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Auto Defect Lawyer

Investigating Seat Back Failures & Auto Defects Resulting in Catastrophic Injuries

Despite dozens of tragic traffic accidents that result in serious injury or deaths, at least partially due to a failing seat back, automotive safety standards that regulate how car seatbacks are manufactured and tested have not been updated since 1967. Perhaps the auto industry has lobbied hard to cut costs, but American consumers are the ones who have to suffer when profit comes before safety. 

In a 2021 bill introduced to congress, some important auto safety advances include new requirements for vehicles to be equipped with automatic emergency braking, impaired driving prevention technology, and stronger seatbacks that will not collapse and injure rear seat occupants in a crash. 

Automobile seats perform an important safety role during rear-end collisions. Along with the seat belt, the seat back in a car prevents an occupant from being thrust rearward and potentially ejected from the car.

Children are particularly prone to seat back defect accidents and car manufacturers have acknowledged that poor seat design can elevate the risk of rear passenger injury.

Rear end collisions and frontal impact can both result in seats dislodging from the car frame, rendering seat belts useless in such cases. Passengers can be thrown forward or into the rear, and risk catastrophic neck and head injury, whiplash, orthopedic trauma and death. Many car makers have not adopted sled tests or require rear impact testing when designing seat backs or head rests. 

Safety advocates have encouraged the NHTSA to consider stronger seat-back regulation, though nothing has changed in recent years. The integrity of the seat is crucial to protecting motorists, however, and an auto defect attorney can hold car makers responsible for sustained injuries and deaths.

Car manufacturers can choose to produce seatbacks under the dated Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards. But consumer safety has been compromised and you auto defect attorney can hold these companies liable for safety negligence.

Auto Seat Back Failure

Seat Back failure is a dangerous automobile defect that causes numerous preventable injuries and fatalities each year in America. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has received hundreds of complaints regarding seat back failure, which in recent years have resulted in over 100 injuries and deaths.

Many auto accident injuries can be prevented if auto manufacturers design and manufacture seat backs using available technology. However, auto makers often cut costs and consumers pay the price.

Vehicle seats play a significant role in passenger safety. Seats perform the same function in rear-end collisions as a seatbelt does for frontal collisions: they prevent the occupant from being thrust rearward or ejected from the vehicle. With that said, manufacturers often produce defective car seats under ineffective Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards.

Poorly designed and defective seats may collapse on impact and result in devastating passenger crush injury, traumatic brain injury, spinal injury, or death.

Evidence of Seat Back Failure

  • Rear End Impact/ Rearward Force Injury
  • Significant Spine or Brain Injury of Occupant in the Car
  • Seat Back Deformation (EMS can adjust the seat)
  • Occupant projecting rearward
  • Head Restraint Deformation/ Broken/ Bent and Deformed -evidence of ramping up out of the seat and loaded by the occupant
  • In back seat occupant injury cases: Evidence of Head Trauma and Lacerations in Frontal Occupant

Joe Lyon is a highly-rated and experienced product liability attorney and Auto Defect Lawyer, well-versed in the economic impact injuries and death have on a victim’s life and family.

The Lyon Firm works with auto accident experts to build the strongest case possible for plaintiffs and victims. 


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Joseph Lyon has 17 years of experience representing individuals in complex litigation matters. He has represented individuals in every state against many of the largest companies in the world.

The Firm focuses on single-event civil cases and class actions involving corporate neglect & fraud, toxic exposure, product defects & recalls, medical malpractice, and invasion of privacy.


The Firm offers contingency fees, advancing all costs of the litigation, and accepting the full financial risk, allowing our clients full access to the legal system while reducing the financial stress while they focus on their healthcare and financial needs.

Manufacturing Defects Cause Auto Seatback Failures

Seatback failure may result from poor seat design, improper assembly, cheap materials and structural components or negligent installation. Seatback defects can lead to crush injuries during a rollover accident, ejection following a rear-end collision, and projecting a passenger forward into the dashboard or windshield. If a seat is defective there is also a good chance the seat belt mechanism will be compromised as well. Defective seatbacks can include:

  • Collapsing seatback
  • Forward-thrusting seatbacks
  • Weak seatback structure or design
  • Detachment of head rests

Seatback failure typically occurs when the weight of a vehicle occupant forces the back of the seat to collapse. This may be the result of a faulty seat design, improper assembly or negligent installation.

Poor-quality materials may also be in question. If strong materials are used, it is more likely that a vehicle’s seat will stay upright and intact during a collision. When cheap materials are used, however, a seatback frame may be compromised. Common seat defects include:

  • Failure of seatback support system to maintain an upright position
  • Deformation or breaking of seatback frame
  • Detachment of adjustable head restraints during accidents

Auto Seat Back Failures & Head Injuries

  1. Rear-passenger Injuries—Occupants in the back seat at the time of seat failure may be crushed by the seat or the weight of the front seat occupant. A collapsed seat can also trap the rear passenger and cause further injuries.
  2. Ejection Injuries—During a high-speed collision, a seatback failure can result in the ejection of an occupant from the vehicle.
  3. Loss of Vehicle Control—If a seatback fails while a vehicle is in motion, the driver may find it difficult or impossible to control the vehicle and avoid an accident.
  4. Detached Head Rest—defective headrests, in addition to failing to protect the occupant, may become dangerous projectiles in the event of an accident.
  5. Blunt Trauma—any occupant who is thrown from their seat can suffer severe head and spinal injuries.
  6. Seat Back Trapping Passenger—a faulty seat may trap rear passengers under collapsed front seats.

