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Suffering Seat Belt Injuries in Car Accident Claims

seat belt injuries


According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, over the past 40 years seat belts have saved an estimated 255,000 lives [1]. However, it's also been repeatedly shown that seat belts have been a cause of several car accident injuries.

In this article we'll discuss what causes seat belt injuries and how you can properly compensated.

We will go over...

How Do Seat Belt Injuries Typically Occur?
The 5 Most Common Injuries
How You Can Prevent Injuries From Seat Belts
How Can I Sue for My Injuries?

Let's get started...

How Do Seat Belt Injuries Typically Occur?

Newton's first law of motion says:

A body in motion will stay in motion unless acted upon by an opposing force.

It sounds obvious but it's important to remember that while you're in a vehicle, your body and the vehicle are traveling at the same speed. If your car is traveling at 60 mph, then so are you and all the passengers in the vehicle.

If a car accident causes your vehicle to suddenly stop, your body will still continue to travel at 60 mph unless an opposing force stops your momentum.

The purpose of using a seat belt is to provide that opposing force. To safely restrain you in the car and reduce the impact from the collision.

However, our bodies aren't exactly designed to go from 60 mph to 0 in the span of a few seconds. Depending on the speed of the vehicle, the combination of the sudden stop and the restraint of the seat belt can cause anywhere from minor to severe car accident injuries.

The force of the accident against your bodily organs, muscles, bones, and nerves is simply too much.

Your injuries can be further intensified if the seat belt:

  • Malfunctions
  • Is placed improperly on the body
  • Restraints were too tight.

The 5 Most Common Injuries From a Seat Belt

As a safeguard against you being ejected from the vehicle during an accident, seat belts are rigid and strong. However, this can have a number of implications in terms of injuries. The most common injuries are:

  1. Rib injuries. Fracturing or bruising a rib is quite a common seat belt injury -- the restraining force of your belt may have enough power to break a few bones and/or cause you significant bruising.

  2. Chest and sternum injuries. As seat belt use became required by law, medical providers saw a significant uptick in chest injuries [2]. This makes sense since your seat belt goes across your chest diagonally and can absorb the full blunt force of a the impact.

  3. Shoulder Injuries. Your seat belt can cause soft tissue injuries in your shoulder. The force from a crash can tear the tendons and/or ligaments in your shoulder. Strains and sprains are also common and can be equally painful.

  4. Abdominal injuries. Sometimes the part of the seat belt that goes around your waste can really dig into your abdomen during an accident. This can also cause soft tissue injuries and contusions.

  5. Abrasions or lacerations. Many seat belt injuries are internal but in a few cases the seat belt can come into contact with your skin scraping or cutting it. This can also happen through your clothing if enough force is involved.

How Can You Prevent Seat Belt Injuries?

The main thing you can do to prevent seat belt related injuries is to make sure you’re using yours properly. This means always making sure it's engaged and correctly placed. According to the National Highway and Safety Administration (NHTSA) [3]:

  • The shoulder strap needs to be placed across the center of your chest a comfortable distance from your neck.

  • Resist the urge to place the shoulder strap behind you, it may be more comfortable but it’s not safe.

  • The lap and chest belts both need be not too tight or hanging loosely, either one can present a safety risk.

  • The lap belt needs to be placed securely across your hips right around the waist area.

How Can I Sue For a Car Accident Seat Belt Injury?

In order to get a personal injury settlement for your seat belt injury, you first need to determine who is responsible for your pain and suffering.

An important point needs to be made here. There is a BIG difference between being in a car accident where your injuries were caused by a defective seat belt and one where your injuries were simply sustained while using a it.

If a seat belt malfunction was the primary cause in your car accident injuries, then you will want to pursue a product liability claim. In this scenarios the responsible party could be:

  • The seat belt manufacturer

  • The retailer, supplier or distributor of the seat belt itself, or

  • The car company/plant that produced the vehicle.

To win your product liability claim you will need to show that the other party was negligent by answering 3 main questions about the seat belt:

  1. Did it have any defects that caused it to malfunction?

  2. Was it used properly and as intended?

  3. Did you alter or modify the it in any way?

For example here are some scenarios that may suggest a seat belt defect :

  • The passenger made harsh contact with the interior of the vehicle, resulting in injuries

  • The passenger was ejected outside the vehicle but the seat belt buckle was found to still be latched.

  • The seat belt webbing was torn and loose after the accident.

In these scenarios you can see how the seat belt defect significantly contributed to your car accident injuries.

However, if you got in a car accident which caused your body to violently jerk against the seat belt and suffer injuries, you can be compensated by treating it as a normal bodily injury claim against the other driver's insurance company.

You would simply exchange insurance information with the other driver, call your own insurance company, and start the car accident claims process.

If you were injured in an accident and weren't wearing your seat belt can you still file a claim? The answer is yes, but there are some details to explore.

Your lack of seat belt may have contributed to a more serious injury and it may be viewed by a court or insurance company as contributory negligence resulting in a reduction in your personal injury settlement amount. The details of how exactly this claim is handled will depend on your specific state laws.

Summary

Seat belts are probably the most fundamental safety feature in your car and should be worn at all times. If you have suffered seat belt injuries after a car accident then remember the following:

  • Seat belt injuries are often a result of improper use or simply the severity of an impact.

  • The most common seat belt injuries tend to involve your chest, ribs, and abdomen.

  • If you suffered seat belt injuries, you can file either a product liability claim or a typical bodily injury claim with your insurance company.


Sources:

1 - Center of Disease Control And Prevention

2 - MedScape

3 - National Highway and Traffic Safety


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