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Fighting for Deadly Seat Back Failure Accident Victims: Proposed 2021 Modernizing Seat Back Safety Act

Jul 08, 2021

Proposed bill would mandate National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) update obsolete federal safety standards for motor vehicle front seat backs

On June 22, 2021, the Modernized Seat Back Safety Act (HR4025) was introduced in the House of Representatives by lawmakers Kathleen Rice (D-NY), Jan Schakowsky (D-IL), and Diana DeGette (D-CO).

This is the companion bill to legislation recently introduced in the United States Senate by Senators Ed Markey and Richard Blumenthal (SB1413), appearing as part of the Senate’s proposed Surface Transportation Investment Act. Read, “House Democrats introduce bill to require stronger car seat backs,” written by Kris Van Cleave and published by CBS News on June 22, 2021.

From Congressperson Rice:

“It is completely unacceptable that seat back integrity standards have not been improved after so many tragedies. Even worse, most of those injured or killed as a result of these tragedies have been children. It is long overdue for NHTSA to address this issue and upgrade seat back safety standards to better protect vehicle occupants. I thank Senators Markey and Blumenthal for introducing this legislation in the Senate, and I’m proud to lead the companion bill in the House.”

Seat Back Regulatory Reform: Proposed Legislation Reintroduced in 2021

According to CBS News, Senator Mackey spearheaded the continued fight for passage of this legislation after attempts to update NHTSA safety standards during the last Congressional session failed to turn the bill into law, spurred to action by a CBS investigation. Read, “Senators propose legislation to boost safety of vehicle seats after CBS investigation,” written by Megan Towey and Kris Van Cleeve and published by CBS News on April 26, 2021.

The CBS News exposé into seat back failures in this country began several years ago, and continued with a series of stories covering the horrific reality that motor vehicles on our roads today may have defective front seats that fail to withstand the force of impact in an accident, resulting in the seat back slamming backwards into the rear seat where passengers (especially children) can die as a result.

WigRum Supports the Passage of the Modernizing Seatback Safety Act of 2021

As experienced advocates of accident victims who have seen first hand the horrific consequences of seat back failure in a motor vehicle accident, we supported last year’s efforts to pass legislation that would equip NHTSA to do more to make seat backs safer in this country.

Of particular concern is the reality that car makers today need only follow a 50+ year old federal safety regulation to argue they are legally compliant with federal safety guidelines, since Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard (FMVSS) 207 (49 C.F.R. § 571.207) remains the law absent Congressional action.

It is vital for public safety that the Modernizing Seatback Safety Act becomes law this year. WigRum cannot emphasize enough how necessary it is to update FMVSS 207 in order to protect rear seat occupants from death or permanent bodily injury in an entirely preventable accident where a recognized defective product design is causing serious and deadly seat back failures.

Our position is based upon our past years of experience in seat back injury matters, which can be reviewed on our Verdict and Settlements and Case Summaries pages and includes:


Our representation of the family of Jessie Rivera, Jr., against Audi AG and Volkswagen Group of America, Inc., where a Bexar County, Texas jury awarded $124,500,000.00 in response to the seat back failure of his father’s Audi A4. In this crash, 11-year-old Jessie suffered catastrophic injuries including traumatic brain injury damage, partial paralysis, and blindness after his father’s car was rear-ended with his father’s seat back collapsing and falling backward, the force of impact causing the body of Jessie’s father to strike Jessie in the head.


On Feb. 16, 1992, the CBS program "60 Minutes" aired a report on the issue of seat back failure, which included an interview with WigRum’s Jeff Wigington on the problem of seat back failures in rear-end collisions.


Sadly, many motor vehicles on our roads today are not safe because defective design allows seat backs to fail in rear-end collisions, placing passengers at risk of serious harm or death as the seat backs fail during impact.

WigRum aggressively advocates for seat back victims and their families and will continue to fight for justice in the face of obvious product defects being placed into the marketplace each year by car makers who are all too aware of the risks involved.

We reiterate: it is unacceptable that multi-national corporations lean upon outdated 50+ year old federal regulations as their excuse to ignore well-known and established seat back dangers in order to maximize profit.

Accordingly, Wigington Rumley Dunn & Blair LLP applauds the re-introduction and enthusiastically supports the passage of the 2021 Modernizing Seat Back Safety Act.