Automobile lap belts are dangerous. Not only can they fail to provide ample protection in the event of an accident, but the older variety seat belts can actually be the cause of severe and fatal injuries.

Studies have shown that in some instances lap belts were more dangerous than if an accident victim had been wearing no seat belt at all.

The problem with lap belts is that in the event of an accident, particularly a frontal collision, the belts can focus the impact of the crash to a person’s mid-section, causing serious abdominal and spinal cord injury. Such traumatic injuries have resulted in paraplegia, quadriplegia, facial fractures, head injuries, and even death. Most vulnerable in these cases are smaller passengers, generally children and adolescents.

The newer lap-shoulder belts, or three-point belts, have proven to be much more effective in preventing injuries. Unfortunately, those belts were not required for years as standard equipment in many cars, most notably in the rear center seating section – and still aren’t mandated for all cars until 2007 models.

Kline & Specter, PC, a Philadelphia firm with more than 40 lawyers, five of whom are also doctors, has successfully litigated lap belt lawsuits as well as other lawsuits involving defective automobiles and defective auto parts. If you or someone you know suffered a severe injury or death as the result of a lap belt injury, you may want to contact a defective seat belt attorney for a free evaluation of your case.

In one case, the firm negotiated a settlement with General Motors for a young man who was left paralyzed from the waist down after he was injured by a lap belt in a head-on collision. Two other passengers in the Chevrolet Cavalier, including one also in the rear seat who was not wearing a seat belt, were not seriously hurt. (See The Miller Case.)

In 2006, Shanin Specter tried a lap belt case against another major for a 10 year-old girl rendered a quadriplegic in a head-on collision. This case resulted in a $30 million settlement.

Lap belts were long thought to be hazardous, but the first highly publicized definitive proof came in a 1986 report by the National Transportation Safety Board, an independent federal agency that had initially sought to investigate the effectiveness of seat belts in general but soon focused its attention on lap belts.

The study found that in accidents involving 50 people who wore lap belts, 26 sustained serious to fatal injuries in crashes in which other occupants – wearing three-point belts or no belts at all – were less seriously injured or had walked away uninjured. Among all those involved in the auto accidents studied, 13 of the people who wore lap belts were killed, while only four people (out of 57) who were unrestrained died and only one (of 32) who was wearing a combination lap-shoulder belt died.

The NTSB concluded: “In many cases, the lap belts induced severe to fatal injuries that probably would not have occurred if the lap belts had not been worn.”

Shoulder belts were introduced in the early 1960s by Volvo but were not a requirement for autos sold in the United States until 1972, and then only for the front seats. Lap-shoulder belts were not required for rear seats until 1989 for all new cars and not until 1991 for all light trucks – and then only for the outside rear seats, not the rear center seat. All cars will be required to have the three-point seat belts in the middle rear seats by 2007.

Yet that requirement pertains only to new cars and there will still be millions of cars on the road that will still have the dangerous lap belts in the center rear seat, where children and other smaller passengers often sit.

Call 800-243-1100 to contact a seat belt injury lawyer today.