Children & Rear Passenger Risk

The Association for the Advancement of Automotive Medicine (AAAM) conducted a 2008 study and determined that the risk of injury was doubled for children when a vehicle’s front seat collapsed or became deformed during an accident.

A total of 71 percent of collisions in the study involved children who were seated behind an occupant, and in 8 percent, the defective seat posed a threat to a child.

A recent investigation by CBS News revealed over 100 people who had been severely injured or killed because of faulty seats, and many of these cases involved children. The investigation targeted Audi after a jury ruled against Audi in a wrongful death case even though the seats in question met the federal standard for strength.

Several major American, Japanese and Korean automakers have had claims of defective seat backs installed in their vehicles. Internal documents show automakers and the NHTSA have known about the potential for auto seat back failures for many years.

Safety experts advise that children be placed in the backseat of vehicles, though the NHTSA has concerns that seatback defects can endanger all occupants no matter where they are seated.

Some automakers like Mercedes Benz, BMW, and Volvo have strengthened their seats above the NHTSA standard to guard against seatback failure, but other carmakers have lagged on safety standards.

Recalls & Auto Seat Back Failures

When car seat backs are defective and pose an injury risk, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) and carmakers can initiate a recall to fix the issue and prevent future injuries.

Should manufacturers fail to produce safe auto features like seat backs, and fail to warn the public when defects pose a severe risk, they may be held liable for injuries that occur as a result of a product defect.

When a number of people have been injured in similar auto accidents, the National Highway Traffic and Safety Administration (NHTSA) typically investigates the safety of the vehicles involved to determine if a recall is warranted. Automakers may feel pressure to recall certain vehicles, or may wait until legal action is taken by victims of their defective products.

In May, 2017, Ford recalled 2,200 SUVs and trucks because the driver’s manually adjusted seats may not be welded properly, resulting in the seat back improperly restraining the driver in the event of an accident.

Ford recalled some 2017 Ford Explorer, 2017 Ford F-150, and 2017 Ford F-250 Super Duty models because the vehicles may not meet the requirements of Federal Motor Vehicle Safety standards.

In November, 2018, Honda announced a recall for 800,000 Odyssey minivans in the United States because of problems with locking adjustable seats into place. The affected minivans, which include model years 2011 to 2017, have second-row seats that can tip forward when not properly latched, increasing the risk of injury to an occupant.

Honda said it had received 46 reports of injuries related to the seats. The following auto makers have recently recalled automobiles for faulty auto seat back failures:

  • Audi
  • Ford
  • Honda
  • Toyota
  • Mercury
  • Tesla
  • Nissan
  • Eldorado

Auto Defect Lawsuits

A jury in Texas found that the defective front seats in a Lexus led to two children’s severe injuries during a rear-end collision, and awarded the family around $242 million in damages—which includes $144 million in punitive damages against Toyota Motor, whom they found liable for the injuries. The injured children were awarded $92 million for medical care, physical impairment and mental anguish.

Defective seats may collapse in the event of an accident and result in serious passenger trauma, traumatic brain injury, or death. The accident in Texas illustrated above involved a 2002 Lexus ES 300, though other car makes have reportedly been installed with defective seat backs. The jury found Toyota “grossly negligent,” that the front seats were unreasonably dangerous, and that the company failed to warn of the risk.

One seat back defect lawyer in the case said there were structural problems with the front seatbacks that protect front-seat passengers from injuries like whiplash and severe neck injury. Toyota has had decades to maintain certain safety features, yet has repeatedly been faced with product liability lawsuits involving faulty airbags, defective seatbacks, and seatbelt defects.

History of Seatback Defects

The seat safety issue has been severe enough that even members of Congress have called on the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) to upgrade the seat back strength standard. Auto safety experts, consumer advocates, and your Ohio seat defect lawyer are demanding changes and accountability for auto safety defects.

Crash test videos show that when cars are hit from behind, the front seats of some vehicles can collapse backwards, sending occupants into the backseat area. Children in the backseat are likely to suffer the worst of the injuries in the event of crashes.

A jury recently ruled against Audi, stating the car maker was grossly negligent, even though the seats in question met or exceeded the federal standard for seat back strength.

Automotive safety standards require that a vehicle be designed to reduce or eliminate the risk of injury in possible collisions and impacts. Car manufacturers are liable to consider their vehicles’ ability to withstand collision. The structure of the vehicle itself must protect passengers, and additional crash safety relies on adequate occupant retraining devices—seats and seat belts.

