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Man paralyzed in accident awarded $55 million for bad seatbelt

Every motorist is advised to use the safety features in motor vehicles that have been designed to prevent or minimize driver and passenger injuries from accidents. Seatbelts, in particular, are designed to restrain their users during impact and protect them from the more severe injuries seen in collisions such as being ejected from a vehicle. Defective seatbelts, however, cannot offer any real protection.

A known defective seatbelt was the recent focus of attention in an auto defect case in Philadelphia. The product liability case arose from a car accident that left a Pennsylvania man permanently paralyzed. In 2010, the man was driving a Honda Integra to work when a tire blew out, flipping the vehicle. The victim's head hit the roof of the car, causing a paralyzing injury. He is now permanently confined to a wheelchair.

The plaintiff's attorney uncovered evidence that suggested Honda knew about a defect in the seatbelt that would not allow a user to be effectively restrained and avoid injury. He argued that the manufacturer did not perform tests or take action to address the hazard.

The plaintiff filed a lawsuit against Honda, alleging that the seatbelt defect contributed to his injuries. The jury apparently found the argument persuasive and ruled in favor of the plaintiff. He was awarded $55 million in damages to cover his medical expenses, past and future damages and loss of consortium with his wife.

Product liability laws in the United States are enforced not only to prevent poor quality or defective products from reaching the market but also to allow those consumers who are injured in using them to seek redress. Manufacturers should always address hazards and potential defects before introducing products into the marketplace. The legal consequences of not doing so can mean jury awards of many millions of dollars.

Source: The Pennsylvania Record, "Jury awards accident victim $55 million over defective seat belt," Jim Boyle, July 29, 2014

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