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Quadriplegic Crash Victim Awarded $37 Million Over Poorly Designed Honda Seat Belts

Quadriplegic Crash Victim Awarded $37 Million Over Poorly Designed Honda Seat Belts

In February, a Dallas jury awarded $37 million to a woman who sued Honda after being paralyzed in a major auto accident. The lawsuit alleged the seat belts in the Honda vehicle were poorly designed.

The verdict stems from a 2015 car accident in which the victim, then a student at Oklahoma State University on break in Texas, was picked up with several of her friends by an Uber in Dallas. That Uber was an uninsured Honda Odyssey minivan which was later broadsided by a pickup truck after it ran a red light. As a result of the collision, the minivan rolled and landed on its top, and the young woman suffered a broken neck which rendered her quadriplegic and in need of 24-hour care.

Though the matter with Uber was resolved confidentially, the woman and her attorneys pursued a civil personal injury lawsuit against Honda. According to their claim, the two-part seat belt in the Honda Odyssey’s third row – where the victim was sitting – was designed in such a way that it was confusing and counter-intuitive for any passenger unfamiliar with the vehicle.

To illustrate how Honda’s two-part seat belt system was poorly designed, the victim’s attorneys conducted an independent study in which dozens of people were asked to enter a Honda Odyssey and use the seat belt without any instruction. The findings of that test, as plaintiffs’ lawyers presented to the jury at trial, were shocking:

  • 50 of the 53 participants (less than 10%) failed to use the two-part seat belt properly;
  • Wearing the Honda two-part seat belt improperly was found to be more dangerous than riding without a seat belt.

Ultimately, the jury concluded nine days of litigation by finding the automaker 63% liable for the victim’s damages. Because Texas has a law for comparative apportionment which holds defendants more than 50% at fault for accidents “jointly and severally” liable for damages suffered by victims, Honda is ultimately responsible for the entire $37.6 million judgment. The company stated it is planning to appeal.

Lessons to Be Learned: Preventing Future Tragedies, Seeking Justice With the Right Lawyer

Though a tragedy through and through, the case is a reminder about the importance of properly designed and manufactured products. By law, companies that create consumer products and their various components have legal obligations to ensure the efficacy of those products and the safety of the consumers who use them. Should products or components fail to function as intended – especially when they are as critically important to safety as vehicle seat belts – victims can face immense risks of suffering preventable harm and losses, if not catastrophic or fatal injuries.

While the young woman in this case must now confront a substantially altered life and her profound and permanent disabilities, how she has handled the adversity is truly remarkable. Though she has described the incident as the “worst ride in her life,” she has also expressed her belief that she was “put in this wheelchair for a reason” – to help prevent similar tragedies from happening to others in the future, including those involving victims who pay the ultimate price.

Her selflessness is commendable, and her beliefs in ensuring accountability and needed changes to protect others are the same beliefs which drive our legal team at Biren Law Group. In addition to her motivations for taking on one of the world’s largest automakers, there’s also an important lesson to be learned for any victim involved in major car accidents. That is, choosing the right attorney with the right experience, resources, and knowledge.

Just as this young woman placed her trust in lawyers who were capable of making her voice heard, all victims and families should understand the importance of the legal representation they choose to fight on their behalves after major motor vehicle crashes. Apart from the demonstrated abilities and determination so often required in complex claims against powerful corporate defendants, it’s also a wise decision to consult with attorneys who know and understand product liability law.

Attorneys knowledgeable in this focused and complex legal area have the resources and insight to effectively explore potential factors which may have caused or contributed to wrecks. That includes the ability to meticulously and intelligently investigate whether critical defects in the design or manufacturing of various components rendered them inherently unsafe, and whether vehicles had crash-worthiness deficiencies which caused or exacerbated the injuries.

Had the victim in this case, for example, not worked with attorneys skilled in this practice area and creative in illustrating such deficiencies, her case could have ended with the confidential Uber settlement – a settlement which was likely significantly smaller than the verdict awarded by the jury, potentially less than she required for her extensive needs, and unquestionably ineffective in holding Honda accountable for poorly designed seat belts that could have continued to seriously injure or kill others in the future.

Fighting for Victims & Families Across Southern California

At Biren Law Group, our Los Angeles personal injury lawyers fight for much more than a checkmark in the “Win” column; we fight for the futures of our clients and their families, for their financial stability and needed medical expenses, and for their sense of justice. From a larger perspective, we also fight to ensure accountability for negligence and misdeeds, which in turn can help initiate changes and improvements that ultimately protect the public, and reduce or prevent future risks of casualties.

We’re passionate about what we do as advocates and civil trial lawyers who leave no stone unturned, and we’re thankful for the clients who so often place their trust in our team during the most difficult of times. Our appreciation is evident in the relentless work ethic we devote to exploring all of their available options for maximizing compensation.

If you have a potential accident case to discuss anywhere in Los Angeles or the surrounding areas of Southern California, call (310) 896-4345 or contact Biren Law Group online for a free consultation.

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