While a majority of seat belt injuries that happen during a motor vehicle accident are minor like bruising and abrasions, there are some instances where the seatbelt can lead to serious injuries that require extended medical treatment such as internal injuries and internal organs damage.
Learning more about how seat belt injuries happen, the most common types of injuries caused by seat belts, how you can prevent seat belt injuries, and what you should do if you’ve been injured by a seat belt in a car accident can help keep you safe.
Why Do Seat Belt Injuries Occur?
More often than not, your seat belt will provide protection in the event of a car accident. Seat belts work by restraining you when your vehicle comes to a sudden stop, which is typically what happens in a motor vehicle collision.
While the use of seat belts typically reduces the risk of serious injury in a car accident, they can also be the cause of injury to the driver or the passengers in the vehicle.
Whether you or your passengers get injured by a seat belt will depend on several factors.
These factors include:
- How quickly the vehicle was moving at the time of the collision
- Whether the seat belt functioned properly or there was a malfunction with the seat belt
- Where the seat belt was placed on the body
- Whether the seat belt had a manufacturer defect that was unknown to you
- How severe the collision was
- Whether the seat belt was just a lap belt or a shoulder belt that went across the sternum
All of these factors can contribute to a serious injury in the event of a motor vehicle accident. For example, a seat belt that malfunctions may break upon impact and not restrain you or your passengers as intended, resulting in serious bodily injury. A high-speed collision may also lead to a seat belt injury due to the impact of the seat belt on your body, this can cause abdominal injuries which may lead to the bruising of internal organs or other internal injuries.
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Common Types Of Seat Belt Injuries
It’s not uncommon to have bruising or abrasions as a result of the seat belt’s restraint on your body. The severity of the car accident will often influence how serious these seat belt injuries can be.
The type of injury often depends on where the seat belt was located on the body. Seat belts that wrap around a person’s lap (lap belts) will likely cause injuries that are internal such as a spinal cord or lumbar spine injury or an internal abdominal injury. Seat belts that go across the shoulder (shoulder belts) can cause neck injury, sternum injury, and shoulder lacerations.
Common injuries caused by seat belts include:
- Bruised or fractured ribs
- Sternum and chest injuries
- Neck injury due to whiplash
- Torn shoulder muscles and tendons
- Head contusions from impact on the steering wheel or
- Injury to the soft tissue in the abdomen
- Intestinal injury
- Abdominal wall injury
- Abrasions and lacerations
- Vascular injuries, although rare
Additionally, you could also have “seat belt syndrome” as a result of your seat belt positioning during a car accident. This syndrome is when you have internal damage caused by the seat belt that is not apparent immediately after the crash. You may not have symptoms for several hours or days despite having intra-abdominal injuries that could be severe. This is why it is always important to go to the hospital to get a physical examination and even a CT scan to check for internal injuries following a car accident.
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How To Prevent Seat Belt Injuries
Ensuring that you and your passengers’ seat belts are properly placed and secured before driving can help prevent seat belt related injuries in the event of a traffic accident.
The following are tips to keep in mind when strapping on your seat belt or someone else’s:
- Ensure the lap belt is set firmly across your hips and underneath your stomach
- The shoulder belt should go across the center of your chest (sternum) and should not be right up against your neck
- The seat belt should not be too loose or too tight; ensure a snug but comfortable fit
Women who are pregnant should take extra precautions when it comes to securing the safety belt.
In order to avoid serious injury to themselves or the unborn child, expectant mothers should:
- Always wear both the lap belt and the shoulder belt
- Buckle the lap belt under your belly and over your hips (never place the safety belt directly over your belly)
- The shoulder strap should be placed between your breasts and to the side of your belly (never place the shoulder belt under your arm)
- Be sure the seat belt fits snuggly without being too tight
What Should I do If I’ve Been Injured By A Seat Belt In An Auto Accident?
If you believe you incurred an injury from your seat belt due to the seat belt’s malfunctioning or defects, you may be able to pursue compensation through a product liability claim.
There are two types of seat belt issues:
- Injury as a result of an insufficient seat belt: An insufficient seat belt means that the seat belt in your vehicle is not thoroughly able to protect you in the event of an auto accident. Several lawsuits as of late have presented the issue of insufficient seat belts, with many of them being related to seat belts that only have the lap belt installed. If your vehicle only has a lap belt rather than a full seat belt (a lap belt and shoulder belt) and you were injured by it during a motor vehicle accident, you may be able to seek compensation from the manufacturer.
- Injury as a result of a defective seat belt: A defective seat belt is one that does not perform as expected or promised in the event of a collision. This may mean that the seat belt did not properly restrain you, broke during the crash, or another related defect that resulted in injury to you or your passengers. A defective seat belt can be the result of many things, including an error during the manufacturing process or a design flaw.
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Contact Florin|Roebig For Help Filing A Personal Injury Lawsuit
If your injury can be directly attributed to a seat belt defect or malfunction, you should contact a trustworthy personal injury attorney as soon as possible. The trusted and experienced attorneys at Florin|Roebig can help you determine if it is worth pursuing a lawsuit.
Personal injury and product liability cases can be overwhelming as well as complex, so it’s important to work with an attorney you can truly rely on. If you’d like to speak with a personal injury attorney or would like to get a free case evaluation, contact us today and we’d be happy to help.