The seats which are installed in most vehicles are remarkably flimsy and liable to give in an accident situation. The increasing number of injuries resulting from failed car seats has only recently prompted action from the NHTSA which has been remarkably lax on the subject so far.

Not Impressive

Car seats fitted in most vehicles are built up around a framework which is no more robust than a beach chair. Since there was little compulsion on auto manufacturers, current designs have continued resulting in injuries and fatalities even in some very minor auto collisions.

Tragedy on the Road

A case in point is that of Gavin Pieterson, who in 1996 was buckled into his Buick Century with his four-year-old son seated right behind him. An SUV traveling at no more than 25 mph collided with the rear of the Buick. The force of the collision caused Gavin’s defective seatback to break at the joint. He flew backward and struck his young son who did not survive the impact.

Poor Design

The unforgiveable aspect to this situation is that both the regulators and manufacturers have long been aware that contemporary seat designs are far from satisfactory and unable to withstand the forces generated in accidents. Furthermore, they could be the cause of injury in accidents, even in minor collisions. Seat designs are described by a safety engineer as probably the most extensive safety defects in car design.


Gavin Pieterson’s son’s case is not one in isolation. Many more children have been seriously injured or killed in seat back failure collisions where the vehicles were traveling at relatively low speeds. In some cases drivers have been paralyzed after seat failure in a rear-end impact. And this is not just speaking about children either. Adults have been the victim of poor seat design as well. Perhaps if car companies did not have to extend such lavish benefits to their union employees (certainly before the bankruptcy; GM in particular), own corporate jets (again, before the financial trouble), or were not taxed that much they could afford to invest in more research in safe seat design.

Safety Issues

Recent litigation has emphasized the case of defective seat backs and their inherent dangers which so far has been little known. This has put pressure on automakers to redesign their seat belts so that they are safer and able to withstand a reasonable force in an auto collision.

Make a Case

If you or any member of your family has been injured because of seat back failure in a collision then contact a defective product attorney or a vehicle accident attorney. You might be eligible to claim for damages and compensation resulting from the defective product.