In 2012, a 7-year-old Texas boy was riding in the back of his father’s Audi sedan when another driver rear-ended the car. The impact of the crash caused the father’s seat to collapse, launching the father into the backseat, headfirst, into his son. The father suffered minor injuries from the crash, but his son, who is now 11, was left with permanent brain damage, loss of some of his eyesight, and partial paralysis.
The father says his son was in the backseat because that’s where auto manufacturers, auto safety advocates, and even federal agencies like the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), have been advising parents is the safest place for their children in the event an accident. What they haven’t been telling parents is that there is a high risk of seat failure in a moderate to high speed rear-end crash, leaving children in the backseat vulnerable to severe injuries or even death.
There have been multiple lawsuits filed by victims and families for injuries and deaths caused by seatback failure. In the Texas case, a jury found Audi 55 percent responsible for the boy’s injuries and the automaker was ordered to pay $124.5 million to the boy and his family.
Investigations reveal that the NHTSA have known about the seatback failure defect for years but has failed to act on it. In 2004, the federal agencies stopped reviewing complaints that the regulations for seats should be changed. When presented with new evidence in 2008, the agency said the scope of the study was too small and there were not enough victims to warrant pursing a change the regulations.
Since 1989, there have been at least 100 people who have been killed or severely injured in seatback failures, most of the victims being children. Since 2000, there have been at least 17 deaths.
Recently, petitions have been filed urging automakers and federal agencies to warn parents about seatback failure risks, and advising parents to have children in the backseat to sit behind an occupied front seat. If both front seats are occupied, then the child should be behind the adult who weights the least.
If you have lost a loved one in a car crash, contact an experienced Virginia wrongful death attorney to find out what legal recourse you may have.