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Car Accident Seat Belt Injuries

Without a doubt, seat belts have saved countless lives in auto accidents. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) and CDC advocate for seat belt use. They tout its effectiveness in reducing fatalities and severe injuries. Almost every state has seat belt laws in effect.

There are times when seatbelts cause related injuries as well. This article will discuss seat belt injuries. We will also review the steps accident victims should take after a seatbelt injury.

How Seat Belts Work

Seat belts, also known as safety belts, operate on a simple yet effective principle. By distributing the force from a car crash across the more robust parts of your body (your lap and shoulder), seat belts reduce momentum changes. This reduces the risk of fatal injuries and minimizes impact on sensitive areas like the head and internal organs.

Airbags also act as a safety feature in modern vehicles. They further cushion vehicle occupants. However, as with seat belts, these can sometimes cause injuries.

Types of Seat Belt Injuries

Despite their primary function to save lives, seat belts can cause injuries. This is most true if they are defective or worn incorrectly. Possible injuries from seat belts include:

  • Abrasions and Lacerations: Often caused by the rapid tightening of the seat belt during a car accident
  • Internal Injuries: These might not be visible in the immediate post-accident period but can be due to the pressure of the seat belt during a collision. Internal bleeding or organ damage may manifest later, requiring urgent medical attention.
  • Spinal Cord Injuries and Shoulder Injuries: These come from the shoulder belt or shoulder strap, which can exert considerable force
  • Sternal and Chest Injuries: Caused by the forward motion against the seat belt
  • WhiplashWhiplash is an injury in motor vehicle accidents even with seat belt use and common in rear-end collisions 
  • Lap Belt Injuries: For children not in car seats, incorrect seat belt positioning can result in abdominal injuries.
  • Head Injuries: Despite the restraint provided by seat belts, sudden stops or collisions can still cause the head to jolt forward, hitting the steering wheel, dashboard, or airbag upon deployment.

Parents should be cautious about ensuring their children wear seatbelts and use the right kind of restraint, like a car seat, adjusted to their age and size. Doing so can help prevent these types of injuries.

The Legal Perspective

Should you or a loved one experience serious injuries from a seat belt during an auto accident, it's essential to understand your rights and the possible recourse. A personal injury lawsuit can help you recover compensation for:

  • Medical bills
  • Lost wages
  • Pain and suffering
  • Other associated damages

Personal injury lawyers, especially car accident attorneys, can provide insights into personal injury claims and lawsuits. Serious injuries due to defective seat belts can raise product liability concerns.

FAQ and Next Steps

Below, we will review some frequently asked questions plaintiffs have about the next steps after a seat belt injury.

What if I feel fine after the accident?

Even if you feel okay or believe the seat belt saved you from more severe injuries, you may still have internal injuries. Always seek immediate medical attention post-accident.

Many internal injuries don't manifest right away. Symptoms might appear hours or even days after the accident. The condition could worsen by then, making it more challenging to treat.

After a car accident, your body might release adrenaline. Adrenaline is a hormone that can mask pain and make you feel more alert. This might lead you to believe that you're unharmed when, in reality, you've suffered an injury.

If you need to file a personal injury claim or lawsuit later, having medical documentation from after the accident can strengthen your case. It provides evidence that the car crash caused your injuries.

How do I know if my seat belt is defective?

Look for wear and tear, fraying, or damage to the seat belt fabric. Check the buckle and other components for visible defects.

Try using the seat belt by giving it a strong yank. This simulates the forces during a sudden stop or collision. A well-functioning belt should lock up on a quick pull.  

There may be a defect if the seat belt sometimes works, sometimes doesn't, or behaves other than it should. Most modern seat belts must be replaced after locking up during an accident. If your car had at least one previous owner who didn't fix the belts after an accident, they may be liable for your damages.

Consult with a car accident lawyer or personal injury attorney. They can guide you through a case review and help determine product liability.

What about auto insurance?

Most accident victims will have to deal with an insurance company. Once you file your claim, the insurance company will assign an adjuster to investigate the specifics of the accident. This might involve:

  • Inspecting vehicle damages
  • Reviewing any medical reports
  • Obtaining witness statements
  • Assessing any other relevant evidence

The insurance company will determine who was at fault for the accident. Your compensation will depend on the state laws concerning fault and negligence along with the terms of the insurance policy.

If injuries occurred due to the accident, the insurance company might cover medical bills up to the limit specified in the policy. This can include hospital bills, rehabilitation costs, and other related medical expenses.

While insurance can cover some medical expenses, consult with a personal injury attorney to protect your rights and get you the compensation you deserve.

What if a loved one succumbs to injuries after a car accident?

Losing a loved one in a vehicle accident is a profound tragedy. If the fatal injuries result from a seat belt malfunction or other vehicular defect, there may be grounds for a wrongful death claim.

For a successful wrongful death claim, you must prove the following:

  1. Negligence: You must show that the death of your loved one resulted from a negligent act, such as a defective seat belt or a car malfunction.
  2. Breach of Duty: You must prove that the defendant (the car manufacturer, the other driver, another party, etc.) had a duty to ensure the safety of the product or action and failed in that duty.
  3. Causation: Directly linking the breach of duty to the death of your loved one is crucial. It must be evident that the negligence directly resulted in the fatal injuries.
  4. Damages: There must be quantifiable damages resulting from the death, such as medical expenses, funeral costs, loss of income, and loss of consortium or companionship.

Consulting with a personal injury lawyer or car accident attorney can provide a clearer understanding of the intricacies of your specific case and guide you through the necessary legal steps.

Speak to a Lawyer About Your Injury Case

Seat belts, despite their benefits, can sometimes cause injuries. Recognizing this doesn't negate their value but emphasizes the importance of being vigilant, seeking prompt medical care,  and consulting legal advice. This helps ensure that seat belts, like all vehicle safety measures, function as intended.

Disclaimer: This article provides general information. It is not a substitute for professional legal advice. Always consult a personal injury lawyer for specific concerns about seat belt injuries.

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