Auto Seat Back Failures Lead to Serious Injuries. Joe Lyon is an auto defect attorney and product liability lawyer representing plaintiffs nationwide. 


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.

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 seat backs 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 Seatback Failure


Seatback or 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.

Joe Lyon is a highly-rated and experienced Cincinnati, Ohio 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. 


Manufacturing Defects Cause Auto Seat Back Failures


Seat back failure may result from poor seat design, improper assembly, cheap materials and structural components or negligent installation. Seat back 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 seat backs can include:

  • Collapsing seat back
  • Forward-thrusting seat backs
  • Weak seat back 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.


Defects, 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.

seat belt defects ohio seat defect lawyer


Ohio Auto Defect Attorney


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.


Following a serious car accident, victims should contact an experienced Ohio auto accident lawyer to investigate. If you or a loved one has suffered an injury due to seat back failure, and have questions about the legal remedies available to improve quality of life and medical care in Ohio, contact The Lyon Firm  at (800) 513-2403.

You will speak directly with Mr. Lyon, and he will help you answer critical questions regarding auto seat back failures.