Product liability attorneys and court settlement reports have identified more than 100 people killed or seriously injured in seat back failures since 1989. The majority were children. Experts say improvements would cost merely a few dollars in the way of added cost for automakers.

The Lyon Firm has success in litigating auto defect cases and class action product liability lawsuits on behalf of injured motorists and passengers.

When auto companies fail to properly test their vehicles and injuries result, personal injury lawsuits can be filed to recover rightful compensation.

photo of attorney Joe Lyon
A Voice for Those who have suffered

Why are Auto Defect Cases important?

Serious injuries and accidents often result through no fault of the injured party, yet the injured victim suffers from life altering physical, mental and financial losses. Such economic and human losses can have devastating financial consequences on individuals and families if not properly compensated.

Many automakers are aware of potential auto defects and yet they still sell dangerous cars to consumers each year. Tort law allows those individuals to seek just legal recourse through personal injury lawsuits.


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Questions about Seat Back Failure Cases

Can I File a Seat Back Defect Lawsuit?

You may not be aware that your car is defective. It is not always obvious when your seat belt or other safety component fails to function as intended. It can take an expert in auto engineering to determine what contributed to an accident or injury.

You can contact The Lyon Firm, and we will work diligently to review your auto accident case. If an auto defect was in part responsible for an auto injury, a lawsuit can be filed and a large settlement is likely.

If negligent manufacturers and automakers are directly responsible for an auto-related injury, a product liability and personal injury lawsuit may be filed and compensation may be recovered for accident victims. Plaintiffs may seek compensation that may include property damages, past and future medical expenses, lost wages and future earnings, and pain and suffering.

The Lyon Firm takes pride in representing consumers to make America’s roads safer by holding negligent auto manufacturers accountable for auto defects that lead to accidents and injuries. When car makers fail to institute basic safety measures and fail to test auto components before releasing cars tot he public, they may be targeted in product liability lawsuits.

Why Do Car Seats Fail?

Auto seats fail if they are poorly designed or manufactured with faulty components. Auto seats should hold up in most collisions, and if they do not, they are likely defective. 

Has My Car Been Recalled?

Consumers can follow recall news or search for current and past recalls on the Web sites of the NHTSA, as well as on other car safety advocate outlets. Look on your car windshield for a 17-character Vehicle Identification Number. Your VIN is also located on your car’s registration card.

If your car has been recalled and you have suffered an injury, contact an auto defect attorney to investigate a potential claim

Who is Responsible for Auto Seat Back Defects?

Auto manufacturers and car makers can be held liable in auto defect lawsuits. Many automakers outsource some of their production and may not always be aware of some defects. Honda, for example, purchased all their defective airbags from Takata.

Some defective auto part suits name other defendants like negligent auto dealerships or auto repair shops who alter car parts or fail to properly repair automobiles and leave a serious safety risk.

Did an Auto Defect Cause my Accident?

Auto defects have been known to cause accidents in tire failure, tread separation accidents, brake malfunction and sudden acceleration cases.

Auto defects may not cause every accident, but they can play an integral part in causing injury in the event of an accident. This is common in defective seat back collapse, seat belt defects and airbag defects. When these crucial safety features fail to function as they were intended.

Why Hire a Product Liability Attorney?

A Cincinnati Auto Defect Lawyer can assist in not only reviewing your accident and injury case, but is able to hold large corporations accountable for the negligent actions in releasing unsafe products to the public.

Auto companies must be held liable in order to keep the roads safe in America. So not only can The Lyon Firm seek compensation for injured plaintiffs, but we can file lawsuits to punish car makers for failing to properly test their auto parts before they are sold to the public.

When car makers fail to produce reliable cars and fail to provide basic road safety features, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and product liability attorneys can hold them responsible and help mitigate injuries and future damages.

The majority of accidents and injuries on the road are preventable, but defective auto design and manufacturing defects may leave victims with huge medical costs, lost wages, pain and suffering, and, in many cases, permanent injuries.

Our Victories

The Lyon Firm aggressively, professionally, and passionately advocates for injured individuals and families against negligent individuals or companies to obtain just compensation under the law. 

$ Confidential Settlement


(Pikeville, Kentucky): Confidential Settlement for Plaintiff who suffered spinal cord injury resulting in paraplegia due to defectively designed seat belt. Four passengers with three-point (lap/shoulder) belts walked away from the accident, and the only passenger wearing a two-point belt (lap only) suffered a debilitating spinal cord injury. The settlement assisted with home improvements to assist in daily living. GM entered federal bankruptcy during the process and no longer manufactures two-point lap belts for vehicles.

$ Confidential Settlement


(Mansfield, Ohio):  The Lyon Firm was co counsel in a a tragic case involving a wrongful death of a front passenger and a brain injury to a minor rear passenger.

The case involved a Chrylser Mini Van equipped with a GEN III seat belt buckle.  It was alleged that upon impact that the buckle inadvertently released allowing the minor passenger to become partially ejected.  He suffered severe facial fractures and a long term brain injury. The settlement provided for long term care and disability.