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Volkswagen Verdict Highlights Little-Known Danger

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Posted on September 21, 2016

A Texas family was awarded more than $124.5 million last month when a Texas state court jury deemed Volkswagen AG liable for a seatback failure which left a child permanently brain injured. According to court records, the child was a rear seat passenger in an Audi automobile manufactured by Volkswagen when the vehicle was involved in a rear-end collision.

The child’s father – who was driving – was thrown backward by the force of the impact, which caused his seat to collapse. After the impact, the father and his son collided, resulting in traumatic brain injuries for the then seven-year-old child.

According to Cherry Hill car accident lawyers, the tragic crash is not irregular. An independent review by CBS News revealed that seatback failures are responsible for at least 100 deaths or severe injuries since 1989. Moreover, the accidents disproportionately affect children. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has long counseled parents that children should ride in the rear seat of an automobile. When a rear-end collision causes a seatback to fail, however, a front seat passenger or driver can be launched into the rear cabin at high velocity.

An Audi engineer deposed in the case reportedly revealed that the collapse of a front seat is by design, because a rear seat passenger should support the front seat with his or her knees. At trial, an attorney for Audi similarly argued that a collapsing seatback helps absorb energy.

Audi instead defended itself by arguing that the child – who was left permanently brain-injured, partially paralyzed and blind in his right eye – would not have been injured, had he been properly restrained in a booster seat. Moreover, Audi maintained that neither father nor son was wearing a seatbelt at the time of the accident.

Although jurors deemed Audi 55 percent responsible for the accident, the driver who caused the rear-end accident 25 percent responsible and the father of the victim 20 percent responsible, Audi, under Texas law and as the party most at fault, must pay the entirety of the $124.5 million award.