Consumer Class Actions

Confronting fraudulent practices and protecting consumers rights.

Insurance Coverage Disputes & Bad Faith

When an insuance company fails to fulfill its obligations
to the insured, they need to be held accountable.

Cemetery Desecrations

When a loved one has been buried in the wrong cemetery
plot or their grave has been desecrated.

Auto & Truck Accidents

When injury or death occurs due to another party's
negligence, misconduct or inaction, it is an outrage.

Seatbelt Failure, Defective Restraints and Inertial Unlatching Lawyer

Serving individuals and attorneys throughout Florida and the U.S.

Seat Belt

Drivers and passengers in motor vehicles across America are being seriously injured or dying needlessly due to the misconduct and neglectful actions of auto manufacturers. Seat restraints / seatbelts save lives. But a malfunctioning restraint can cause a driver or passenger to be ejected from or thrown around inside the vehicle.

Consumer Justice Attorney Edward M. Ricci and his law firm consider it an outrage that auto manufacturers tolerate a known defective or unsafe seatbelt, with complete disregard for the safety of the American public. Unfortunately, the very same restraints that are supposed to protect us in our vehicle can sometimes harm us.

Seatbelts can fail in several ways:

  • Inertial Unlatching – More than 100 million cars in America have seatbelts with the release button on the front face of the buckle. The seatbelt latch can open during a major impact such as a frontal collision, rollover or side impact. Even with several landmark cases and testing, manufacturers are still reluctant to admit the existence of the defect.
  • False Latching – a seatbelt looks and/or sounds like it latched but it is not fully latched and thus comes open in a crash.
  • Excessive Slack – Prior to 1990 were more than 100 million cars in the U.S. with front seat shoulder harnesses that incorporated what the manufacturers called a "tension relieving" device also known as a "windowshade." This retractor mechanism locks the actual seatbelt material (harness) in place – to hold you in place. But a defective retractor can fail and the seatbelt does not restrain the passenger (excessive slack in the harness can lead to injury or death). According to NHTSA tests, even an inch of slack can substantially raise head injury force levels, and a few inches can largely eliminate the belt's effectiveness. Further, a slack belt can promote or allow ejection or severe submarining. The windowshade promotes slack both by encouraging the belt wearer to make the belt loose and by allowing slackness to creep into the belt without the wearer's knowledge.
  • Torn / Worn Webbing Material – seatbelts are made from a material known as webbing and if it wears and tears, it is weakened and can rip or break when stressed.

Here are a few styles of seatbelts that are dangerous and ineffective by design:

Door-Mounted Passive Belts: With good intentions (increased seatbelt usage) but bad analysis and testing, some manufacturers introduced belt systems in the ‘80s with the outboard anchorage of the belts mounted in the structure of door frame or door itself. This allows possible ejection should the door unexpectedly open.

Rear Seat Lap-Only belts: The danger of lap belts was revealed in the ‘80s but manufacturers have known of these defects for more than 30 years. There are still older vehicles on the road today with rear seat lap-only belts. Front seat occupants didn’t fare as badly in crashes as rear seat occupants with these belts. Rear passengers restrained by lap-only belts suffered head and neck injury, paraplegia, and even death. Children have been particularly susceptible to this danger as their bodies are smaller and weaker than adults and they are more likely to be riding in the back seat. Auto makers were aware of the dangers of lap-only seat belts long before they were exposed.

Shoulder-Only Belts: A study back in 1970 showed vehicle occupants wearing a shoulder strap only were in danger of severe injuries to internal organs or the neck. There are many older model vehicles still on the road which have the shoulder-only belt design. As recently as 1990, such belts were still being sold in the United States and are permitted under NHTSA standards.

Attorney Edward M. Ricci has taken on some of the largest vehicle manufacturers in the country for seatbelt defects, crashworthiness and safety issues. You can review notable cases to learn more. Attorney Ed Ricci has also co-authored the articles “When Safety Belts Aren’t Safe”, “The Long Road To Automotive Safety”, “Passive Restraints: Safe or Lethal?” and “Automotive Seats and Seatbacks: Take No Comfort In Them”. Our law firm has substantial experience and resources to effectively handle litigation against the automotive industry.

To learn more about seatbelt and defective auto products cases or to receive a complimentary review of any potential case you have, please contact our law firm online or call us at 561-748-8000. We are happy to answer your questions about any case involving crashworthiness or seat belt failure.

Pursuing Justice.

For more than four decades, Edward M. Ricci has specialized in civil trial law. He pursues justice for victims in the areas of consumer class actions, auto accidents, personal injury and wrongful deaths, cemetery desecrations, insurance litigation and consumer claims. The firm serves consumers throughout Florida and the United States.