Seat Belt Failure – Why (and How) Seat Belts Fail

Seat belts have a variety of moving parts.  As a result, there can be many categories of seat belt defects.

Some common ways that seat belts can fail are:

  1. Seat belt latch failure.  A seat belt buckle can unlatch inadvertently, which can be caused by inertial unlatching, false latching, and inadvertent unlatching.
  2. Spooling.  Spooling occurs when too much of the seat belt webbing is let out, which causes movement in the occupant.
  3. Retractor failure.  Retractor failure occurs when the lock or tightening of the seat belt should take place to immediate confine the occupant securely, but this action does not occur.

Investigating the Cause of Seat Belt Failure

In an accident, it’s important to understand exactly what happened to the occupants of the vehicle.  In many cases, the occupants will be thrown around in the course of the accident and may end up in a position in which they are completely unsecured by a seat belt.  When this occurs, we want to know why this happened.

In some cases, a seat belt defect may be relatively obvious, such as in the case where the webbing of the seat belt is completely torn.  Other cases, however, may not be so obvious.

A passenger may have clearly come loose from a seat belt but it is unclear why this occurred.  In these cases, often experts will be required to examine the seat belt to see if there was a seat belt malfunction.

Seat Belt Configuration

Some vehicles are equipped only with lap belts, and no shoulder strap, particularly in the backseat, a feature that has caused thousands of traumatic injuries. Some passive restraining systems encourage users to utilize only the shoulder strap, without the lap belt, which can cause significant injuries in collisions.

Sometimes, the simple geometry or layout of the seat belt system is such that it will necessarily allow occupant excursion during a crash and render the restraint system ineffective.  Improperly loose “torsion bars” in seat belt retractors can cause excessive spooling.

Our Representation of Those Injured from Seat Belt Failure

If you have been injured in a vehicle accident, I would invite you to call us to schedule a free consultation at your convenience.  At that time, I can learn about your case and can advise you of the legal alternatives that are available to recover for your damages.  I can also explain to you how we thoroughly investigate accidents, including aspects such as potential seat belt failure.  Importantly, we can also begin locating seat belts and other potentially critical evidence so that it does not get lost or destroyed.


16020 Swingley Ridge Rd., Suite 340
St. Louis, MO 63017

Contact Us 888.586.7041

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