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A History of Problems in Lap-Only Seat Belts

Seat belts, as we all know, are a car occupant’s greatest protection from injury and death in a car. They are one of the most successful car safety features ever included as standard equipment. Unfortunately, there was a learning period regarding seat belts and their design. Even today, some cars still have unsafe lap-only seat belts.

In the late 1950s, injuries and deaths started to appear in cars that were equipped with lap-only seat belts. While there were fewer injuries and deaths than without seat belts, medical studies began to detail an increase in serious abdominal, head, and spinal cord injuries in car accident victims who were wearing only lap-belt seatbelt restraints. Some common injuries of these accidents include fractured spines, perforation of the intestines, quadriplegia, paraplegia, facial fractures, and serious closed head injuries, to name a few.

As a response to this problem, automotive companies conducted their own studies into the causes. They soon realized that lap belt wearing passengers’ heads and upper torsos actually accelerated during impact and frequently exceeded the actual impact velocity of the vehicle that crashed. To combat this, they developed the 3-point seatbelt. As early as 1967, a Ford engineer noted that the 3-point diagonal shoulder belt system was superior in terms of the safety they provided.

Unfortunately, the automotive industry fought including these much safer belts in vehicles tooth and nail. Even after they were required by law to include 3-point seatbelts for front seat passengers, the automotive industry fought including these much safer seatbelts in the rear seat through the 1987 model year.

This failure to provide 3-point seat belts may have caused as many as 6,000 serious injuries and deaths per year, according to some government studies.

If you have been injured due to the presence of a lap-only seatbelt in your car, please contact the Kenosha defective product lawyers of Habush Habush & Rottier S.C. ® at 1-866-499-4700 to discuss your case and to determine your legal options.