may not yet be making headlines, it is still important to investigate cases to determine if and how reclining car seats or other defects and design flaws may have contributed to causing preventable accidents, or worsening victims’ injuries. Because our Los Angeles personal injury lawyers focus on conducting investigations into our clients’ accidents, we carefully evaluate not only what caused their crashes, but also what factors led to them suffering injuries or a worsening of their injuries – especially in terms of auto parts and defective products. Just as negligent motorists can be held accountable for causing crashes, negligent auto makers that fail to address known dangers can also be held accountable for their conduct and the risks they allowed consumers to face.

Whatever your car accident case entails, you can be confident about placing your trust in our proven team of personal injury attorneys at Biren Law Group. Our firm has handled numerous car accident and product liability cases throughout Southern California, and is available to discuss any questions you may have about a potential lawsuit and your rights. Contact us today for a free consultation.