“Spooling” or “spool out” occurs when an excess amount of the seat belt webbing is let out during a collision or rollover event. This is typically due to a defect in the retractor. Instead of securely restraining an occupant, the seat belt becomes much too lose, the occupant may be thrown around in the interior of the vehicle (or even ejected from the vehicle), and may be severely injured or killed as a result.
There are many reasons that can cause a defect in the retractor and the resulting spooling. Regardless of the reason, the seat belt should not spool out and fail to keep an occupant properly restrained during a collision or rollover event.
Spooling refers to what a person can actually see post‑collision. Through pictures or post‑collision vehicle inspection, the presence of too much webbing in the belt can be identified. The reasons for the spooling usually require a careful examination of the seat belt retractor by an expert.
In the past, there have been multiple safe alternative designs on the market that can alleviate spooling; however, some manufacturers chose to employ more dangerous designs, presumably because they were less expensive. As an example, some automobile manufacturers incorporate more than one retractor into their seat belt systems in case one fails.
Sometimes a seat belt will spool as a result of the retractor failing to lock up during a collision.
Retractors are triggered by certain events. They are created to lock up when there is force applied in one direction or another. For example, a retractor obviously should lock with the force of a high‑speed front‑end collision. A retractor can fail to lock up, leading to excess webbing being introduced into the belts, which results in spooling that can be seen after the accident.
Spooling and Retractor Failure Can Both Lead to Serious Injury and Death
When we investigate accidents on behalf of our client we want to know whether spooling and/or retractor failure occurred. It is important to understand the accident report, interview witnesses, and speak with occupants to understand whether they were wearing seat belts at the time of the accident.
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When it appears that a seatbelt may have malfunctioned, our firm will sue automobile manufacturers if appropriate based upon a defective product. This claim may be in addition to lawsuits against another driver and/or others who may also be responsible for the accident. This is the only way that we can hold all parties accountable for their role in the injuries and damages sustained.
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