Seat belts save lives. In 2017 alone, it's estimated that almost 15,000 lives were saved by seat belts. The fact remains that having your body restrained, especially during high speed crashes, reduces the risk of fatal injuries caused by ejections or blunt force trauma within a vehicle.
As a whole, wearing seat belts improve safety, and you should follow local seat belt laws. However, while seat belts can save you from serious injuries, wearing one doesn't guarantee that you'll walk away from a crash scratch-free. There are times when defective seat belts or improper seat belt use can contribute to injuries during a car accident. In this article, FindLaw has the information you'll need to know about car accident seat belt injuries and the legal issues they may raise.
Examples of Seat Belt Injuries
Anytime your body is restrained and experiences sudden jolts of force from different directions, you face the potential for bodily harm. Depending on the degree of force involved, seat belt injuries in car crashes can contribute to, among other things:
- Abdominal injuries
- Chest injuries
- Internal bleeding
Children and pregnant women can suffer even more serious seat belt injuries when their restraints aren't properly worn. For example, women who wear a belt strap across their stomach, instead of across their hips, could experience a placental abruption, or worse, after a car accident, so knowing how to mitigate potential injuries is worthwhile.
But even in those high-impact cases where seat belts contribute to car accident injuries, the consequences that could have resulted from failing to wear any restraints could have been much worse. In other words, even if you sustain a serious seat belt injury, the seat belt could ultimately be the reason you survive an accident.
Car Accident Seat Belt Injuries and the Law
Depending on the specific facts of a car accident, the use (or lack of use) of seat belts and its resulting contribution to any injuries can come into play when determining liability after a car accident.
Product Defect Claims
In some cases seat belt injuries are caused by manufacturing or design defects in a vehicle. When such defects are present, a safety restraint system may not operate as expected and could be a major factor in causing injuries. Problems with a vehicle's latches or tension detectors, for example, could cause a seat belt to detach or fail to remain tight during an accident. Or, after an accident, such defects could fail to remove slack, further exacerbating any injuries.
In these situations, you may be able to include a product liability or lemon law claim in any legal action you take to recover losses caused by your seat belt injuries. These claims can be based on negligence or even strict liability, in which case those responsible for manufacturing, designing, or selling the vehicle may be held liable without having to prove any fault on their part.
Contributory Negligence Issues
Because seat belts may be the cause of injuries during a car accident, those responsible for causing the accident may try to use this to their advantage. After all, a defendant could argue that a plaintiff was wearing his or her seat belt improperly and that this was the primary cause of any injuries. A defendant could also argue that a plaintiff's failure to wear any seat belt ultimately caused any crash-related injuries.
Some jurisdictions will allow for these types of contributory negligence arguments. If so, this could minimize or even bar a plaintiff's ability to recover for any losses.
Discuss Your Car Accident Case with an Attorney
After the shock of a car accident wears off, you're faced with the reality of dealing with your injuries. You may be entitled to compensation for your injuries, including any caused by your defective or improperly used seat belt. Discuss your case and learn more about your options with a car accident attorney.