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Products Liability Newsletter

The Problem With Recalled Seat Belts and Replacement

Car manufacturers will voluntarily recall certain cars when faulty car parts cause injuries or death. Several manufacturers have recalled cars because of faulty seat belts and belt failures.

Lawyers and consumer groups such as Public Citizen have served as public safety advocates in the area of car recalls, catering to consumer complaints and lobbying for the voluntary recall of dangerous vehicles. Additionally, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration is the government agency responsible for auto safety, in charge of investigating consumer complaints about faulty car parts and responding to formal complaints filed for actions against car manufacturers.

Cause for Recall

Types of seat belt failures:

  • Plastic seat belt release buttons in some Japanese imports, including Honda, Nissan and Mazda, can chip and crack, preventing release latches from working properly
  • “Gen3” model latch buttons on belt buckles in some Chryslers sit one half-inch higher than the rest of the buckle assembly and can be accidentally activated, causing the belt to unlatch
  • In December of 2005, General Motors issued a recall of 425,000 passenger and cargo vans, stating consumers reported problems latching the seat belt or unlatching it once the belt was in place.
  • In November of 2009, Volvo recalled 9,667 of its 2010 XC60 vehicles due to a defect with the driver’s seatbelt. Crash tests showed the seatbelt detached in crash simulations.
  • In August of 2010, GM recalled 243,403 vehicles. In some vehicles, the seat trim on second row seats could jam against the buckle, causing damage if the seat was forced upright. Also, the buckle could be forced into a position that pressed the release button, resulting in a buckle that appeared to be latched when it wasn’t.
  • In August of 2011, Porsche recalled certain 2011 and 2012 vehicles with improperly anchored seat belts, which could result in a seatbelt failure in an accident. The concern is that the seatbelt mounting plate holes are too small, leading to the possibility that the screws could come loose and render the seatbelt useless in the event of an accident.

When the Original Owner Does Not Respond to the Recall

The business of recalling cars is often complicated by the resale of recalled cars. Oftentimes, the original owners of recalled cars do not respond to the recall to replace a defective car part. Even when manufacturers and dealers send “reminder” mailings, there has been a trend of unresponsiveness on the part of original owners to fix the faulty car part at issue.

When the original owners of such cars do not respond to the recall to replace a defective car part, and then sell their recalled cars, new owners can be unaware of the potentially life-threatening defect.

Car manufacturers that have recalled certain cars pay car dealers for recall repairs to encourage repairs and prevent future liability. Some dealerships allow individuals who have purchased cars that were recalled for having faulty seat belts, to bring the car back to the dealer to run a computer check on past repairs.

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