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The Law Offices of David H. GreenBerg
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TOYOTA PRIUS SEATBELT PROBLEM

Will your seat belt hold in an accident?

Toyota Prius seatbelt problems are the latest in a long series of woes for the Japanese automaker. Lawsuits have been filed in two states, alleging that Toyota Prius seat belt problems are to blame for serious injuries incurred by drivers and passengers. The Toyota Prius is on the recall list for sudden acceleration. As one of millions of Toyota vehicle models recalled, the Prius also has the potential to accelerate suddenly and without provocation. Already nearly 90 deaths have been blamed on unintended acceleration. Is a Toyota Prius seat belt problem the next major recall and foible to plague Toyota and risk the lives of its customers?

A Toyota Prius seat belt problem can take on may forms. Like many other car parts, the seatbelt is a piece of machinery. Though most of us take seatbelts for granted, there are actually many complicated mechanisms at works in today's motor vehicle seatbelts. Seat belts have gone through many generations to get where they are now, and every new version seeks to improve what came previously. Lap belts, also called sash belts, used to be the standard, but today carmakers know that lap belts put too much pressure on the hip area while providing zero protection for the upper body, especially the head. Sash belts cannot prevent the head or shoulders from slamming into the dashboard, windshield, steering wheel or other seats. So to rectify this deadly hazard, a shoulder belt was added, making up the three-point safety harness required in all seating areas of autos manufactured today. Even so, a standard seatbelt can still fail and lead to a Toyota Prius seatbelt problem.

Even with seatbelts providing protection by crossing the lap and shoulder, more pieces are required to finish the seatbelt assembly. First, let's talk about the seatbelt buckle. The buckle, also called a lock, latch, or fastener, is a key seatbelt device. Toyota Prius seat belt problems can arise when the buckle comes unlocked for some reason during impact. Toyota Prius seatbelt problem can also occur if the latch appears to be correctly fastened by is not. Believe it or not, some seatbelt buckles have even been known to spontaneously unfasten, creating a frightening potential Toyota Prius seatbelt problem.

Still more latent Toyota Prius seat belt problems may lurk in other parts of safety belt composition. Ever notice how a seatbelt is able to retract and extend at your will, but at other times locks or releases without your power? These attributes are due to some unseen seatbelt mechanisms, whose workings are more complicated than most car users imagine. However, while complicated inner seatbelt devices can be an overall asset, there is a large disadvantage as well: more things that can go wrong at different stages of seatbelt production, installation and usage. The seatbelt mechanisms embedded within your seatbelt may include load limiters, retractors with locking devices, and pre-tensioners.

Load limiters are fairly new seat belt devices that are meant for use in the event of a seriously bad crash. The device is meant to limit the load (the force of the driver's or passenger's body) placed upon a seatbelt when there is very heavy impact. Usually during a crash a seatbelt simply tightens to restrain the occupant, but the load limiter supplies a bit of slack to facilitate a very serious impact. Recent studies argue that load limiters can actually make severe collisions more deadly, since they can permit movement that non-load-limiter seatbelts prohibit. Alleged Toyota Prius seatbelt problems may be linked to load limiters.

Retractors are reels or spools that allow the seatbelt material (also known as webbing) to roll in or out. Seatbelt retractors also contain some type of locking system that disallows extension of the webbing in the event of an accident. Faulty retractors are a common cause of seatbelt failure and could be the main factor in Toyota Prius seat belt problems.

Pretensioners are devices found in many new seatbelt designs. The pre-tensioner's role is to tighten the seatbelt material itself during a crash, and in some cases adjust the car occupant better in the event of a collision. Pretensioners are of complicated and varying design and are often linked to the airbag system. Faults within the pretensioner's manufacturing and execution were the cause of a recent Toyota recall, and perhaps they are also an element in a possible Toyota Prius seatbelt problem.

Information can be power, so now that you know more about how seatbelts work, be sure to get help from a personal injury attorney if you suspect that a Toyota Prius seat belt problem has injured you.