Reclining Seat Backs

When a seat back is reclined, the seat belt becomes much less effective, if not completely useless

Take a minute and think how many times you have been a passenger in a car, wearing your seat belt, and decided to lay your seat back to take a nap. This is a very common practice. However, by simply reclining your seat, you are putting your life at risk.

When a seat back is reclined, the standard seat belt becomes much less effective, if not completely useless, because the shoulder harness of the belt moves away from the body. People do not realize or understand that the more space between the seat belt and a person’s body, the greater risk of death or serious injury in an accident. The seat belt is designed to be worn snugly against the body in order to couple the body to the seat to ride down the forces of an accident safely.

Automobile manufacturers have been well aware of the dangers of reclining seats for nearly four decades. They know that three-point restraints offer good protection only if worn properly. An occupant who wears a seat belt while his seat is reclined is not centered in the belt, rendering the belt ineffective for spreading crash forces over the body. Protection offered by any type of seat belt is therefore compromised when the seat is reclined, presenting a potentially dangerous combination in a moving vehicle. Although some vehicle owner’s manuals warn of the dangers of reclined seat backs in moving vehicles, the warnings do not state specifically what degree of recline is dangerous.

recent seat back lawsuits

A Jacksonville, Florida jury recognized this hidden danger and held Ford accountable by awarding $16.9 million to a young college student who was rendered a paraplegic in an accident. The student was a belted passenger who had reclined her seat back in a Ford Windstar. During the trip, the Windstar was involved in a low impact collision. Because the seat was reclined, her seat belt did not hold her in place. As a result, this young college student was rendered a paraplegic in what was a very minor accident.

Another jury in Maryland awarded $59 million to a belted passenger in a Toyota vehicle who was also riding with his seat reclined. The car was involved in a frontal collision. During the collision, the belted passenger flew forward at the time of the impact. It resulted in the amputation of both of the passenger’s legs. Both of these cases spotlight this dangerous practice that automobile manufacturers have known about for decades.

dangers of reclining seat backs

People are being needlessly injured and killed as a result of the automobile industry’s inaction on this subject. The industry knows that the motoring public does not understand or recognize the danger of reclining the seat while the vehicle is in motion. The industry knows that millions of families drive many millions of miles on the road every year. The industry also knows that some occupants in its vehicles will recline their seats to take naps, and by doing so, those occupants are all at great risk of serious injury or death in an accident.

Yet, the automobile manufacturers turn a blind eye to this danger even though there are simple approaches they could take to educate the public and prevent such needless injuries and deaths each year.

Do you have a reclining seat back claim?

If your loved one has suffered a serious injury or death as a result of a reclining seat back injury, you may be entitled to compensation for medical expenses, loss of wages, and pain and suffering.

Please contact our product liability lawyers today by filling out the brief questionnaire, or by calling our toll free number (1-800-898-2034) for a free, no-cost, no-obligation legal evaluation of your case.