Kia Seat Belt Failure Causes Wrongful Death

There is one important safety rule that literally everyone knows: Always wear a seatbelt. Car manufacturers are required to install working seat belts in order to prevent serious personal injuries from occurring in the event of a car accident. If a seat belt has a malfunctioning latch, then it cannot protect people in an accident.

A jury recently awarded the family of a teenage driver who died in a car accident with a $40 million award. The family had filed a wrongful death lawsuit against Kia Motors and the maker of a seat belt buckle.

The tragic accident occurred in 2004 when the young girl was driving a 1999 Kia Sephia. She lost control of her car, crashed into a sign and overturned. The teenage girl was wearing her seatbelt, but the buckle was defective and failed to prevent her from being ejected from the car. She died as a result of the car accident.

The design of the seat belt buckle was faulty in that a safety defect allowed it to falsely latch. In other words, the seat belt would appear to be properly latched, but upon impact in a car accident, the safety defect allowed the buckle to unlatch.

The seat belt would appear to be properly latched, but upon impact in a car accident, a defect allowed the buckle to unlatch. This design defect did not cause the accident, but it did cause the girl’s death.

An inquiry into the defective seat belts was made in 2002 by the U.S. government. As a result, later in 2002 Kia issued a recall for the same faulty seat belt buckles for model years 1995 through 1998. Kia knew that the seat belts were defective, but the company did not issue a recall enough model years.

Later models, including the 1999 model that was the subject of this lawsuit, were not recalled, even though they contained the same faulty seat belt buckle design. After another government inquiry into why the 1999 and 2000 models with the same defective buckle design were not included in the recall, Kia finally agreed to issue a recall on those models. However, that did not happen in time to prevent this fatal accident.

This tragic accident would have been prevented if the seat belt had not failed, or if Kia had issued a recall when it knew about the danger.

Hopefully, this verdict will send a message to car manufacturers that seat belts must operate properly and that companies must issue recalls to Pennsylvania residents if they become aware of a safety defect.

Source: Autos.ca, “Kia hit with $40 million verdict for seatbelts,” 30 June 2011