What Is Seat Belt Failure?

Man fastening seat belt.
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Seat belts save lives—that is a fact that is proven time and again, and the majority of us put our trust in them. But what if there is a seat belt failure?

The statistics are astounding: 14,955 lives were saved by seat belts in 2017, per the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). 2,549 more lives could have been saved that year had the vehicle occupants worn a seat belt. In 2020, 51% of the people who lost their lives in passenger vehicle accidents weren’t wearing seat belts. Bottom line: Wear your seat belt! There is a good chance it will save your life in an accident.

However, what if a faulty seat belt injures you or a loved one? What if, when you need that seat belt the most, there is a malfunction and it fails to do its job? In that case, the manufacturer of the device you trusted with your life may be held accountable for the defect.

Patrick Daniel Law is here for you. If you suspect your injury is due to seat belt failure, we want to fight for what’s right. Call us today at (713) 999-6666 for a free consultation. Let’s evaluate your case and see if you are eligible for compensation. We serve clients in Houston, all of Texas, and throughout the United States.

Seat Belt Statistics

Seat belts are lifesavers. According to NHTSA, self-reported seat belt use was 91.6% in 2022. That means people are getting the message and protecting themselves. The fact that seat belts are so trusted as a protective device makes it even more heartbreaking when they fail.

Unfortunately, there is not much available data regarding the number of injuries and lives lost due to seat belt failure. Yet, even one injury is too many. If a manufacturer has distributed a faulty or malfunctioning part, they may be held liable for the resulting damages.

What we do have are recalls to show us that faulty seat belts are a problem. Let us look at seat belt recalls from 2022 alone:


Stellantis recalled 2,802 Ram 1500, Jeep Wrangler, and Jeep Gladiator vehicles because of “faulty seatbelt retractor assemblies.” (Carscoops)


Tesla recalled 24,000 vehicles for seat belts that were “incorrectly reassembled during vehicle service.” (Reuters)


More than 111,000 Chevrolet Bolt EVs were recalled “because a seat belt component may cause a vehicle’s carpet to catch fire after a crash.” (Consumer Reports)


Hyundai recalled 239,000 vehicles for “exploding seat belt parts.” (CNBC)

General Motors

On August 11, GM recalled 484,155 Cadillac Escalades, Chevrolet Suburbans and Tahoes, and GMC Yukons with third-row seats because the “belt buckle assembly may have been improperly formed.” (ABC7 News)

Even though the companies in these cases did the right thing by issuing recalls and fixing the problems, how many people were injured before the recall? Those injured deserve compensation for their losses.

Common Sources of Seat Belt Failure

Even though seat belts are your best protection in a car accident, they can fail you. Defective and poorly designed seat belts can lead to severe and deadly injuries. The impact of these injuries can be devastating for the injured person and their family.

Seat belts fail for a number of reasons. These are some of the most common sources of seat belt failure:

Buckles or Latches

Recalls are fairly common for seat belt buckles, with two frequent issues being false latching and inertial unlatching. False latching happens when the buckle seems fastened but isn’t. Inertial unlatching occurs when a buckle latch fails in a crash, letting the belt unfasten. In either event, the seat belt becomes useless as protection in a collision.


A pretensioner is a device in a three-point seat belt system that locks or tightens up seat belt slack when an accident occurs, keeping you as safely situated as possible. When a pretensioner fails, it can result in too much seat belt slack, allowing impact with the instrument panel, steering wheel or windshield, or vehicle ejection. All of these scenarios can lead to severe injury or death.


Webbing is an element of a seat belt strap made to withstand the force of an accident. Manufacturer flaws can cause webbing material to fail under stress. The seat belt wearer could be severely injured or killed if the webbing fails.


Anchors are the parts bolted to the vehicle. Faulty anchor assembly and material flaws can lead to anchor failure. Additionally, the seat belt could be anchored to the wrong place to help in the event of an accident.

Lap-Only or Shoulder-Only

Lap-only seat belts are notoriously dangerous. Additionally, automatic front seat belt systems where the shoulder belt is fastened to the door frame and opens with it (or just automatically opens) pose their own threat. These vehicles come with manual lap belts that occupants may not utilize, which may lead to severe injury or death.

Retractor Failure

A seat belt retractor mechanism is attached to the webbing. There is a spool and a spring that applies rotation force to it. This spool rotates as you pull the seat belt out, untwisting the spring. When released, the spring will tighten up. In an accident, the retractor has a locking mechanism that will stop the spool from rotating. If the retractor fails, there could be excess slack or webbing, which could cause severe injury.

If you suspect that any of the above were a factor in the failure of your seat belt during an accident, call a product liability lawyer. The car manufacturer may very well be liable for any losses you or a loved one suffered as a result of the crash.

What To Do If a Faulty Seat Belt Is the Cause of an Injury or Death

When a seat belt fails during an accident, it becomes useless to protect its occupant. The problem could be with the design of the seat belt, there could have been a defect in the manufacturing, or perhaps a mistake was made upon installation. No matter who caused the accident or the reason for the seat belt malfunction, if the seat belt failed, the vehicle manufacturer is most likely liable for damages caused by that failure.

After an accident, the most important step to take is to seek medical attention immediately. Then, if you suspect that a seat belt malfunction caused some or all of your injuries, contact an experienced product liability lawyer.

A skilled, knowledgeable lawyer can investigate your claim and determine if you are eligible for compensation. If you are recovering from your injuries or mourning the loss of a loved one, you don’t need to spend time navigating confusing legal minutiae. Allow an attorney to aid you in getting justice.

Have You Been the Victim of a Seat Belt Malfunction?

If you’ve been injured or a loved one has been lost due to seat belt failure, you need to contact Patrick Daniel Law. With compassion for our clients’ struggles, we fight for the justice they deserve. Contact us today for a FREE consultation to determine if you are eligible for compensation. We are serving clients in the Greater Houston area, all of Texas, and the United States.

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