A federal vehicle safety standard that went into effect more than four decades ago and is still the baseline for manufacturers in the car industry is at the center of controversy in scores of alleged cases in which back-seat passengers - most often children - have been seriously injured.
The operative regulation is Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard 207, which engineer Lou D'Aurelio and other automotive experts say is sorely outdated. While testifying in a recent product liability case, D'Aurelio said that the standard, which sets forth requirements for seat back strength, is not nearly exacting enough, and has resulted in many accidents where a driver's or passenger's front seat doesn't hold up in a collision. Instead, it slams backward, with its occupant hitting the rear-seat passenger at high impact.
When that is a child, the resulting injuries can be devastating. In the case where D'Aurelio was speaking as an expert witness, a Virginia jury awarded $8 million to a 5-year-old girl who suffered serious brain juries after being struck in such a manner when her family's car was rear ended by another vehicle.
A spokesperson for the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration says that the agency is considering updating the standard.
The defendant in the Virginia case, a seat supplier for Chrysler, is appealing the verdict, saying that, "It is undisputed that the seat in question was in compliance with the car manufacturer's safety requirements, which are more stringent than the Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards."
Related Resource: www.nbcchicago.com "Collapsing Car Seats Blamed for Injuring Passengers" November 10, 2010